I often ask people what kind of books they like to read to try and find out a bit more about them. People sometimes ask this of me and my first answer would be something blasé and all encompassing like “oh I read anything”. That is true because I would and do. If I actually listened to the question and answered what do I like to read, then that is something I hadn’t really noted till I finished reading a book last week.
The book was Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
It’s not a new book, but it had been on my list having seen an article in which it was listed as one of the most disturbing books you would ever read. I had to know why. I also read American Psycho for this reason and several others on the list I’d already done. Margaret Atwood had also been recommended to me in a creative writing course I did and I had already read The Handmaid’s Tale and loved it. She’s dark this Atwood lady and very clever with her so called “speculative fiction”.
At several points in this book I found myself smiling at how very clever it was and how happy I was that I had read it. Oh yes, it is disturbing but not in the same way American Psycho was, that was in places just look away horrible, this was disturbing because the story she is telling is future feasible.
Very briefly, the book set sometime in the future where genetic modification has become very real with scientists taking the good bits of all kinds of species and mixing them up to make better ones. They’ve got wolvogs, rakunks and pigoons (see what she did there). Cutting a long story very short without spoilers, something apocalyptic happens and the world, as they knew it is gone leaving a few lonely survivors who may not for very much longer. (Survive that is). The ending is deliciously ambiguous lending itself to awesome potential book club discussions along the lines of did he do a) or b) and what are the consequences of each for the future of the world. See, nothing spoiled (and it’s part of a trilogy I’ve not got to yet!).
The reason I am writing about this is partly to big up Margaret Atwood. She is my new girl crush of the brain. Mostly it is to say how reading this made me realize how good for you is a good old apocalyptic novel. It is also to say it is a genre that leaves me feeling better after dragging me through hell. I hadn’t acknowledged it until this book.
The Road, Station 11, The Stand (plus all the films like 28 Days Later, Deep Impact), some left me with hope, some didn’t, whatever they did they sure make me feel suddenly HUGELY grateful for the world and my place in it.
And you know, whatever happens today, it probably isn’t the end of the world.