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Review: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake

By waxmop in Culture
Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 03:51:11 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)
Books

Summary: a good book about the downfall of civilization written by an author that doesn't normally write science fiction.


Oryx and Crake is highbrow science-fiction. It's not hard science fiction, like something written by Clarke or Sagan, where you'll learn plenty of physics along the way. I mean it's written by an author with literary credentials. Mainstream critics tend to all say the same thing about this book: "It's sci-fi, but it's good," which is more than a little insulting to the rest of us. That put aside, this is a good book.

Most of the book reads sort of like what you would expect from everything else Atwood writes, despite the futuristic setting: children lose their innocence and discover their parents aren't saints; love turns to jealousy; admiration turns to hate and fear and people do things they previously never could have imagined. In the end, which is usually where the book starts, the characters try to piece together some meaning out of it all, and grieve their loss.

If I didn't like this book, I would say it's sort of like A Separate Peace meets The Omega Man. But I did like this book. However, it's still some seriously emotional stuff.

Margaret Atwood's style by this point is well established: her characters change names when their situations change. The book starts off at the end, and the reader discovers what happened when the characters reflect on their lives in thoughts and conversations. Margaret Atwood loves writing about male-female and parent-child dynamics, and the subconscious forces that drive us, and Oryx and Crake is no exception.

I'm not going to run through the entire plot, but the book begins with somebody named Snowman picking through the detritus of western civilization. The plot unwinds while Snowman reflects on his life from childhood until the present. Along the way, we get the story of how the little boy named Jimmy grows up in a world that looks sort of like our near future, and becomes Snowman right after that civilization comes crashing down around him.

In Jimmy/Snowman's childhood, the world looks vaguely like a more privatized, slightly more technically advanced version of today. As an adult, civilization has collapsed, Snowman is all alone, and he spends his time picking through the wreckage looking for snacks.

I'd wager that at least half of the books on the shelves in the sci-fi section in any bookstore revolve around some sort end-of-the-world scenario, leaving one or a few survivors to make sense out of it all. Atwood dodges the rookie mistake of trying to make her scenario seem plausible, or even worse, mentioning certain years, or real-life politicians. Instead, she goes in the opposite direction. We piece together a picture of the world in the future from snippets of conversation, consumer products, and advertising. We don't get a detailed roadmap of how we got to a world where corporations run most everything, and their employees live in combination housing developments/office parks/shopping malls.

Crake is Jimmy's childhood friend; they grow up together in the same private compound where their parents work. They play computer games together, they get high, they watch inordinate amounts of porn (no word on whether Atwood lurked on slashdot to research).

Like a lot of the little aspects of life in this future world, the computer games that Jimmy and Crake play are fleshed out almost to the point that it's hard to believe these aren't real games. "War of the Roses" is one game; it seems sort of like Magic The Gathering, or Pokemon, except the mythical monsters are replaced with the highs and lows of humanity. One player can play the Holocaust card, and another player can play the Sistine Chapel card" to negate it. Crake actually gets his name from another game, "Extinctathon", where the players take turns wiping out species.

The boys grow apart. While Jimmy becomes more aware that he has none of his parents' aptitude for science, Crake takes off in school. Jimmy goes to a crappy art school and Crake goes to a top science university where student research is sponsored by corporations.

Later, they come back together when Crake hires Jimmy to write marketing copy for the Crake's corporation. Jimmy becomes possessive of Oryx, a woman who previously worked as a not entirely consensual prostitute in some unknown third-world region. Now, Crake employs her at his company, and they have some nebulous relationship that drives Jimmy away from Crake.

I liked this book because Atwood made the characters seem real. She really captures the alienated teenage boy vibe in Jimmy. The highlights of the book are Jimmy's adolescence. Besides that, Atwood creates a fascinating view of a possible future, with pigs that are genetically engineered to provide compatible organs to humans, chickens that are refactored without sense organs, brains, or anything extraneous to the purpose of getting fat enough to harvest as quickly as possible, and popular revolts battling with corporatization. Inside all that clever scenery, there's some pretty good characterization of children abandoned by their mothers that grow into alienated adults.

The next paragraphs could be construed as spoilers, so stop reading if that sort of thing bothers you.

Besides all the good things I mentioned above, I gotta say that the ending of Oryx and Crake left me dissapointed. We never get an explanation for why Crake wiped out humanity. We spend the whole book wondering about how civilization gets destroyed, and we eventually find out how, but we never get to the more important issue of why Crake destroyed it. Crake has been a cypher throughout the plot, so it's not out-of-character, but, like I said above, the ending is a little dissapointing.

Maybe Atwood is trying to make some point about humanity in general: people do crazy stuff and the rest of us are stuck trying to pick up the pieces and figure out why; but, to borrow a line from Marge,

"That's a pretty lousy lesson."

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Review: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake | 52 comments (46 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Atwood (3.33 / 3) (#3)
by epepke on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 02:11:41 PM EST

She writes science fiction all the time but vociferously denies it so that she can get goodies from the literati.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


hmm. (none / 0) (#4)
by waxmop on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 03:01:47 PM EST

Yeah, sci-fi has a really bad rap in the literati crowd.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

But only in Canada and the U.S. (none / 0) (#5)
by epepke on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 03:04:52 PM EST

In England, they're much more reasonable about this. Also in France. Also in Germany. Probably most other places as well.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Less schlock? (none / 0) (#9)
by waxmop on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 04:31:11 PM EST

I think that there's a lot of schlock sci-fi in the US market, so the snobby anti-sci-fi attitude is a little justified. The schlock is on par with the romance novel industry. However, nobody can deny there's some real authors swimming around there also, J.G. Ballard is a good example. In Europe, is there the same schlocky green-skinned slave girl type stuff there?
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

Except (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by epepke on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 04:54:44 PM EST

The differing European attitude toward SF applies also to American SF writers. Philip K. Dick, for example, is thought of rather more highly in Europe than in the U.S. outside SF circles. American literati will swear up and down that, say, 1984 is not SF, while an English critic is more likely to say, "All right, what of it?"

The reaction of American critics may be historically justifiable, but it's still out of date and dumb, as the era of pulp SF is long gone. The majority of remnants are self-fulfilling prophesies: if an author can't get published by a mainstream house, then he and/or she has no recourse but to get published by a publisher that prefers peeled eyeball covers. Rejecting SF because of the pulps is a bit like rejecting Jazz because it used to be associated with brothels.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Two Cents (5.00 / 3) (#11)
by Mr Badger on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 05:34:15 PM EST

Seems to me that sci-fi get's treated no worse than the vast majority of modern lit, regardless of the genre. Next time you're in a book store, look at the contemp. lit. section and ponder all the titles that are slotted for the big remainder bin in the sky.

I've always suspected that the status of genre lit has to do with a certain insularity on the part of genre readers and writers. Genre lit of any stripe rewards the fanboy (or girl). Mystery writers create works immersed in a tradition. Mystery readers often read with a vast storehouse of the tradition's lore at their disposal. Sci-fi writers write with reference to a long tradition of their own. Sci-fi readers (as evidenced on this site over and over again) assess works from within the tradition, referencing a level of assumed commonality.

I think (and this is my inexpert observation) to escape the genre "ghetto," the sci-fi author must overtly connect their work to a "mainstream" issue. For example, "Handmaiden's Tale" is promoted as a parable about women's rights, it just happens to be set in the future. It's my experience, working at various publishing houses, that a sci-fi book that uses whites and African Americans to discuss race issues will get the literature treatment while the book that uses two alien races to do the same thing will get the pulp treatment.

Though, this is simply my inexpert opinion.
 

[ Parent ]

yet... (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by the sixth replicant on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 03:27:14 AM EST

...still SF has no were near the adoration as say crime fiction does for the literari (or whatever they should be called). Ask Doris Lessing about how they turned their back to her when she wrote SF.

I have to say SF is nearly ignored by the art scene. A few weeks ago BBC Review Night reviewed Atwood's book and two out of the three reviewer's started with "I don't like or understand sci-fi but...". Something they would never dare say about any other genre.

No SF is still very much an unappreciated genre. Which of course is funny since possibly the best english language novel of all time is 1984.

Ciao

Also check out BBC's top 100 books in The Big Read

[ Parent ]

Paul Morely (?) (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by bil on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 04:45:00 AM EST

To be fair the third reveiwer (Paul Morely) said "I love Science Fiction enough not to demean it by calling it sci-fi", but it is true though that no serious reveiwer could ever get away with saying "I don't like or understand crime/historical/romantic fiction" in the same way that Bonnie Greir (sp?) wrote off the science fiction genre.

It is noticable that science fiction that is liked by the literati gets moved into the fiction section (1984 being a good example, Brave New World, Atwoods work etc), meaning that the regarding of science fiction as inferior becomes a self fulfilling prophecy (its good so its fiction, its bad so its sci-fi)

bil

bil
Where you stand depends on where you sit...
[ Parent ]

sci fi's rep among "literati" (5.00 / 3) (#41)
by Apsara on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 05:22:30 PM EST

This assertion--that science fiction gets a bad rap among the literati--isn't strictly accurate, although I guess we could quibble about who exactly the "literati" are. I'm sure there are literature snobs who don't deign to respect anything that doesn't have 100 years of lit crit credibility (i.e. "if Matthew Arnold wouldn't have liked it, neither will I")...but it's simply not true that academic literature as a whole lacks respect for science fiction as a genre. People do dissertations on it; there's a journal called "Science Fiction Studies." And all science fiction gets read and analyzed: from the most literary creation of someone like Atwood to the pulpy stories in the magazines. There is certainly a preference for writers like Samuel Delany and Kathy Acker and William Gibson and Stephanie Smith and Marge Piercy because those writers exploit more of the full range of literary device than do the writers conventionally thought of as science fiction authors like Clarke or Asimov, or even LeGuin. But there is no lack of willingness to acknowledge the contributions of writers like Sturgeon and LeGuin. Philip K. Dick is increasingly regarded as having contributed significantly to the "invention" of postmodern subjectivity. Also, everyone in literature recognizes that science fiction directly influenced authors like Thomas Pynchon and Don Delillo. Nobody would say that Pynchon and Delillo write science fiction--but that's not because saying that would belittle them; it's because using a genre term like SF wouldn't accurately represent the complexity of their writing. But it's just as unlikely that anyone would deny the strong science fictional elements in works like Gravity's Rainbow and Underworld, nor would they discount the importance of writers like Clarke and Asimov on the way we as a society think about science and its possibilities for shaping our world. There's a lot of science fiction that _is_ extremely derivative from the culture: the writing lacks subtlety and the characterization draws so heavily on stereotypes and cultural tropes as to be completely uncompelling to anyone who spends a lot of their time thinking about the way fiction works and reading the most artistically significant works of literature. But it's unfair to say that the American "literati" doesn't respect science fiction just because they recognize that not all science fiction has great literary merit. 20 years ago maybe there was this bias that all SF was pulp and therefore worthless. But in this day and age, you'll find as many dissertations on pulp writing and popular culture as you will on high art, and that means there are plenty of people picking Jurassic Park and Darwin's Radio apart with the same comb they once reserved for texts like The Satanic Verses or for film noir. Plus, they're using what they learn from studying the less sophisticated SF to explore SF themes and influences on extremely sophisticated writing. Mainstream science fiction is rarely as _impressive_ intellectually or artistically to a student of literature as the kinds of books that win the Booker, but it's just wrong to say that prevailing critical opinion is that it is less _important._

[ Parent ]
This is fun (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by epepke on Fri Jun 27, 2003 at 05:09:00 PM EST

but it's simply not true that academic literature as a whole lacks respect for science fiction as a genre.

It may be getting better, but it still is true.

There is certainly a preference for writers like Samuel Delany and Kathy Acker and William Gibson and Stephanie Smith and Marge Piercy because those writers exploit more of the full range of literary device than do the writers conventionally thought of as science fiction authors like Clarke or Asimov, or even LeGuin.

I haven't read Acker, Piercy, or Smith, but thanks--I'm always looking for good authors.

Sam Delany is one of my favorite writers, though I will never forgive him for not writing a sequel to Stars in my Pocket like Grains of Sand. He, however, got jumpstarted by having a dual career in the first place.

Gibson is an interesting case. I find him a one-trick pony in his writing. However, there's something about it that seems almost cynically designed to appeal to the literati. He hasn't quite separated the notions of obscurity and profundity.

I don't expect the literati to be impressed by Clarke and Asimov. They wrote in a minimalist style which seems very unimpressive until you try to duplicate it. Probably only technical writers have the experience to see how it works.

Philip K. Dick is increasingly regarded as having contributed significantly to the "invention" of postmodern subjectivity.

OK, they're just getting around to paying attention to Dick twenty years after he died? How many writers were frequently using the multiple-viewpoint perspective fifty years ago? You could count them on the stumps of an amputee.

But it's just as unlikely that anyone would deny the strong science fictional elements in works like Gravity's Rainbow and Underworld,

OK, kids. You can try this experiment in your next party with lots of humanities professors. Try out the following utterances:

  1. All the Pretty Horses is a western.
  2. Gravity's Rainbow is science fiction.

To my estimation, both categorizations are true to about the same degree (that is, nominally true but not terribly enlightening). However, the former is more likely to result in the response "It can be seen as a western, but it is many other things as well" and result in an interesting discussion of various influences. However, the latter is more likely to elicit a looking-down-the-nose stare.

But it's unfair to say that the American "literati" doesn't respect science fiction just because they recognize that not all science fiction has great literary merit. 20 years ago maybe there was this bias that all SF was pulp and therefore worthless.

All this means is that the literati's relationship with science fiction is improving.

It's typical to assert that the judgement that the literati find science fiction worthy is based on their not elevating some stupid fanboy expectations. But everyone knows Sturgeon's law: 90% of everything is crud. I make the assertion based on the truly pathological desire for people who are in the know in literature to assert that 1984 and Brave New World can't possible be science fiction (which they obviously are by any meaningful definition of the term) simply becasue they have been classified as Good LiteratureTM, The emotional reaction to the categorization is much too strong to be explained by apathy alone.For a much longer description of how this works, see The Dreams our Stuff is Made Of by Thomas Disch.

But in this day and age, you'll find as many dissertations on pulp writing and popular culture as you will on high art, and that means there are plenty of people picking Jurassic Park and Darwin's Radio apart with the same comb they once reserved for texts like The Satanic Verses or for film noir.

That essentially just means that slumming is popular now. Science fiction magically becomes "popular culture" (in spite of the fact that it isn't that popular). They could pick better targets, though. Jurassic Park was, transparently and obviously, an attempt to sell a screenplay by writing a bestseller. I like Greg Bear, but Darwin's Radio was nothing special. I'd like to see some respect given to who I'll coin as the Neo Wodehouseians: Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, the late Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and even to a certain extent J.K. Rowling. Light social satire may not be what is currently fashionable, but it isn't trivial, either.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
"literati" and science fiction (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by Apsara on Mon Jun 30, 2003 at 04:48:19 PM EST

To Epepke: I can't help but wonder if you had some experience that convinced you that academic literature has a peculiarly negative sentiment toward science fiction. I mean, it's not like academic literature has much nice to say about ANYTHING. If you're a writer who wants respect, it doesn't matter how tremendous you are, you aren't going to get it from the folks at your local university English department, unless they're writing a book review and even then they'll put in some critique. It's a post-Foucauldian case of "the author is dead, long live the critic." Also, in my experience, it just doesn't matter to academics whether a piece of writing is SF or "contemporary fiction" or poetry--what matters is whether the book does something interesting in the way it handles some thematic or stylistic issue. There is a more or less significant bias against books that are driven by plot, but that has nothing to do with science fiction as such since there is no genre requirement that SF be plot-driven. Since much SF IS plot-driven, a lot of SF books might be judged wanting on those grounds, but it's still inaccurate to say that the bias is against science fiction itself. Now, some individuals might have that bias--I personally have a bias against fantasy that is pretty much completely irrational and indefensible except as an opinion--so I can imagine an individual sneering at the idea that Gravity's Rainbow is SF, but I can just as easily imagine someone saying that it is the apotheosis of the genre. It just depends on what issue the academic cares about. And while that issue can be very literary, such as the use of 1st person voice or narrative temporality, it is just as often unrelated to writing: the relation between biology and identities, the power dynamics of technoscience, the impact of scientific knowledge on modernity, gender, ecological issues, the power dynamic between corporate vs. individuals, etc. Actually, the only people I have met who are really sticklers for not including things like 1984 as SF are non-academic science fiction fans who want to preserve the purity of the genre. Of course, these same people say that Darwin's Radio isn't SF either. I personally have encountered a great deal more resistance among SF fans to the broadening of the genre than among academics, who I find more concerned about whether any given definition is helpful for their personal set of research questions--questions which will almost never have anything to do with whether or not the text has artistic credibility. Within the branch of literary criticism and theory called science studies, science fiction is simply without dispute the literature of choice, so critics work on it the same way that fiction scholars do on their texts--which is to say they deconstruct it as indicative of the culture. For example, all of Chris Hables Grey's work, Katherine Hayles's books (especially the one on informatics), Donna Haraway's book "Simians, Cyborgs and Women"...much of ecocriticism: there is a large and growing segment of academic literature that treats science fiction as the single most significant group of literary texts for understanding our present cultural condition. Given that context, I can't help but take issue with your assertion that pop culture studies are "slumming." Not only are the recent philosophical resources for studying popular culture--from Judith Butler to Slavoj Zizek--far more diverse and intellectually sophisticated than the ones currently available for more traditional treatments of literature as "high art," popular culture at present has a much more significant impact on the way people think and act and make sense of the world than what used to be called high art does. There is a great deal more print media in the popular sector, so it seems only responsible on the part of academia to include the full range of writing in their studies. Here's an example. The upcoming Harry Potter Convention in Florida (http://www.hp2003.org/nimbuspgmtrack.html) has TONS of extremely academic papers (the titles read like someone put in "harry potter" to the pomo thesis title generator)...but it's also a fan-con. You can say that because it doesn't look like a traditional academic conference that it's slumming or that it's not fully professional--but that would be missing the point, and it would be underestimating the value of this sort of enterprise for professional academic credentialing and promotion. To me, these people are the literati, and they certainly do not dismiss science fiction as somehow less worthy than any other genre. Incidentally, you said: "It's typical to assert that the judgement that the literati find science fiction worthy is based on their not elevating some stupid fanboy expectations." I don't understand what that means...

[ Parent ]
NB! (5.00 / 10) (#6)
by Osama Bin Fabulous on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 03:56:39 PM EST

[the end of ep BABF09, "Saddlesore Galactica"]

CLINTON: "Thank you, Lisa, for teaching kids everywhere a valuable lesson: If things don't go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true."

MARGE: "That's a pretty lousy lesson."

CLINTON: "Hey, I'm a pretty lousy president."



Sci-fi (4.14 / 7) (#7)
by John Thompson on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 04:14:25 PM EST

waxmop wrote:

Summary: a good book about the downfall of civilization written by an author that doesn't normally write science fiction.

Although Atwood isn't best known for sci-fi, this isn't her first foray into that area. Check out "A Handmaid's Tale", then look at the current government in the USA and start worrying. I'll bet she's glad she is a Canadian.

haha! (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by waxmop on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 04:20:13 PM EST

Yeah, and plenty of her short stories have some elements of sci-fi in them, but it's more like Twilight Zone sci-fi, rather than Star Trek sci-fi. In other words, it's stuff like pyschics, or telepaths, rather than space battles between alien armadas.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

A trait shared by different female writers.... (2.50 / 2) (#20)
by morkeleb on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 04:16:33 AM EST

Yeah, and plenty of her short stories have some elements of sci-fi in them, but it's more like Twilight Zone sci-fi, rather than Star Trek sci-fi. In other words, it's stuff like pyschics, or telepaths, rather than space battles between alien armadas.

that bravely foray into the arena of science fiction. Generally speaking, men focus on the science and the technology and the cool things you can do with the science/technology - and women focus on relationships and how technology changes and mutates those relationships.

Two books that immediately come to mind are Synners and Mindplayers by Pat Cadigan. And of course the amazing Handmaiden's Tale by Atwood.

This trait isn't true of all male writers I've read (just the biggies - like Asimov, Clarke, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling...). Samuel Delany and Theodore Sturgeon seem to come from a more feminine place in their writing style (and Philip K Dick too - in a nicely psychotic paranoid way). Of course in Dick's case I think it had a lot to do with all the wives he went through - and his lifelong battle to understand the female psyche and his relationship with his mom.
"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
[ Parent ]
Good analysis (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by waxmop on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 10:46:16 AM EST

Ursula K. LeGuinn is another female sci-fi author and her stuff fits your theory well. Or at least "The Dispossessed" does, which is the only thing I read by her.

I read "More Than Human" by Sturgeon and I really liked it. That book had some crazy outlandish sci-fi stuff like telepathy and mind control mixed right in with shocking real-world stuff like religious hermits and bizarre child abuse.

If I had to add to your male vs female theory, I'd say that in general, female authors focus more on characterization and males focus on plot.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

That ain't analysis (none / 0) (#38)
by pietra on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 12:26:23 PM EST

That's called "generalization." No examples, no citations, no proof. Sorry.

[ Parent ]
Nothing like generalizations (4.33 / 3) (#37)
by pietra on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 12:25:18 PM EST

There is nothing "feminine" or "masculine" about plot structures, characterizations, or narrative threads. Sorry. Your argument comes perilously close to the notion that women write "fantasy" and men write "science fiction." I for one am thoroughly sick of hearing people--usually men--dissect novels based on the author's gender, or biographical details. Try reading the damn book for a change, and assessing the WRITING. Authors do have the right to make things up, you know--that's why it's called "fiction."

[ Parent ]
Margaret Atwood: just because she's good (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by calimehtar on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 06:15:31 PM EST

Doesn't mean you have to like her. As a Canadian, I'm proud of Atwood who, as it happens, lives somewhere in my neighborhood. She's very well-respected etc, and overall deals with some cool ideas and writing styles. But I have to be honest, I never liked anything I read by her. She, like a lot of contemporary writers tries way too hard to be cool and complicated and literary.

So, my criticism of your review is that you don't reveal whether it's readable or not. I don't know whether I should take yet another chance on Atwood or if I should ignore the book and save 2 weeks of my life to read something better with.

I also disagree with your summary, "that's a pretty lousy lesson." Lousy how? It's definitely true that people fuck up the planet and leave future generations to deal with the aftermath. Bad lessons are trite and over-simple. Good lessons are true and often open up new questions we haven't considered before. Maybe it was a lousy lesson but you certainly didn't give me enough information so that I could agree with you.

Regardless, thanks for the review. +1 from me.



If (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by waxmop on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 08:47:54 PM EST

If you haven't liked anything you read by her, this book is very much in her style, so you may not like it. However, I'd suggest giving her another shot. This book reads really fast; I finished it in a weekend, where it took me a lot longer to finish Robber Bride and Handmaid's Tale. It's a good story, and like I mentioned in the review, the characters and setting are good. It's not the best book I've read all year, but I liked it.

As for the lousy lesson, I guess my real frustration is with the fact that we never get a meaty explanation for why Crake destroys civilization. That's what I'm complaining about - we're left with a character that is a total mystery, and part of me suspects that she Crake completely inscrutable rather than try to flesh him out and make him convincingly real.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

It's very readable (none / 0) (#50)
by HollyHopDrive on Mon Jun 30, 2003 at 06:32:22 PM EST

As is all of her stuff, with the possible exception of Surfacing. Read it. It's very thought-provoking and very good.

I make too much sense to be on the Internet.
[ Parent ]

Dear woman-hating nerd (2.25 / 4) (#15)
by lowlife on Tue Jun 24, 2003 at 11:16:05 PM EST

Stop reading science fiction, and maybe you can eventually get a chick to cook for you.

Your mind begins to clear.

Did it escape your attention that the author (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by morkeleb on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 04:06:05 AM EST

of the book happens to be a woman? Actually my best friend was the one who first turned me onto science fiction (another woman), and the writers she turned me onto were primarily women authors (Ursula K Leguin, Pat Cadigan, Anne McAfferty,...).


"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
[ Parent ]
where's the sci-fi? (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by martingale on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 12:57:13 AM EST

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book, just commenting based on your review.

I don't see where the sci-fi is in this book.

Good science fiction pushes the limits of imagination, by exposing the reader to new ideas and new contexts. One comes away from it feeling like an explorer, with a head full of new possibilities to be sorted out over time.

Part of the reason I'm skeptical about the sci-fi nature of this book is the focus on relationships you describe. A focus on interpersonal relationships is often a dead giveaway, as it is only needed if the sci-fi setting isn't strong enough to keep the reader's attention.

Lots of sci-fi does deal with relationships between people, but as a complement to the science-fiction theme espoused by the story. The people are needed to the extent that the sci-fi plot requires building blocks. In good sci-fi, the plot does not make sense on its own, it only makes sense within the set of ideas representing the sci-fi theme.

I get the impression that the fall of civilization theme in this book is weak, meaning the details are loosely sketched to form a backdrop for the character interactions. Perhaps you've simply tried to write around spoilers. The reminiscences and ultimate hardship of the characters could just as well be played out in a historical novel, maybe after the fall of Rome.

Lots of writers try to spruce up stories by adding a cardboard sci-fi backdrop to inject something unusual in otherwise banal stories. Unfortunately, the cardboard sci-fi has itself become banal, through too many similar sci-fi soap operas on teevee.

Anyway, I'd paraphrase the critics: "it's good, but it's not sci-fi."

Just because it doesn't have aliens and spaceships (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by PhadeRunner on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 07:25:23 AM EST

doesn't mean it's not sci-fi!  Just look at all the wonderful books which are considered sci-fi that simply focus on the effect of technology and the future on peoples' daily lives, relationships and experiences.  

Sci-fi isn't just about Star Wars and Star Trek etc. anymore you know...

[ Parent ]

my test: (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by martingale on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 09:19:40 PM EST

Let me give you my test for what is not science fiction (and I don't distinguish between science fiction, Science Fiction, SF and sci-fi ;-). Note that I'm not claiming to give you a test for what *is* sci-fi.

A novel(short story, whatever) is *not* sci-fi if it remains substantially unchanged under the following transformation: remove all references to science fiction themes and elements.

So, for example, Asimov's robot stories are mostly not not sci-fi. If you remove the robots, replacing them perhaps with strange thinking humans, the stories no longer makes any kind of sense. That's because Asimov explores the thinking patterns of robots, under stringent "laws" for which the robot-nature is crucial.

Now take your typical star trek soap. Some episodes are clearly science fiction, but most fail my test. Episodes which explore the human side of the characters fail right off the bat. Many other episodes fall under the itinerant band of do-gooders in a ship formula, which Homer already used. Few episodes rely on the special science fiction elements in a crucial way, making the story collapse without them. Those are the true science fiction episodes. The rest is just Space Opera (which doesn't mean I don't enjoy watching it late at night).

[ Parent ]

Can't agree, sorry (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by PhadeRunner on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 05:37:39 AM EST

A novel(short story, whatever) is not sci-fi if it remains substantially unchanged under the following transformation: remove all references to science fiction themes and elements.

While I can appreciate this point of view I believe your logic falls down; this is like saying a period drama ceases to be a period drama if you replace all the corsets with tank-tops, the horses with cars and the love letters with emails.  That's just plain common sense: change the setting of a story and its characters' reactions to that setting and then it ceases to be the same narrative!  

So, for example, Asimov's robot stories are mostly not not sci-fi. If you remove the robots, replacing them perhaps with strange thinking humans, the stories no longer makes any kind of sense. That's because Asimov explores the thinking patterns of robots, under stringent "laws" for which the robot-nature is crucial.

Fair enough, this example makes sense although I'm not not sure that it's completely fair to try to confuse our readership with such a nasty double-negative.  There aren't many stories which would hold up to such mangling so either you're wrong or everybody else is and actually there's not as much sci-fi around as we all thought.  

How would localrodger's Passages in the Void stand up to such treatment?  

Replace the universe with the ocean, the enormous but slow intelligent spaceships with whales and the theme of a new planet with that of a new feeding ground.  The story of slow moving, intelligent beings that can communicate and travel over huge distances trying to find a new place to settle even though they may perish in the attempt still makes perfect sense.  

Are you saying that it's not sci-fi because of this?  

Personally I believe your rule to be absurd.  

[ Parent ]

Corsets and tank tops (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by pietra on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 12:53:20 PM EST

While I can appreciate this point of view I believe your logic falls down; this is like saying a period drama ceases to be a period drama if you replace all the corsets with tank-tops, the horses with cars and the love letters with emails. That's just plain common sense: change the setting of a story and its characters' reactions to that setting and then it ceases to be the same narrative!
Like the movie Clueless, Jane Austen's Emma set in 1990s Beverly Hills?

I agree, though ;)

[ Parent ]

that's 'cause you misuse the rule (none / 0) (#43)
by martingale on Fri Jun 27, 2003 at 05:36:35 AM EST

It seems to me your troubles with this rule are of your own making. Where exactly did I claim anything about period dramas in the sci-fi rule?

While I can appreciate this point of view I believe your logic falls down; this is like saying a period drama ceases to be a period drama if you replace all the corsets with tank-tops, the horses with cars and the love letters with emails. That's just plain common sense: change the setting of a story and its characters' reactions to that setting and then it ceases to be the same narrative!
Here you've invented a rule about period dramas which you go on to dispute. Let's apply *my* rule to it, shall we? Take a period drama. Take away all science fiction elements and backdrops (space ships, aliens, and teleporters). Done (didn't take a lot of work). So what's left? The same period drama. Ergo, it's not science fiction.

If I went about inventing new rules to criticize old ones, I'd have the same problems you have in that paragraph. Say you told me something about cats (e.g. cats meow). I dispute your claim because the same thing about dogs (e.g. dogs meow) is wrong.

There's a second source of confusion in your period drama example, which I'd like to clear up. When I mentioned removing sci-fi elements through transposition into a different setting, I expected you to keep the plot invariant. For example, "The Fly" is a story about a scientist who has an accident with a teleporter and a fly. He ends up mutating into a giant fly over time (hey, I'm just using this as an example ;-). If you transpose this story into a period drama, you cannot simply change the plot into that of an alchemist who slowly becomes insane. Transposition means you keep the same story (ie the scientist physically transforms) with a different backdrop.

There aren't many stories which would hold up to such mangling so either you're wrong or everybody else is and actually there's not as much sci-fi around as we all thought.
I think we can agree on that. There is much out there that is labeled sci-fi by publishers and movie producers but really is just formulaic shlock. But this is true of all genres.

How would localrodger's Passages in the Void stand up to such treatment?
Heh, the whale analogy seems familiar. I must have read something similar somewhere...

Once again, here's my current thinking: in localrodger's story, can the whales be mapped onto the robot ships? Seems a bit difficult, seeing as the main point of the story is that the ships are always taking a one way trip. Every ship is expendable as it is only a vessel for the consciousness which is left on earth. As mammals, the whales need to exist in contact with others, if for no reason other than procreation. Sending whales on a one-way trip into the unknown is not a good evolutionary strategy.

On the other hand, let's remove some of the sci-fi elements. How do you remove the evolutionary time scale (millions of years) from this story? You can't really, or there'd be no motivation to reseed other planets (ie if all you have is a few hundred years, you can't reach worlds, and you can't recreate humans by evolution either). How about removing space? The main justification of the longevity of the spaceships is that they are travelling in the intergalactic void, safe from micro meteorites and radiation. You'd need extra justifications in any story which happened entirely near planetary clusters, in the sea, or where ever.

I contend Passages in the Void is science fiction.

[ Parent ]

Nice try (none / 0) (#45)
by PhadeRunner on Fri Jun 27, 2003 at 06:32:50 AM EST

It seems to me your troubles with this rule are of your own making. Where exactly did I claim anything about period dramas in the sci-fi rule?

You didn't. What you did was propose a rule specifically relating to the sci-fi genre. What I did was to generalise that rule which could be applied to any genre piece to prove that it is nonsense.

Here you've invented a rule about period dramas which you go on to dispute. Let's apply *my* rule to it, shall we? Take a period drama. Take away all science fiction elements and backdrops (space ships, aliens, and teleporters). Done (didn't take a lot of work). So what's left? The same period drama. Ergo, it's not science fiction.

Now you're just being silly. Where in my criticism did I every go out and try and prove a period drama piece was not sci-fi. I applied a specific period drama case of the general genre rule derived from your specific sci-fi case. If it's true for one genre you must be able to apply similar rules to the identifying characteristics of other genres and it still hold true. The fact that you cannot means, as I have proved, that your specific sci-fi rule is nonsense.

There's a second source of confusion in your period drama example, which I'd like to clear up. When I mentioned removing sci-fi elements through transposition into a different setting, I expected you to keep the plot invariant. For example, "The Fly" is a story about a scientist who has an accident with a teleporter and a fly. He ends up mutating into a giant fly over time (hey, I'm just using this as an example ;-). If you transpose this story into a period drama, you cannot simply change the plot into that of an alchemist who slowly becomes insane. Transposition means you keep the same story (ie the scientist physically transforms) with a different backdrop.

I was also specifically not trying to apply a rule which you have obviously just concocted that tries to transpose sci-fi into period drama. Where did that come from?

I think we can agree on that. There is much out there that is labeled sci-fi by publishers and movie producers but really is just formulaic shlock. But this is true of all genres.

Ok, lets agree on something. There's not a lot of good sci-fi out there, but I think we'll still have to differ on what we consider to be good or formulaic sclock.

Once again, here's my current thinking: in localrodger's story, can the whales be mapped onto the robot ships? Seems a bit difficult, seeing as the main point of the story is that the ships are always taking a one way trip. Every ship is expendable as it is only a vessel for the consciousness which is left on earth. As mammals, the whales need to exist in contact with others, if for no reason other than procreation. Sending whales on a one-way trip into the unknown is not a good evolutionary strategy.

Nit-picking. What if the whales were female and pregnant when they were sent out to find the new feeding grounds? Now it all starts to sound a little contrived, kind of like applying rules to particular pieces to prove they are not of the genre they claim to be.

On the other hand, let's remove some of the sci-fi elements. How do you remove the evolutionary time scale (millions of years) from this story? You can't really, or there'd be no motivation to reseed other planets (ie if all you have is a few hundred years, you can't reach worlds, and you can't recreate humans by evolution either). How about removing space? The main justification of the longevity of the spaceships is that they are travelling in the intergalactic void, safe from micro meteorites and radiation. You'd need extra justifications in any story which happened entirely near planetary clusters, in the sea, or where ever.

In the context of the original story the evolutionary timescales are one of the sci-fi elements. Once you change a particular element of the story its related characteristics also must change, this is my point. The evolutionary timescales are now the lifetimes of the whales, their longevity is their abilty to survive and travel for long distances in their chosen habitat, likewise the micro-meteorites and radiation are the obstacles and predators found in that habitat and the planets to settle are the new feeding grounds. Thus applying your logic, Passages in the Void ceases to be sci-fi. But it is, and we both agree that it is. Ergo your rule is bogus.

Nice try.



[ Parent ]
thrust, parry? (none / 0) (#46)
by martingale on Fri Jun 27, 2003 at 07:33:02 AM EST

specifically relating to the sci-fi genre. What I did was to generalise that rule which could be applied to any genre piece to prove that it is nonsense.
The only thing that you end up proving this way is that the generalisation is nonsense, which is something upon which we can both agree.

Now you're just being silly. Where in my criticism did I every go out and try and prove a period drama piece was not sci-fi.
You didn't, in exactly the same way I didn't claim that my sci-fi rule applies sufficiently generally to cover period dramas.

I applied a specific period drama case of the general genre rule derived from your specific sci-fi case. If it's true for one genre you must be able to apply similar rules to the identifying characteristics of other genres and it still hold true. The fact that you cannot means, as I have proved, that your specific sci-fi rule is nonsense.
Yes, that's what you did: Cats have four legs. Whales are mammals like cats, so should have four legs too. Whales don't, so cats can't either.

<snip the fly&rt;
I was also specifically not trying to apply a rule which you have obviously just concocted that tries to transpose sci-fi into period drama. Where did that come from?
That's my defense, see earlier. You can't just validate my defense by using it yourself, that destroys your whole case! Be more creative ;-)

Ok, lets agree on something. There's not a lot of good sci-fi out there, but I think we'll still have to differ on what we consider to be good or formulaic sclock.
All right. I'll admit even that I went over the top here.

Nit-picking. What if the whales were female and pregnant when they were sent out to find the new feeding grounds? Now it all starts to sound a little contrived, kind of like applying rules to particular pieces to prove they are not of the genre they claim to be.
Nit-picking is perfectly justified in applying the rule I gave: if you can refine and finally exhibit a transposed storyline which keeps the gist of the original while removing the sci-fi, I'll accept the verdict for that story. You are allowed as many tries as you wish, just like in science. May I suggest that your experience of the contrived is just a symptom of the difficulty inherent in transposing that particular story? Which kind of supports my point in this case...

In the context of the original story the evolutionary timescales are one of the sci-fi elements. Once you change a particular element of the story its related characteristics also must change, this is my point.
How does that help you? If you agree that the evolutionary timescale is both an integral and a sci-fi element, then removing it destroys the story. By my rule, the localroger story is sci-fi. But you deny the validity of my rule, so you must claim that a viable story, identical in essence, can be constructed without using an evolutionary timescale. Do you yourself feel that your whale story is identical in essence to localroger's "Passages in the Void" ?

You certainly can't claim otherwise without contradicting yourself. It's a fair claim, but personally I feel your whale story misses some aspects of "Passages in the Void". For example, who or what takes the place of the sentient beings, humans, who reflect upon their creators/preservers in the last part? What can you introduce, which is both created by the whales, different from them and capable of commentary upon them?



[ Parent ]

So if it's about people, it can't be scifi? (none / 0) (#40)
by Karmakaze on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 04:16:57 PM EST

A focus on interpersonal relationships is often a dead giveaway, as it is only needed if the sci-fi setting isn't strong enough to keep the reader's attention.

If the story is about the way people are affected by technology, why is that not science fiction to you?  What's so 'unnecessary' about interpersonal relationships in any kind of fiction?  You make it sound like some icky thing thrown in to distract people from the story.  Sometimes the people are the story.

Even if you don't think there's enough "hard science" in the setting, anthropology and sociology are still sciences.

It doesn't have to have robots and spaceships to be science fiction.

How much of Cryptonomicon actually involved new science?  It gets classified as science fiction by most people, but the technology in it does not vary from real world technology any farther than your average James Bond movie.
--
Karmakaze
[ Parent ]

you got it (none / 0) (#44)
by martingale on Fri Jun 27, 2003 at 05:58:22 AM EST

Sociology is interesting, but if that's the point of the novel/story then it's not sci-fi. Rememember that I'm claiming that the science fiction elements must be an integral part of the story.

So the question is: does the story depend on the science fiction aspects? Can those be dropped without significant impact?

Neuromancer is, as a story, entirely dependent on the technology to make sense, so qualifies as sci-fi.

Cryptonomicon is bordering on the plain adventure story for me, but that's more to do with the disjointed style it's written in. Just because it has computers in a storyline is insufficient for science-fiction. The WWII storyline is not really impossible without the cryptography theme, while the modern era story does depend crucially on the cryptography for its point (which puts it in the sci-fi category for me).

If the story is about the way people are affected by technology, why is that not science fiction to you?
To recap: I never said it wasn't. I said *if* the effect is *not* the main point of the story, then it isn't. A story speculating on the effects of weightlessness on personal relationships would be science fiction. A biographical story of an astronaut and his friends probably isn't.

[ Parent ]
It IS sci-fi (none / 0) (#49)
by HollyHopDrive on Mon Jun 30, 2003 at 06:27:08 PM EST

Science fiction includes any work which creates a new society and explores it. Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale falls into this category, and it won a prestigious science fiction award.Oryx and Crake is most definitely a science-fiction novel, not only because it is about a fictitious society, but also because it explores the possible consequences of genetic engineering.

In fact, several of the instances Atwood created in the novel have since come to pass in the world of genetics, for example the rabbits bred for unnatural purposes. This is frightening stuff. It's also, unquestioningly, science fiction.


I make too much sense to be on the Internet.
[ Parent ]

Goddamn! (2.00 / 1) (#21)
by debacle on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 04:25:19 AM EST

I'm voting this sucker up just 'cause it's better than the other review in the queue!

Hot diggity!

It tastes sweet.

not scifi at all? (2.00 / 2) (#24)
by dimaq on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 05:18:01 AM EST

I admit I only read about one page of the excerpts and already made up my mind - it's not scifi - replace "snowman" with "a bear" and you'll get nowadays reality. besides, too usian (red sox what?) *g*

Well, (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by waxmop on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 10:30:53 AM EST

Like I mentioned in the review, the book is about human interactions and relationships, but I'd still say the setting/genre is clearly science-fiction. Plenty of the themes of the genre are there: science run amuck, governments and corporations battling for dominance, the downfall of civilization, etc. However, if you're looking for space battles and makeouts in airlocks, this isn't the right book for you.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

Rabid category debates--what gives? (4.66 / 3) (#26)
by LairBob on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 09:06:14 AM EST

I find it fascinating that so many people--here on K5 especially, but in the wider world as well--who need to categorize a piece of text and then estimate its suitability at arm's length before they're willing to accept that it even has the right to exist for other people.

Whether it's a book like the two reviews that are currently in the queue, or even any given article in the K5 queue, there seems to be a rabid need to extinguish writing--to stop people from creating it, and to prevent other people from reading it.

So, I don't get it...what gives? What's actually enraging about the sight (or the mere idea) of other people reading something you don't like? In general, K5ers tend to be almost self-righteously libertarian, yet bring up a book or a topic of discussion they don't like, and it's time to put on the brown shirts and rid the world of vermin. Kinda creepy.

Failure of essence. (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by la princesa on Fri Jun 27, 2003 at 01:22:16 AM EST

Those who can't create, or whose attempts have failed in one way or another succumb to a blind solipsism in which nothing outside their tiny sphere of knowing is worthwhile or valuable.  Among the subcultures containing individuals most likely to be afflicted this way are academics and geeks.  K5 has rather a lot of the latter; thus one sees lots of solipsistic frothing.    

___
<qpt> Disprove people? <qpt> What happens when you disprove them? Do they disappear in a flash of logic?
[ Parent ]
Better option (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by daishan on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 11:48:42 AM EST

Atwood explores relationships, but I feel about as involed as when I read a football playbook. X goes here O goes there, Bam! Atwood's characters leave me cold.

Localroger's The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect was a far more involving end-of-the-world type novel.

comments (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by fae on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 09:03:13 PM EST

1. almost any fiction could be classified as science fiction.
2. As a crazy genius, I can tell you that the reason I'd destroy the world would be "because I can". Besides, there's no reason to not destroy it.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
Huh? (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by waxmop on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 11:07:08 PM EST

  • Great Expectations
  • The Great Gatsby
  • As I lay Dying
Please explain how any of these are science fiction.

You could argue that the Fountainhead is science fiction because Howard Roark gets laid, completely unlike real-life objectivists.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

fiction (none / 0) (#34)
by fae on Wed Jun 25, 2003 at 11:49:33 PM EST

Stories about hypothetical alternate universes where the author is god and everything makes some sense.

-- fae: but an atom in the great mass of humanity
[ Parent ]
"High-brow science fiction"? (none / 0) (#36)
by tkatchev on Thu Jun 26, 2003 at 11:20:47 AM EST

Right.

Maybe you should go back to writing furry fan-fiction instead?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

I disagree (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by HollyHopDrive on Mon Jun 30, 2003 at 06:40:53 PM EST

Warning: spoilers ahead...

Crake's motives are made very clear - it's about creating a demand for the services his company supplies. When everyone's healthy, there's no need for medicine, so they have to create disease, and if this disease is released before the antidote is fully developed, well, that's the risk we run. That's probably part of her point.

The book also doesn't begin at the end. It begins in the middle. That's very important. For the first few chapters, you won't know what's going on and will have to think very hard. Most people like that.

You feel detached from the characters, but I'm not sure that's a flaw of the book. I noticed Atwood wrote it in the third person, which is unusual for her. I also think most would agree that Oryx is enigmatic and inexplicable enough for us not to be able to understand her or engage with her - certainly neither Crake nor Jimmy ever manage it, despite all their efforts. Perhaps this approach forces us to take a step back and review the society towards which we may be heading, with the sort of detachment we need in order to understand the warning. If we start sympathising too much with the characters, we can't really criticise and learn from them so much.

I just want to know why Crake kills Oryx like that. I have some ideas but none of them really satisfy me. Anyone care to share their theories with me?

One last thing - I would have preferred your review to contain less plot summary and more analysis. But thanks for it - it gave me a chance to reply and say a few things!


I make too much sense to be on the Internet.

Wow - somebody read the book! (none / 0) (#52)
by waxmop on Wed Jul 09, 2003 at 10:12:52 PM EST

Yeah, I spent a lot of time on plot summary. I wanted to do more analysis, but I had a hard time writing my ideas/feelings about the book since I knew most readers would be unfamiliar.

Also, I was even more limited in analyzing/critiquing the book since I didn't want to give away too much of the ending.

I remember the part where Crake talks about how his company regularly invents new diseases so they can sell new cures. I don't feel like that really explains why he created his super disease. It didn't seem like Crake had any intention of selling the cure afterward. It seemed like he wanted to wipe out humanity.

I felt detached from Crake, but I didn't feel detached from Jimmy. Jimmy was a fleshed-out, real character. I felt detached from Crake because he goes from being an arrogant kid to an arrogant adult to somebody that inexplicably wipes out humanity.

The fact that I never understood why Crake destroyed humanity is why I feel detached.

However, there's characters like Crake in other Atwood novels. In Robber Bride, Zenia is just a big man-eating monster that ruins three womens' lives, and we don't ever get the explanation for why. The main characters just try to rebuild and move on. Snowman can't really move on, so in this case, he's got nothing better to do than reflect over his life and try to scrape together some point to it all.

As for whether the book begins at the end, or at the middle, I feel like we're arguing over semantics. My point was only that the book begins after most of the major plot points, like Jimmy's mom and abandoning him, Crake's and Oryx's death, the destruction of humanity, and so on have already occurred.

Something I didn't really talk about in the review was that I felt like Atwood took the easy way out of having Crake kill off Oryx and then having Jimmy kill Crake. A rookie hallmark is when everyone ends up dead at the end. It appeals because it finishes the book decisively, but I think it's a little beneath Margaret Atwood.

Also, there's a couple of times in the book where she uses some hardcore sci-fi cliches. The whole pleeblands/fortress-town thing is such an old idea. Same with the whole "man after the end of the world."

I read an article about how Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was not a big hit in Asia. The reporter interviewed people that said "Flying people and fights? We've already seen all that." To me, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon took the low-budget, thinly-scripted and poorly-acted Hong Kong action genre and then gave it the Oscar treatment. Don't get me wrong; I loved the movie. I thought the acting and direction were what made a good movie, though, not the rooftop fight scenes. Those were nice window-dressing. I can also understand why it wasn't popular in Asia.

I have sort of the same feeling about Oryx and Crake: the plotline and setting is really conventional stuff for sci-fi, but Atwood took it and really breathed life into it. That's what I was getting at in the beginning of my review when I said "this is high-brow science fiction."

Anyway, I get the vibe from interviews that Atwood dashed this book off pretty fast compared to her other works. It's a good book, sure, but it also could have just been a good short story in her next collection of short stories.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

Review: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake | 52 comments (46 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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