Oryx and Crake

Margaret Atwood's 2003 book Oryx and Crake is nice. Just nice. Not strikingly poetic in language; not cleverly visionary; not dizzyingly insightful in politics. It's an allegory, a heavy-handed sermon on the dangers of bioengineering. Plot devices abound, characters move along rails to make the author's points, and surprises are sparse.

And technical errors distract: within a few pages the protagonist recalls drinking rubbing alcohol, thinks visible stars are millions or billions of light-years away, and and imagines that during "the dark of the moon" somehow the moon rises at night but is invisible. An engineer friend who read it was annoyed at the notion that in the near future the earth's crust could be depleted of metals to the point that a post-collapse civilization would be unable to rebuild — ignoring the question of what happened to all the extracted metals. And the economics of Atwood's future society? Implausible, incoherent, and likely impossible.

Short-listed for a Booker Prize? Maybe as a nod to the author's reputation, or to applaud her message? Perhaps there's more to Oryx and Crake than meets the eye — but, like John Williams's drab story Stoner, even so it's simply not novel enough.

^z - 2015-11-30