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And our futuristic June Book of the Month is...ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood (discussion Tue 30 June)

(39 Posts)
TillyBookClub Wed 27-May-09 10:36:43

Booker and Orange Prize shortlisted ORYX AND CRAKE is the clear winner of our June Book of the Month poll, with THE ROAD in second place.

We'll be chatting about ORYX AND CRAKE on Tuesday 30 June from 8pm to 10pm. Hope you can join us!

Don't forget you can order your copy here

And, for anyone who missed out on the vote here were June's book choices and this is how Book Club works.

Pinickins Tue 30-Jun-09 20:22:10

I thought she was spot on re: the way the young boys (..and perhaps men who should know better e.g. my DH!) spend their time (porn, internet, gaming etc) but she imagined how this would evolve in the future.

TillyBookClub Tue 30-Jun-09 20:24:05

Bagabee, I haven't read THT, but I was wondering how different the book would be if either Snowman or Crake had been female. Or both of them.

Would a woman have ever acted the way Crake did, played God the way he did?

WibblyPigRocks Tue 30-Jun-09 20:41:00

I agree with many of the comparisons with THT - I also thought that O&C was less 'emotional' and that was possibly because it had a male protagonist.

Snowman/Jimmy's relationships were not deep, meaningful ones. Even the so-called 'romantic interest' (Oryx), was so sexualised, it was hard to see their relationship as particularly loving. The way her character was first introduced to Jimmy - through a paedophile website - was too uncomfortable for me. I'm not sure why Atwood used this - what effect would a different type of website have had? Why was Oryx's youth important? Of course, there was also the question of whether their relationship was orchestrated by Crake anyway.

As an aside, this contrasts with the relationships in THT which, although some are obviously very sexual, develop into emotional relationships much more convincingly.

whistlejacket Tue 30-Jun-09 20:41:49

I can't say I enjoyed reading this book, I found it quite bleak and depressing. That said, I also thought it was extremely well written and imaginative. I felt I could really understand the world Atwood created. Maybe I found it slightly depressing because there were too many things that resonate with the negative aspects of today's society - I found myself hoping the future wouldn't be like that!

Did anyone think Crake was killed off too quickly? I thought Jimmy was quick to shoot him and I would have liked to have read a confrontation between the two about why Crake did what he did. It was a light copout I think because I would have liked to have understood more of his motivation. Tilly - I guess he was a psychopath although we don't really see how he interacts with many people other than Jimmy. I agree that Oryx was not a very interesting character, especially after the build up she's given.

As for the ending I think Snowman would have killed the people because he seemed to feel threatened by everything around him. Who were they and how did they survive? Were they the 3 who were in Paradice with him?

WibblyPigRocks Tue 30-Jun-09 20:58:34

Although in some ways, Atwood's use of a male character for the position of Crake suggests that only a man would lack the maternal instinct and care to attack the human race in this way, I think that's a bit too simplistic.

I think Crake's scientific approach to humanity was far more damning. Crake didn't consider emotional or mental welfare in his work, he didn't consider the moral minefield of his work and he actively sought to remove the elements of human nature that are about the soul - emotions, literature, creativity etc. Perhaps feminist readers might interpret this as a typically male characteristic, but I don't think that's true. Besides, Snowman is trying to retain this 'soul' as he struggles to remember words and literature and he is definitely male!

I agree with you, whistlejacket, that Crake was killed off too quickly - and Oryx, too. I know Atwood likes to leave us thinking but a bit more info would have been good.

I suspect Snowman would have killed the people at the end, too. He seemed to develop that animalistic desire to protect his 'young', which might be a positive thing in many ways but also suggests that it is human nature to kill or be killed and that we are not so different from animals as we would like to think.

TillyBookClub Tue 30-Jun-09 20:59:04

picnickins, I couldn't stomach the paedophile episode either. In fact I skip-read through Oryx's back story. I wonder now whether Atwood used it as a device to show how morality was under serious siege from technology (the web such vital tool in the progression of the worst crime).

whistlejacket, YES, I agree, where was the denouement/showdown/explanation? It made me feel Crake was a saddo geek who had done the futuristic equivalent of taking shotgun into his school. There was no motivation apart from a God complex and a lack of normal human relationships.

RE the pessimistic world view, in the interview on the website I found this extract:

Please don't make the mistake of thinking that Oryx and Crake is anti-science. Science is a way of knowing, and a tool. Like all ways of knowing and tools, it can be turned to bad uses. But it is not in itself bad. The driving force in the world today is the human heart — that is, human emotions. Hate, not bombs, destroys cities. Desire, not bricks, rebuilds them. Do we as a species have the emotional maturity and the wisdom to use our powerful tools well? Hands up, all who think the answer is Yes.

So, who thinks we will end up using tools well, and who thinks we are destined for disaster?

whistlejacket Tue 30-Jun-09 21:12:18

Agree about the Oryx paedophile story - almost stopped reading the book at that point as I was reading it before going to sleep and then not sleeping very well!

That paragraph from the interview is interesting because O&C paints a world where morality has vanished: executions, no control over genetic engineering, TV stations / internet showing anything they want, social segregation into compounds and plebelands. The science bit could probably be achieved now if it were allowed but thankfully morality hasn't left the human heart (for the majority).

If Crake was so destructive, why did he create the Crakers? Was it part of his God complex and he wanted them to replace the human race? Interesting that their lives were more similar to how humans lived thousands of years ago than now.

WibblyPigRocks Tue 30-Jun-09 21:21:50

That interview extract is interesting. I think that we will end up using these tools well in many cases but inevitably, we will use them badly at times, too. I don't think we will ever be entirely good or evil, as it were.

Two other things from me before I head off for a bit - firstly, Tilly asked about the myths Snowman tells the children of Crake. These myths are told to protect them, as well as control them. If they were as simply as Crake believed them to be, it would seem that these myths were for the best. However, when they start to show 'symbolic thinking' at the end, I wonder whether these children are starting to grow up. If they are becoming more capable of dealing with complex thought, they perhaps they should be told the truth. The people of the beach might threaten them so, would they be better protected if they knew the truth?

With our own children, we might use stories, myths or just simplified versions of truth to explain certain events, but as they get older this becomes unfair and to continue doing so would mean they were ill-prepared for the adult world. We are not wrong to protect them as children, but we would be wrong to prevent them being able to grow up.

Of course, this brings us to the difficulty of how Snowman would explain these things. He makes it clear throughout the novel how much language has been lost. What did people think about the chapter headings? With one word from each chapter used to define meaning, I felt that this was challenging our use of words to define the world around us. This is reflected in the way that Crake and Snowman redefine themselves by choosing different names. Does language define who we are?

whistlejacket Tue 30-Jun-09 21:38:42

WibblyPig - maybe Snowman won't explain anything to the Crakers and continue with his myths. He'll probably shoot anyone else who comes near the Crakers and threatens them. They've already started worshipping him so maybe he'll be happy for that to continue and for him, Oryx and Crake to become embodied in some form of Craker religion.

fruitbowl Tue 30-Jun-09 21:42:24

Hello, not done book club before but this one caught my eye. just wanted to say that I started reading this in 2004 when I was expecting my DD and I agree with Whistlejacket, I found it so disturbing, bleak and depressing in my pg state, I had to stop reading! You lot have inspired me to go back to it so thanks. Will try and comment when I have actually read whole books next time!

TillyBookClub Tue 30-Jun-09 21:47:25

I want to do this discussion in RL - there is so much to talk about and I have to go in a minute...

I think the language point is right. I know that Atwood kept holding up science and language as opposite poles (like the universities Crake and Jimmy go to) but they also share many qualities. They are used for good and bad, they can get out of control, they create things, they are tools for civilisation.

whistlejacket, I think Crake was supposed to be a neutral scientist, devoid of emotion and creating the Crakers purely from the logical need to improve the human race before we became extinct from overpopulation. But then he suddenly turns very strange and kills everyone. Presumably he wanted to hurry the extinct bit up a little.

Thanks everyone for a great evening. Bookclub is on holiday for July and August, and then back again in September. A Summer Reading thread will be up soon - please send us your nominations for the best sunshine page-turner...

whistlejacket Tue 30-Jun-09 21:53:06

Thanks again Tilly, oh no I'm going to have to choose some books myself to read for the next few months! Summer Reading thread sounds good will post some ideas when it's up. Haven't read any other Margaret Atwood so will read The Handmaidens Tale now from what I've read on this thread

WibblyPigRocks Tue 30-Jun-09 21:54:48

Definitely agree, Tilly - wish we could have discussed this in RL! There's so much to talk about - the loose ends, the morals, the use of language, the issues...

I think the one thing I'll take away from tonight and reading this book is the discussion of science v language/creativity etc - or rather, how we should be making them work together.

This has been a fab book and discussion - thanks Tilly and all!!

Bagabee Tue 30-Jun-09 23:39:49

Just seen this post re whether the outcome would have been different had Crake been a woman! Has made me wonder whether there is a feminist line from Atwood on this, drawing a parallel between Snowman and Crake's pathetic teenage antics, with the mess made of everything (literally!) as they grow older. Boys and their toys - playing at God etc. Not read whole book but am assuming they reak destruction on the planet as adults. In THT, there are some complicit women, but it's certainly a man's world. The only female character I've come across so far in O&C is Snowman's mother, and she seems to be someone who has seen the truth about is was happening, and wants to escape/do something about it. Put it this way, if Crake was a mother, doubt the outcome would have been the same!

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