Oryx and Crake

The trouble with reading too much of the same author is that particular themes or motifs stop being clever and start being annoying.

Like, after this particular offering, I came away with this impression that our much lauded feminist author really hates mothers.  Or is it that she hates the role of motherhood and therefore writes women trapped in the roles of mothers struggling to break free, but somehow always manages to represent them from the positions of their children or spouses absolutely hating and resenting them?  I don’t know; there’s a distinction for sure, but I’m getting sick of reading stories where mothers who try to be or do anything are hated by all those around them for simply trying.  There is just so much shame heaped on mothers already, why do intelligent stories always have to buy in to the shame structure which already exists.

By contrast, I think of Boneshaker and how for once, for once, a story left me with the sense that being a mother is neither the be-all or end-all of life, but that it can be a story motivator without being the sole story motivator, and that it’s totally possible to have a meaningful respect-based relationship with your teenaged child.  And it took a steampunk zombie story to do this?  This shouldn’t be innovative.  No wonder so many women give up on the so-called literati shelves and turn to pulp for their escapism.

Which brings me to the rest of the story.  Yep, it was good.  It was intelligent, and witty, and the characters felt realistic and alive, and accurately motivated; the story was well paced, effortlessly crafted, and never broke immersion.  There were interesting concepts, if none original; the edge cities of privileged gene-factory employees, the crumbling yet crowded urban centres, the numbing distance of the internet’s dark side told in a wonderfully boring and completely integrated manner — it’s an essential to life now, like walking from room to room, it’s not even worthy of particular emphasis.

And I came away bored.

Maybe it’s just that this is no longer speculative fiction, it’s getting to close to life.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all this before.  Telling me about it does nothing.  Tell me how to avert it, and maybe my reaction will be different.  Tell me how despite this, it’s not the end of the world, and I’ll embrace it.  This had an almost clumsy level of preachiness to it in the same way that Sherri S Tepper’s message is getting painfully repetitive.  We already know all the reasons why humanity is horrible and worth destroying.  Tell us why it’s worth saving.

My vote rests with Station Eleven as the best post-apocalypse novel I’ve read this year.  Oryx and Crake?  It’s way more clever than Station Eleven, but its message is tired and tiring.

Station Eleven

I loved this so much.  It was such a pit-trap of making me feel nostalgic for the act of nostalgia itself, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

This is a post-apocalypse story that has absolutely nothing new about it — except that it maintains a shining love for human fallibility and fundamental decency.  I felt for everyone.  The empathy was glorious.  The interwoven stories were neither too much nor too little.

If I were to relate this to anything, it’d be the blend of nostalgia and future-tech and human inspiration in Pacific Rim.  I’ve read reviews about Pacific Rim being the Gen-Y’s approach to apocalypse.  The time has passed for wallowing in our inevitable deservedness to suffer horrific civilisation crushing ends.  We have amazing technology.  We have innovation.  We have people resource.  We form teams, we aren’t single white male heroes/failures in this alone.  Survival is worth the effort because people are worth the effort.

Much love.