I finally picked up Oryx and Crake after having it on my To-Read-List for almost four whole years, despite continuously walking past it on the shelf at my local library. It's like when you've moved in to a new home and didn't say hello to your neighbours during that acceptable period of over-friendliness, so now it's too late and you just avoid them.
Then, one day, that inescapable moment comes. A hand stabs through the gap between the doors of the lift. No, you think, please don't let it be - but it is. It's The Neighbour.
"Hello!" The Neighbour says, shuffling into the metal prison, seemingly oblivious to your discomfort.
An awkward silence ensues. Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, vomit on your sweater already - ok, maybe not, but from the look on your face there might as well be. A lifetime later, the doors finally crank open.
"Well, it was lovely to meet you!"
"Yes, you too."
Euuuuuuurgh. Anyway, that's a bit of an unfair comparison - books are far less intimidating than human beings and I actually ended up finishing Oryx and Crake in two days.
Oryx and Crake is the first book in the MaadAddam trilogy, set in an unsettling post-apocalyptic world that is rapidly being claimed back by Mother Nature. The landscape is overrun with genetically engineered spliced animals that are the result of human dabbling - pigoons, for example, are modified pigs that were created specifically to harvest spare human organs. Our unreliable narrator (read: someone completely off his tits in a post-apocalyptic stupor) is Snowman, a man who believes he may be the the last of his kind and has been tasked with caring for a group of primitive humanoids he calls the 'Crakers'. As he struggles for survival in the freakish present, Snowman's flashbacks pre-shit-hit-the-fan show us a world run by multinational corporations and fed by genetic testing and manipulation. The most unsettling thing for me is that it is a situation recognisable within our own timeline.
The plot is the real star of the show - it comes at you fast and thick with twists that catch you off guard. The characters, whilst not necessarily always likeable or relatable, are intriguing and mysterious and there is a lot that Margret Atwood leaves deliciously unsaid, to be uncovered in the subsequent two books.
Rating - 4/5