Book 1 of 36: Oryx & Crake

So, I started in on my challenge to read the remaining novels (uh, 36/40) on the CBC’s Top 40 Canadian Novels of the decade.

I read Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood first. Why? For the most part, I like Atwood; she’s one of my favourite authors. And because my sister had it in her collection so it was easier than picking one up at the library. I figured there was no better place to start than with an author I already respect.

So, how was it? Very different than I expected. It’s one of those books that you pick up, start reading and say “Huh?”. It starts off with a character named Snowman who lives in a very messed up world – extreme heat, no food, rabid animals at every turn… Not only that, but, besides him, the only living intelligent beings appear to be a tribe of “perfect” humanoids that revere the Snowman character. The book flips between the present and the past, neither of which truly mirrors the world of today. You get the idea very quickly that the novel takes place in our somewhat (but not so) distant future.

It’s a very gripping novel. I’ll admit that sometimes Margaret Atwood’s novels don’t suck me in, and it takes some effort to get through them. Oryx & Crake, however, makes you want to continue reading so you can put all the pieces together. Right from the get-go, you want to understand what happened to this character (not to mention, I wanted to know who the heck Oryx and Crake were, two characters who figure into the novel immediately but aren’t explained for some time). Switching between the past and the present only intensified my interest, as all the facts started colliding and the puzzle began to form a picture.

So, all in all, even though it’s a little science-fictiony, which is hit or miss with me, I’d still recommend this novel, especially to people who’ve read Atwood’s work before and enjoyed it. In fact, I’m looking forward to reading After the Flood, another Atwood novel, in which the “perfect” beings apparently play a central role. This will be the next novel from the Top 40 list that I tackle.

So, I’m working my way down the list – 35 to go. I also borrowed the rest of the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series from my sister, so I’m reading the 2nd novel right now. I was hoping to alternate the Top 40 novels with other assorted books but my guess is that in 2011 I will start reading only Top 40 to plough through the rest of the list. We’ll see!

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