The reader on this audio was quite good, but I was really glad when this book ended. Perhaps I had read the first two books in this series too long ago, and the brief review in the first few pages was simply not detailed enough for me. While I will admit the story is unbelievably creative, I will also admit that for most of the book I was lost. I simply did not have the frame of reference I needed from the first two books, and like “Humpty Dumpty”, I could not put the story back together again.
I did find it to be a thought provoking story of a world in chaos, a story that raises the specter of a future in which we are destroyed by avarice and an endless craving for more and more power without regard to consequences. In this world, all that remains of civilization are small groups of humans, several species of animal and bio-engineered creatures. There are Crakers, G-d’s Gardeners, Maddaddamites, Pleeblands, Mo’Hairs, Snakewomen, Painballers, Pigoons, and Wolvogs, It is a time in which only the fittest will survive. The tools necessary to continue the life that once was, are absent, the resources to rebuild are missing and the technology is no longer known.
Crake wanted to end the chaos that existed in the world in which man worshipped at the Church of PetrOleum. He created a virus which he unleashed upon the world to rid it of all life. He created artificially intelligent beings called Crakers. They were gentle, loving, peaceful, kind and considerate. They would survive his plague to populate the earth, existing on leaves and vegetation only, living only for a predetermined, limited number of years. Unsophisticated, uneducated, unashamed, non-violent, unable to cause harm, they walked around unclothed, naked as the day they were created. They wore one skin while humans wore two (clothes)! They had enormous sex organs and seemed to exist only for their personal pleasure and to procreate. Unfortunately, not only these gentle people survived so violence was once again unleashed upon the land.
The story is told as one of the main characters, Toby, hands down the history of the past, by writing her boyfriend Zeb’s story and telling it to the crakers. His stories, which she relates with humor, are not always totally honest, but they are always told in a kind way that will not upset those she is addressing, the Crakers. Blackbeard, a Craker, inherits the job from her, and he continues to hand down the story, verbally, to the descendants and survivors, after Toby is gone. He tells Toby’s story. She taught him to write so he also makes a written copy for a more permanent record.
As with most books, of late, this one has a strong political message. Man is suffering the consequences of his abuse of the environment, his greed and his excessive wantonness. Humans have destroyed their world and now humans must try and restore it. The world is still a dangerous place. It is a situation in which survival of the fittest will be the order of the day. There may not be a time or a place for true justice for a long time. Expedience may have to be the rule of the day until a better situation is in place. Are those they fear dangerous, or are they dangerous merely because of their experiences? Can they be rehabilitated? Is it even feasible to do so with the conditions that exist? Is it safe to allow violence to remain? Do they have the wherewithal to maintain security if they try to rehabilitate some? These are problems that the fledgling society has to solve, in addition to providing food, health care, shelter, education, and most important, their ability to survive. The message in the book tends to be one of political correctness, subt;ly and obviously, pointing out how we, in the present, may cause our own demise in the future.
However, the book also contains an inordinate amount of brutality and vulgarity and, for me, an excessive concentration on weird sex. Perhaps it was the author’s intent to highlight these behaviors in order to exaggerate the environment that led to the chaos and to show why Crake chose to loose the plague upon the world. Perhaps it is the tool she used to illuminate the problems the world is actually experiencing today and to foreshadow the tragic end we may also bring down upon ourselves. Has the author offered us a parody of our own existence and our own world? Experiments with dangerous germs can fall into the wrong hands. Climate abuse may cause aberrations in the weather and the resultant floods and “unnatural” natural events may wreak havoc. Greed creates a “caste” system. Science creates ever more dangerous weapons and tools of war. In the end, Atwood shows us that the world, as we know it, has come to an end, and a new world has begun again. During this time, three women give birth to babies that are hybrids, for they are half-Craker. Perhaps the new civilization will be a combination of human and Craker traits and will, therefore, be a kinder and gentler race of people with the intelligence to advance and survive in a more congenial and peaceful world. Are we headed into the world of Oryx and Crake? It is a frightening thought.