Imagine a world set in a near future so ravaged by environmental damage that the eastern seaboard’s major cities like New York and Boston are underwater, courtesy of melted glaciers. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere tropical temperatures are the norm in January. With the ozone layer shot, one runs the risk of being sunburned to a crisp if foolish enough to venture about during daylight hours without the protection of sunscreen.
As for human society, the United States, Canada and the rest of industrialized world has bifurcated into two disparate worlds. One is a world of comfort and privilege, in which scientists, genetic engineers and their families live in hermetically sealed communities, each one connected to the other by futuristic bullet-trains. The other is the anarchic and crime-ridden Pleeblands, a grim world of rampant viruses, terrorism and poverty.
Now if you think that sounds bad, imagine that above-mentioned dystopia was actually the world of your childhood. Years later, you are the sole survivor of a devastating plague that has killed all the earth’s human inhabitants. Your only companions are a small colony of scientifically engineered humanoids, each one possessing the child-like innocence and intellect of a 12-year-old. When not running from chimerical predators intent on eating you, you spend your time seeking shelter from damaging UV rays, oven-like mid-day temperatures and antibiotic-resistant infections.
This is setting for Margaret Atwood’s 2003 end of the world novel Oryx and Crake. A good friend of mine, an avid reader and huge fan of Atwood, loaned me her copy at a recent house party. Fortunately like most books people loan me, this one didn’t sit ignored on a shelf for months or years before I read it. After starting it about a week after it was loaned to me, I quickly burned through it in what felt like no time. Based on my experience, if I read a book that quickly it usually means I enjoyed it. With Oryx and Crake, this would be no exception.
I enjoyed Atwood’s ability to tell an intriguing story using a direct style with accessible language. Although there’s a small cast of core characters, they feel developed and therefore hold my interest. Lastly, as the novel unfolds more is revealed of this sad future. And like some cosmic train wreck, the uglier things get the more you wanna watch.
Therefore on that cheery note, I liked it.