We meet Snowman on the first page. He awakens in his perch up in a tree near the beach, looks at a watch that no longer works, and feels a jolt of terror run through him as he remembers that “nobody, nowhere knows what time it is.” It becomes obvious in the first few chapters that something bad has happened to the world. There are people alive – beautiful, naked children on the beach whose thick, protective skin glistens in shades from chocolate to rose to cream. They bring Snowman objects they find and ask him what they are: a computer mouse, a piano key, an empty ChickieNobs Bucket O’Nubbins, “things from before.”
Before long, we realize Snowman, born Jimmy, is perhaps the only human left on earth who remembers the time before a devastating event that killed off all or most of the people in the world. He calls the people on the beach “Children of Crake,” or Crakers. The Crakers look to Snowman for guidance, and he pretends to speak for Crake. He pronounces rules declared by Crake, as if Crake were a god. His explanations of the way the world now works sound like the book of Genesis.
Oryx is a woman Jimmy was once in love with. He indulges in memories of her often and daydreams of her at length. For reasons we don’t understand until the book nears the end, when he talks to the Crakers about the fish and birds and other animals, he refers to these as “Children of Oryx.”
Atwood allows the narrator to reveal clues about what has happened little by little over the course of the novel. I could not figure out why Snowman was spared when apparently no other humans survived. I could not figure out how or why everyone else died. As more and more clues were revealed, the puzzle became more and more intriguing. The chilling conclusion of Oryx and Crake had me despondent and pessimistic about the future of our world for weeks. Great book!