It seems the world has stumbled onto our secret. Le Lacustre was packed to the brim last week as Lausanne Book Club got together to talk sci-fi. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the wine was flowing…
This month we were discussing Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.
This month, we were joined by two new faces, and two returning-after-long-absences ones. The group welcomed Charlotte and Elissa, rewelcomed May and Kelly B, and found out that Valentina has a passion for English accents.
I know that some of the group were a little hesitant about starting their sci-fi career (it’s not a genre that many of the group had read before) but it seems our choice for was a resounding success. With a score of 7.58, the book scored much higher than some of our more traditional reads.When ask whether the group intended to read the remaining books in the trilogy, only one person said they didn’t want to. Well done Margaret.
When asked for initial assessments of the book, most of the group felt the book was “haunting”, “disquieting”, “depressing”, and “harrowing”. A few people felt the book was a little unbalanced – while there were in-depth descriptions of Snowman’s world, there was very little exploration of the characters themselves.
The discussion started with a debate on the definition of science fiction. Atwood herself describes her work as “speculative fiction”. The group felt this book was more philosophical that fiction as the gap between Atwood’s world and our own is not huge. It seems book club is not alone in our ponderings. The Wikipedia page on “definitions of science fiction” offers over 30 definitions. The Oxford dictionary suggests:
Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets
So there you go.
It was from these modest beginnings that the group really got into the meat of the book – discussion about the characters. It was posed that Oryx (who had the most unfortunate upbringing) had the most positive outlook on life, as if anything that happened had to be better than the past. Crake was scared of the future and what it might hold because of his upbringing – and therefore had a God complex, a desire to control. Jimmy/Snowman was the only one with a present. He had to deal with the consequences of the past.
The group mused the importance of parental figures in securing the future. It was suggested that all it took was one generation to be disconnected from the next to lose all sense of humanity. The children in the novel were bought up by the corporation and didn’t have the parental guidance they needed – this eventually led to the downfall and rebirth.
The group wondered why Jimmy and Crake were friends – what did each get out of the relationship? It was felt that Crake used Jimmy when he needed him whereas Jimmy simply worshipped Crake (which fed into his God complex).
The group were annoyed at the lack of depth to Oryx’s present. Her backstory is so incredibly detailed and yet in the novel she is seen as an object or commodity. Both Jimmy and Crake didn’t know or appreciate her for who she was – they were in love with her backstory or the idea of her.
Exploitation is a major theme running throughout the novel – is Atwood using it as a warning?
Finally, the group turned to the Crakers. There were a number of discussions about the role Oryx played in their development. We explored what may have happened if Crake had been responsible for their upbringing and how they may have been different. We asked whether you could be human without art, philosophy, and religion. It was decided that all humans need to have an answer to the questions “where do I come from?” and “why am I here?”. Humans need explanations, they need to have a creative output, and they need to idolise.
Finally, we talked about death *spoiler alert* and concluded that Crake killed Oryx so the Jimmy would kill him. (although, honestly, my notes here are a little vague so I”m not sure what the conclusion to this conversation was!)
It looks like the adaptation for Oryx and Crake (or the MaddAddam series as it is known) has been put on hold. I would therefore respectfully put forward Lausanne Book Club’s casting roles as suggestions (and, if not these actors, younger ones who look a lot like them)
Note the use of “aka” in those photos. It’s a very clever segway into saying that next month we’re tackling pseudonyms (and maybe, by next month, I’ll know how to spell that without relying on spellcheck).