January 08, 2010

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood


Although I am a HUGE Margaret Atwood fan and would list her as one of my favourite authors I have not read Oryx and Crake until now because I just did not think it would be a book that I would enjoy - at all. I was very, very wrong. I picked this up from my library one day after work this week and as I was a little early for my pilates class I started reading it in the car while I waited. I almost missed my pilates class - I just did not want to put this book down (that is one of my only gripes with pilates - I can't read while doing it!).

Since finishing the book this morning I have been browsing Atwood's site for the book and reading some of her interviews and thoughts about the novel and her process of writing it - I always find these insights from authors interesting. I was particularly interested to hear Atwood describe Oryx and Crake as speculative fiction - not science fiction. I like this distinction because it make sense to me now why I enjoyed this book so much but I really do not enjoy science fiction. I am ashamed to say that I had never really thought about the difference before. I was trying to explain to my partner (a huge science fiction and fantasy genre lover) why I liked this book so much and all I could really come up with was that it had a strong humanist element contained within it - even though it was a different (although scarily possible) view of our world I could still locate myself or people I care about within this story and I connected with the characters and their experiences - even though I have of course never been in a situation like this in my own life. I had empathy for and connection with the story - two key elements for me in my reading.

I liked the way that Atwood showed us the present and then worked backwards with flashbacks of the history of the characters leading up to that point in time - I thought it was brilliantly done with great suspense and timing.

I am now eager to read The Year of the Flood - have people read either of this books? Did they enjoy one more than the other?

26 comments:

megan said...

Ooh, I loved this one too, and I've read it a few times now. I love the little quirk that she started formulating ideas for the book while she was in Australia, too!

I read Year of the Flood late last year - it was great! Quite different to Oryx and Crake, but still very much a progression of similar themes.

savidgereads said...

I am going to have to read this one soon as I loved The Year of The Flood and feel like I have to read this to be in that world (sort of) again. Sounds like its marvellous. I admit it wasnt originally a book that I thought would be me, if The Year of the Fllod is anything to go by it will prove me wrong again. Aklso of course showing what a wonderful accomplished writer Atwood is.

JoAnn said...

Oh, this is a wonderful review! You've addressed my reasons for not reading the book (love Atwood but shy away from sci-fi), and I'm adding it to my list.

Molly said...

I never knew there was a distinction between speculative fiction and science fiction. I always shy away from science fiction (except for Fahrenheit 451), but I should look into the other to see if it is more suitable to my taste.

Darlene said...

'Speculative fiction', I like that! My husband bought The Time Traveler's Wife for me for Christmas, I then heard a reviewer from The Guardian describe it as science fiction. Ack! He said 'what else would you call time travel?'. Thank you for given this sort of thing another name for me.

Great review by the way!

Steph said...

I'm the reverse of you - I've read a fair share of Atwood, but I wouldn't consider myself a HUGE fan by any means (or maybe not even a fan at all..). That said, I've read both Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood (which I reviewed here ) and of the two I think I enjoyed The Year of the Flood more. I'll be curious to hear what you think and how the two compare when you read it!

softdrink said...

I loved O&C, too, because it really is an entirely possible future. I have Year of the Flood, but I have yet to read it. I'm trying not to read books by the same author too close together...it usually doesn't work out well for the second book.

Karen said...

Hi Megan - I thought that was pretty cool about Atwood getting the idea for this book in Australia too!

Hi Simon - She is such a brilliant writer isn't she? I think I could read anything she has written - in any genre - and enjoy it.

Hi JoAnn - I wish someone had let me know more about what this one was about ages ago! Maybe they did but I just had my "no sci-fi" blinkers on!

Hi Molly - I didn't know about the distinction either. It makes a lot of sense for me but my partner and I were having a discussion after I wrote my post and he believes they are the same thing...

Hi Darlene - I wouldn't call The Time Traveler's Wife sci-fi at all - for me that book is more about the relationships and the characters.

Hi Steph - thanks for your thoughts, I'm really looking forward to reading The Year of The Flood.

Hi softdrink - I so agree with you. I went to start The Year of The Flood yesterday just after finishing O&C but I soon realised I would have to wait a while and read something completely different first.

Iliana said...

I've had this one on my shelf for quite a while now. I think it's just that I feel like I have to be in the mood for it. Now what with Year of the Flood being mentioned quite a bit I feel like I need to pick it up. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Jo said...

I really enjoyed this, although it did take me a couple of tries to get into it. I was actually thinking of re-reading it before I read Year of the Flood which I had for chrismas

Karen said...

Hi Iliana - I think this is definitely a book that you would need to be in the mood for. I knew it was just what I wanted to read at the time just by reading the first couple of pages so maybe that would work for you too??

Hi Jo - I think it would have taken me a while to get into too if I had been in a different reading mood - glad I got in that mood though!

Nadia said...

Great post! I just got Oryx and Crake from bookmooch and am excited to read it now (due to your post!). And I won Year of the Flood, so I have that on my shelf already (Yay!) and I can't wait to read that one, too! I definitely do enjoy Atwood's writing and must admit that I love the notion of speculative fiction and so I'm quite positive I will be digging these books soon enough. Cheers!

Amanda said...

Oh I totally enjoyed this one too. Such a creepy weird world she throws us into but it's even creepier because things could happen! We've GOT to pick up Year of the Flood now.

Karen said...

Hi Nadia - it was the expectation of Atwood's writing that actually led me to read this one but now I'm feeling quite positive in reading more speculative fiction.

Hi Amanda - that's exactly the thought I was having as I was reading this - these things could actually happen - I think that made me connect wit it even more.

Tara said...

I think Atwood's books age well. I liked O&C better the second time I read it, and would say I liked it better in a way than Year of the Flood ( which I liked very much). I'll be interested to see what you think of it!

Karen said...

Hi Tara - thanks for your thoughts - I already have a feeling that I will like O&C more than The Year of The Flood but I still want to give it a go too.

Becky said...

THis book was amazing - as are most of her books!

I felt a bit like I was on rollercoaster when I was reading it. It was really frustrating - I wanted to know what had happened, what was going on. It was almost annoying, sometimes I was so frustrated I wante dto give up. But the joy of Margaret Atwood is that I couldn't give up - I needed to get to the end and I was completely pulled in. It was absolutely worth continuing reading it, I felt like I needed to take a deep breath at the end. That's why I think of it as like a rollacoaster, while you're on it, you almost want to get off, but at the end you have the adrenaline rushing through you and all you want is another round.

I like Atwood's desciption of it as speculative fiction - it is speculative more than science fiction, and Atwood isn't a science fiction writer.

Thanks for the review, I'm glad someone else has read it and loved it!

Thomas at My Porch said...

I fall into the camp that thinks that Atwood can do no wrong. I think I liked Flood just slightly more than O&C, but both are brilliant.

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