Thursday, 5 June 2014

Oryx and Crake

Imaged sourced from here
I don't really like horror books. I find them unrealistic, usually funny and not very scary. But what does scare me are believable dystopias. Ones I can see us hurtling or even just crawling towards. Political decisions leading us towards a dictatorship we don't recognise. Reliance on technology or medicine that leads to dependence and thus control. Censoring to the point of lack of free thought, or lack of an educated population to challenge authority. Completely and utterly ignoring the looming ecological disaster that is coming towards you from a stubborn state of denial. Each and everyone one of these statements could in someway be applied to Australia at this point in time, and it's terrifying to think what could just be around the corner from us. But I love reading them, because if you don't think about what could be coming, how do you possibly avoid it? (Besides building a bunker in your backyard of course).

Oryx and Crake is one of these kind of books. It's completely perturbing as you can see it all happening. Everything is rather plausible. Of course as with most scifi, there are a few scientific jumps, but not to the realms of unlikely. And most terrifyingly, even if you sit and think on it for hours and hours, you're not quite sure how to, of if we could, stop it.

This was a very welcome surprise. I have had mixed experiences with Margaret Atwood. I enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale for the same reasons as this book. Lexx has read it too, and wasn't as taken with it as me. I do wonder whether there is something particularly chilling about that book that you can only fully get as a woman. The lurking misogyny lingering at the fringes (and in the spotlight more often than we'd like) of our culture. All it needs is a catalyst...  I have also read The Blind Assassin, which I did not enjoy much at all and honestly wish I could get the time back I spent reading that novel.

As you will have guessed though, this book fell squarely on the good side of Atwood's books. I did feel though that there was an awful lot of backstory while I was reading it. I wasn't sure how much of Jimmy's childhood was really relevant, or was it just Atwood trying to build up a society. At the end of the book I definitely felt more of it was relevant than I had thought while reading the first three quarters of the book. Not meaning to spoil at all, just saying, if you are struggling with this too, stick with it.

The book is a pretty substantial rollercoaster through the emotions. Anger, disgust, sympathy, empathy, outrage, heartbreak. What it isn't, is a hardcore scifi, and that's what I love. I am more about the sociological, psychological scifis. That gets me going. However, if you are all about the SCIENCE! in your science fiction and want to move into the softer elements of scifi, this isn't a bad option as there is a heap of biology and logic discussions to "ease" you in. And terrify you.

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