Make that rating 4.5*
In terms of year of publication Oryx and Crake would be a prequel to The Year of the Flood. However chronologically it would be more accurate to call it a paralel novel, if there is such a thing.
We are once again introduced to our world at some time in the (not too distant?)future. A lot has changed, whole species of animals are completely distinct and human experiments have introduced new creatures; combinations of pre-existing animals theoretically with only the good qualities of old species, but in reality turning out to have quite unexpected and often undesirable characteristics.
This is the story of Snowman, formerly Jimmy, who is, as far as he knows the only human survivor of a worldwide disaster. Dressed in only a sheet he sleeps in a tree and keeps an eye on "Crake's People", a new creation looking somewhat like humans, but also completely different. With little to occupy his time Jimmy/Snowman spends his time looking back on his life and on the events that lead to him being in the position he finds himself in.
Slowly a picture emerges of a world where the population is devided up into basically two groups. There are the priviledged ones who are talented enough to work for the corporations that create products, medication, new animals and anything else their minds can think of that might create a profit. And there is the rest of humankind, living in what's called the Pleblands where life is less regulated and far more dangerous.
Jimmy is the son of corporation employees but doesn't have an easy life. His mother runs away and disappears when he's still young. He's nowhere near as smart as most of his contemporaries and struggles with life.
When he's in his teens Crake enters his life, and although he doesn't meet her face to face, so does Oryx.
Crake is a genious, a quality that will end up having severe consequences for Jimmy and for the whole of humankind.
This story, like the one in The Year of the Flood leaves the reader with lots of fruit for thought. If, like me you are already afraid of the human need to expand, dominate and "improve", this book will re-enforce those fears. No conspiracy theory I have come across paints as bleak a picture as these two novels do. And yet it is all to easy to believe that some day, something like this could all to easily happen. A very bleak picture presented in a way that is all to plausible, this is a story that will stay with me for a long time.
There is room for a third book I think, one that does take the story forwards from the endings of both books. I hope Atwood will write that book.