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Science ethics and dystopian society

Nick Sallen, Editor-in-Chief

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If you’re interested in dystopian societies, post-apocalypse, science fiction, biology, mystery and crime novels, or stories of adventure, then “Oryx and Crake” might be the next book you want to read. The novel is authored by the longtime literature veteran Margaret Atwood, who is best known for her novels and poetry. You may have heard about some of her more popular novels, such as: “A Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Blind Assassin,” and “Cat’s Eye.”

“Oryx and Crake” is a story broken up into two parts, the present and the past. As the story unfolds on the pages, readers are brought back and forth between the two timelines. Presently, we are exposed to this post-apocalyptic wasteland of a world through the eyes of Snowman, who appears to be the last human on the planet. Snowman is not alone though, as he is accompanied by a band of human-like creatures known as Crakers. Crakers are the bio-engineered successors of humans… at least according to Crake, the ethically-flawed science genius who created them. The creations need very little to continue living, and it is a challenge for Snowman to find food and water for himself. After hearing stories about their creator from Snowman, the Crakers begin to see Snowman as a deity. Snowman’s real name is Jimmy, and in his past, Jimmy was a sex, cigarette, and alcohol addict with two real friends and virtually no family.  The story of the past is told through Jimmy’s eyes. As the novel progresses, we learn more about what caused the apocalypse and gain insights into why the world is the way that it is.

Reading through “Oryx and Crake,” I was interested in the two settings Margaret Atwood created, and how the novel blends genres. The combination of genres makes the storyline very memorable and unique. Atwood choosing to write the novel from the perspective of one person across two different timelines (present and past) is a bit difficult to keep up with at first, and I think the problem could have been solved by fleshing out the characters a bit more, especially Oryx.

I thought Oryx was more useful as a plot device than a full-fledged character. Her mysteriousness kept me wanting to learn more in the beginning, but, ultimately, her purpose to cause chaos between Jimmy/Snowman and Crake is revealed in the latter pages, and nothing more about her I found all that interesting.

Crake was my favorite character. He is marvelously disturbing character who values the progress of science more than humanity itself. He is the future Dr. Frankenstein with a plethora of tools which allow him to manipulate genetic material into wonderful and sinister life forms. I could relate to his character the most because I am a biology major.

I liked “Oryx and Crake” a lot so I’d give it four out of five stars. It wasn’t a very long read and the action kept me glued to my seat after trudging through the first few chapters. The two timelines can be difficult to grasp at first, but it is easy by the end. As for the conclusion, I wish Atwood would’ve tied off the loose ends instead of leaving it up to the reader to think about what Snowman does after the cliffhanger ending. Atwood has two other novels, “The Year of The Flood,” and “MaddAddam” which follow-up on the events in “Oryx and Crake.”

Nick Sallen is the editor-in-chief for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at nicholas.sallen@und.edu

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Science ethics and dystopian society