Spoiler warning: you may not want to read this writeup if you intend to read the novel, as certain key elements may be given away.

Margaret Atwood's most recent novel (at least, at the time of this writeup.) First published in April 2003 by McClelland & Stewart (Canada) and Doubleday (United States). Hardcover; ISBN 0771008686.

This is only the second complete Atwood novel I've read (causing me to question whether I'm a good Canadian.) The other, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was 1985's The Handmaid's Tale - and since both novels fall under the broad categorization of "science fiction", I figured I'd give this one a try.

The comparisons only go so far, however. Handmaid's Tale, I would argue, is more in the vein of Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World - "speculative fiction" featuring the themes of dystopia, a change or breakdown of society set in some vague, different world. Oryx and Crake is hardcore sci-fi all the way.

The story takes place in the non-specified near future (many clues and hints from within the narrative suggest mid to late 21st century), in an unspecified region of the east coast of the United States. Environmental degradation of the planet has continued such to the point that temperatures are hot and climactic conditions are humid year-round. The societal structure has developed such that business dominates; people who work for large corporations live within enclosed, protected "compounds" while those who live in the "pleeblands" - regions outside the compounds - are seen as a lower class. And the majority of such corporations are of a scientific research nature; genetic engineering and related disciplines proliferate, apparently without question or limitation imposed by moral and ethical debates on similar technologies in the present day.

The story is recounted by the main character of Jimmy or "Snowman", artfully constructed in a series of flashbacks that slowly reveal his early life up to the present time, and gradually reveals the source of the particular connundrum within which he finds himself. The first three quarters of the novel are paced wonderfully; my only complaint is that, in the last quarter or so, by the time the reader has gleaned enough to figure out what is going on, the remainder of the story seems rushed through. What one may argue is the "climax" of the story seems to come out of nowhere, with no clear indication of the motivations of the character involved.

Overall, I can't quite say I enjoyed this novel, although I did find much of it intriguing and compelling enough to be difficult to put it down. One other feature that should be noted (to my knowledge, anyway- again this is only the second Atwood novel I've read) is that this is the only Atwood novel to be told from the point of view of a male protagonist.