I really enjoyed this novel. Yes, it’s kind of a tired and overdone subject, but it was executed very well, with a lot of new elements.
In the very near future, the world is dominated by corporations, who’s privileged employees and their families live in compounds isolated from the ‘plebelands’ where the regular poor folks live. Jimmy, known later as ‘Snowman’, grew up in one of these compounds with his geneticist parents who worked for a company that spliced animals together for various reasons.
Atwood does not even describe the novel as science fiction because ” it does not deal with things we can’t yet do or begin to do.”
And indeed it seemed all very likely, what these gene companies did. Splicing wolves and dogs together, so you get a vicious killer that wags its tail at you and looks friendly and hug-able. Why not? Pigs with human DNA, to grow dozens of livers at once, and keep regrowing them after they are removed? Sure, why not, lets eat the pigs too even though they are part human. Specially created diseases, put in vitamin supplements and designed to keep you alive just until you run out of money to pay for the treatment? Of course, why not.
If it can make money, it will be done. There is no such thing as ‘ethics’ or ‘morality’ in the face of the dollar bill. I’m not even being cynical here, this is a fact. Individuals may be moral and ethical, but corporations are not. And the sole purpose of a corporation is to get more money. It is too easy for the individuals in a corporation to look the other way, or to feel that other people are responsible for what is going on, or to not even KNOW what is going on if–as is often the case–they are only involved in a small portion of it. A corporation is a machine that will keep grinding forward, always turning in the most profitable direction, regardless of what’s right or wrong, or what anyone even realizes is happening.
Greed is one of the biggest enemies of humanity, I think. It is a natural part of our drive for survival, but in a world of plenty, it seems often to go into overdrive, to spiral into a black hole of more more more more more.
Unfortunately, our entire society at the moment is built around encouraging this spiral, instead of discouraging or preventing it.
By the end of the novel, I found the death of humanity a welcome wiping of the slate. Maybe then, we could grow fresh into something not so short-sighted and hostile.
But then, the character encounters some unknown people, and immediately we see that nothing has changed. “should I kill them before they see me?” he thinks, “if I say hello, will they just shoot me?”
The only way out of this trap of our genetics, according to the novel, is to fix those genetics. To edit out the greed and racial/sexual hate. To erase the constant drive to compete with our own people, instead of cooperate.
That idea, though, might as well put this novel in the fantasy section.