Looking to scare the pants off yourself? Read this bad boy. Atwood's dystopian vision is absolutely horrifying... and recognizable. Climate change/coastal flooding, genetic engineering run amok, extinction, class warfare, corporatism, lab-generated viruses, teen angst, public execution of dissenters, human trafficking, sexploitation of children, fetishism/voyeurism - together these make for a disturbing but excellent read.
Oryx's thoughts on the powers of love and monetary value in the lives of trafficked children haunted me for most of the story:
Of course (said Oryx), having a money value was no substitute for love. Every child should have love, every person should have it. She herself would rather have had her mother's love - the love she still continued to believe in ... - but love was undependable, it came and then it went, so it was good to have a money value, because then at least those who wanted to make a profit from you would make sure you were fed enough and not damaged too much. Also there were many who had neither love nor a money value, and having one of these things was better than having nothing.
The idea that life has monetary value, that large segments of the human family should be viewed as having less or no value - allowed to starve, gassed in concentration camps, rated as 3/5ths of a person, kept distant through apartheid policies, sold for sex, bombed, glass ceiling-ed, etc. - is abhorrent to me. The commandment to love (not put a price on!) God and neighbor stands at the very core of my Christian belief and activism. Atwood reminds me our material world operates on different assumptions. I spent the majority of the read feeling sad and pissed off. Our ways of valuing life must change, or the future might just look more Atwoodian than we'd like.
Is Margaret Atwood the current incarnation of George Orwell? Maybe. I love 'em both. Atwood stands on her own merit, and deserves every bit of acclaim she's received. Oryx and Crake
's a must-read for our times. Awesome, humbling, nauseating stuff.