Tuesday, October 20, 2009

World's Ending

I'm not loving fall so far. It's unseasonably cool, which is kind of depressing after a cool, extremely wet summer. And I'm also worried about getting the H1N1 vaccine before I get the flu, because when I got the flu two years ago I got pneumonia too, and this one is supposed to be leading to that even more often. But things could be worse...

It could be like the reality that encompasses Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood! That would be much worse, because both books are dystopias by Margaret Atwood. Neither are as depressing as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but they are pretty bleak, anyway.

Imagine a reality where a powerful person could position himself to purposely destroy humanity by the time he's in his mid-thirties, and you're on your way towards understanding the situation of Oryx and Crake. However, even if you read the follow up, The Year Of The Flood, you still won't know why Crake does what he did. As frustrating as that is, perhaps it smacks of realism: we won't exactly be able to question the motives of the eventual architects of humanity's destruction, after all. Instead we are left only with the clues that Crake's best friend Jimmy (also known as Snowman) gives us through a not entirely reliable narrative. You have to forgive him that, being as he's slowly starving to death and alone but for a race of genetically altered, and strangely perfect, beings that aren't quite human though they're decidedly humanoid.

While I recommend Oryx and Crake, it has sadly turned out to be one of those books that is only genius upon a first reading. I reread it just before the sequel came out, and it didn't seem nearly as profound or clever as it did the first time. I've definitely grown a bit older since reading it six years ago, but not enough wiser to account for the disappointment. The Year Of The Flood was slow-going too, and not as good as the original, being filled with characters less interesting than Snowman in the first book. I suppose it leaves the door open for a sequel, but we'll see.

It's a good time for the book to come out, however, given that The Road is about to come out in theaters. Perhaps the movie (and the recession!) will lead to a mini-surge of interest in dystrophic movies and books, who knows? I'd like some recommendations in that area myself.

As for that movie, I'm not sure I'll be seeing The Road in theaters because I'm annoyed that the actor playing "the boy" (neither main character is ever named, just called "the man" and "the boy") is far too old. The director said that he cast the boy as older because it would be too hard to see a child the proper age, which would have been about seven, in such a bleak setting but I think the switch is likely to rob the story of a lot of its power. I suspect such a squeamish director will leave out or heavily edit the two most shocking scenes in the book, which will leave it far too sanitized to do the book justice.

"You burned your bridges, your world is burning down. No one will save you, your ship is going down til the end of the world." - The Sweethearts, End Of The World

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