The book’s interest in human history and the humanities is accompanied by an interest in natural history and the history of life and death on earth. The work being done in the compounds—the modification of animals, gene splicing, building new viruses and immunities—is often described as an extension or acceleration of evolution. The game that gives Crake his nickname is Extinctathon, and involves memorizing and cataloguing the increasingly long list of species that have gone extinct.
Snowman thinks a great deal about his own species’ extinction, the extinction of Homo Sapiens Sapiens brought on by Crake’s plague. In addition he notes the current flora and fauna on the earth, and which species are thriving and which are declining. He also compares his own poor adaptations to those of the Crakers. He suffers from sunburn, infection, starvation and more in this environment, where the Crakers are perfectly suited to survival.
This emphasis on life, death, and change as they are occurring on a grand—in fact, planetary—scale, and the ultimate suggestion of the possibility of human extinction, is again an environmentalist gesture meant to address human arrogance. In this book, humans go from controlling evolution (deliberately creating new species and inadvertently causing the extinction of existing species) to becoming simply another casualty of the story of evolutionary history, replaced by the better-adapted Crakers. The suggestion is that, far from exempting or elevating us above evolutionary forces, far from making us super-men, our scientific progress could in fact make us cease to be men at all, culturally and actually.
Extinction & Evolution ThemeTracker
Extinction & Evolution Quotes in Oryx and Crake
It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is.
He thought of pigoons as creatures much like himself. Neither he nor they had a lot of say in what was going on.
From nowhere, a word appears: Mesozoic. He can see the word, he can hear the word, but he can’t reach the word…this is happening too much lately, this dissolution of meaning.
Strange to think of the endless labor, the digging, the hammering, the carving, the lifting, the drilling, day by day, year by year, century by century; and now the endless crumbling that must be going on everywhere. Sandcastles in the wind.
There’d been a lot of fooling around in those days: create-an-animal was so much fun, said the guys doing it. It made you feel like God.
“Homo Sapiens Sapiens was once so ingenious with language, and not only with language. Ingenious in every direction at once.”
On some non-conscious level, Snowman must serve as a reminder to these people, and not a pleasant one: he’s what they may have been once.
Crake thought he’d done away with all that…God is a cluster of neurons, he’d maintained…They’re up to something though. Something Crake didn’t anticipate. They’re conversing with the invisible. They’ve developed reverence.
Sex is no longer a mysterious rite, viewed with ambivalence or downright loathing, conducted in the dark and inspiring suicides or murders. Now it’s more like an athletic demonstration, a free-spirited romp.
Maybe the guards tried to get out of RejoovenEsense just like everyone else. Maybe they, too, hoped they could outrun contagion.
From time to time he looks over his shoulder. The smoke is still there, just one column of it. It hasn’t spread. It keeps on rising.
“People come here from all over the world—they shop around. Gender, sexual orientation, height, colour of skin and eyes—it’s all on order, it can all be done or redone.”
“If you take ‘mortality’ as being, not death, but the foreknowledge of it and the fear of it, then ‘immortality’ is the absence of such fear. Babies are immortal. Edit out the fear and you’ll be…”
“Sounds like Applied Rhetoric 101.”
Here are Crake and Oryx, what’s left of them. They’ve been vulturized, they’re scattered here and there, small and large bones mingled into disarray…He’s grinning with all the teeth in his head. As for Oryx, she’s face down, she’s turned her head away from him as if in mourning. The ribbon in her hair is as pink as ever.
Had he been a lunatic or an intellectually honourable man who’d thought things through to their logical conclusion? And was there any difference?
Our arboreal ancestors, Crake used to say. Used to shit on their enemies from above while perched in trees. All planes and rockets are simply elaborations on that primate instinct.
“We made a picture of you, to help us send out our voices to you.”
Watch out for art, Crake used to say. As soon as they start doing art, we’re in trouble.