Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel Oryx and Crake pushes the current developments in science and technology and sees what happens if we continue with it. The basic premise of the novel is really about asking what is our moral stance and questions our level of permissiveness with what is happening around us. Where most of us are going about our lives there are those who are studying and improving the human race by scientific experiments, whether or not it will be good or bad in the long run no one is certain, but we should be involved and make it our business to know because this is our world and our life.
The novel did not really tackle anything that far-out, since the issues it deals with are already present in today’s time. In the book for example Snowman remembers the time when he was young and he was still Jimmy and Crake was Glenn and they spent their teenage years playing violent video games, smoking something like marijuana, and watching online pornography. A percentage of today’s crime rates could be attributed to the influence of the violence in games and to the use of drugs. In Jimmy’s society before the outbreak the people used BlyssPluss pills that could enhance sexual performance, which is like today’s Viagra.
The people in the novel and the people in reality look for escape and turn to vices to achieve a sense of happiness. If it is not about wanting some form of love, it is lust. If it is not that it is about flawed parenting, with the parents always fighting and the family ending up broken, which is exactly what happened to Jimmy. In the novel a virus breaks out and annihilates the human race. We know that such technology exists today – we know there are biological weapons that could be released in the air and kill us, we know of anthrax.
The most disturbing perhaps is how far genetic engineering has gone in the novel – pigs grow hearts for humans like fruits on trees; most disturbing because we do not know the full potential of its dangers. We know video game violence can kill. We know biological weapons can kill. Just how dangerous are these genetic experiments? Species are bred together, there are human-like creatures whose genes were specially designed, nay, programmed. Right now we only have cells being replicated, cloning a sheep and cat and cows, an ear coming out of a mouse or rabbit, eggs, sperms and DNA being preserved for non-contact mating and making humans.
If this continues, what is next? Oryx and Crake is a modern dystopian novel that updates the bleak scenarios provided by those that came before it: 1984 and A Brave New World to name a two. It gives us a picture of the future that is grounded today, and because of this it makes it all the more realistic. Is the future Oryx and Crake presents so difficult to imagine? It is easy actually, and that is what is frightening. And perhaps that is what it is trying to do – to shake us from our deep-seated relaxed nonchalance, to force us to look around us and consider the possibilities, and just how grave they really are.