“Oryx and Crake” is a speculative book, published by Margaret Atwood in 2003.
The book is composed of two story lines. The earlier is set slightly in the future, when the main character, Jimmy, is growing up. The second, is set further in the future, when Jimmy has become Snowman.
Jimmy lives in the compound world - gated communities run by corporations. The compounds are surrounded by the Majority World, called the Pleeblands. Things are crazy out in the Pleeblands - rampant disease, lots of violence. People from the compounds very rarely venture out to such places.
Jimmy has a best friend, Crake. As young teenagers they amuse themselves by watching child pornography and playing games. These games include Extinctathon, a game about extinct species, Kwiktime Osamo, that includes the US vs. terrorists, and the Blood and Roses, where it’s the Bloods [all of the horrors of human history] vs. the Roses [all the joys in human history]. All three games are multiplayer.
Genetic engineering and biotech has moved forward in leaps and bounds. There are lots of hybrid species. The biggest corporations are focused on eternal healthcare. But all of these developments have contributed to a decrease in the quality of living. No one in the book has a meaningful life. Superbugs breakout, wiping out people of all classes, often becoming terminal in just days. These superbugs are often designed by healthcare companies, as they can sell a lot of medicine before their patients die.
There is no snow in Snowman’s world. That’s how he got his name. It’s a name that’s completely worthless and meaningless, obsolete and archaic. Very fitting, descriptive of Snowman.
Snowman’s days consist of wandering wastelands, scavenging old canned goods and other nonperishable items [such as alcohol]. He also needs to beware of Wolvogs and Pigoons - wolf-dog and pig-human hybrids that will eat him.
He watches over a new species of human called Crakers, designed for their environment. They live very much like tribal people, and don’t need technology to take care of themselves.
Crake designed the Crakers. He also designed the Bliss Plus pill. Bliss Plus wiped out the human population on the planet through a super-virus [Jimmy was vaccinated by Crake], disguised as a sexual enhancer. The Crakers would repopulate it. They’re much simpler, and wouldn’t mess the world up as much as we did.
Crake was a part of Grand Master community of Extinctathon players. Eventually Extinctathon became movement, rather than just a computer game. Grand Masters would genetically engineer terrorist species - animals, insects, bacteria, or otherwise - that would bring down the infrastructure of civilization and kill humans along the way.
In essence, Crake was a member of the Deep Green Resistance movement, although he didn’t participate in their belief structure. Actually, in this way, there are some similarities to “Atlas Shrugged.”
There was an article that I saw recently about what happens after our superbug breeding program [commonly called antibiotics] is met with success. In some ways it was quite scary, as this book shows that there’s not much space between the world we’re in, and the world in the book.
What actions might we take after reading such a book? I’m not quite sure. Although the book gives a negatively-biased review of the post-civilization world, I don’t think it necessarily is a bad thing, even for people. “A World Made by Hand” almost was positive about this sort of future. Regardless, for anyone interested in modern medicine and health care, I think this book illustrates a very valuable perspective.