Please note that in order to properly annotate this novel, the novel's surprise ending will be revealed here. Snowman--who used to be called, Jimmy--is a rare survivor of a dreadful catastrophe that seems to have been both the product and the demise of modern science. He lives in a tree, clad in rags, hiding from relentless heat and hoarding his precarious cache of food and alcohol, while he tries to obliterate consciousness and avoid contact with a peculiar race of beings, the Crakers. Through a series of reminiscences as he makes his way back to where he once worked, Snowman's past slowly advances to meet his future.

The world heated up to be uninhabitable desert and genetic engineering created more problems (and species! [pigoons, rakunks, wolvogs]) than solutions. People became increasingly reliant on artificial environments--both internal and external--while their purveyors--drug and technology firms--held ever greater but unthinking power. The world was divided into two: the rich, safe controlled spaces and the dangerous chaotic realm of the poor. Then an epidemic wiped out most of the human race.

Two friends are central to the story: brilliant but inscrutable Crake whose nerdy gift for science had a role in engineering the 'pure' Crakers and the horrifying world that they occupy; and beautiful, seductive Oryx whose regard of knowing innocence heaps scorn upon messy human desire and emotion. They are the Yin and Yang of the "constructed" world. Only at the end, the reader learns that Oryx was murdered by Crake, who was slain by Snowman. It seems that his arduous journey was simply to destroy the history of the events that he had written and left behind.


An end-of-the-world story, set in the vague near future, told in short chapters rife with neologisms that blend humor with plausibility. The novel is an ironic lament for current practices, such as genetically modified organisms, pharmaceuticals, and energy consumption. A full explanation of what has happened does not emerge until the end. Elements of, for us, recent history appear as the prehistory of this ravaged world--such as the splicing of spider web genes into goats (to create, writes Atwood, a 'gider' or a 'spoat'), the resemblance of the 'BlyssPlus' drug to Viagra, and the similarities of the epidemic disease with the 2003 outbreak of SARS.

Crake's created species is intended to be gentle, obedient, religion-free, with a reproduction-only, plural sexuality; it will be immune not only to disease but also to jealousy, competition, and war. Left alone on earth with these child-like creatures, Snowman finds them utterly boring and annoying for the demands they inadvertently place on his innate sense of duty. At the end, he watches with a kind of horrified resignation as they 'invent' religion as a solace and explanation for their precarious existence. The profundity is the absurdity, inevitability, and illogic in human interaction and behavior.


Seal Books of Random House Canada

Place Published




Page Count