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I scare quite easily, but that’s with movies. Books are different. How do you spook someone without acting and music and make-up and effects? Armed with mere words on a page, you will have to invoke the horror in your reader’s mind, without a clue as to what horrifies him.

I think that’s a special power, and Margaret Atwood wielded it over me with Oryx and Crake.

Set in the near future, it speculates a more advanced world that’s not hard to imagine, because already there are seeds of it today.

We all know that we’re raining down terror on ourselves at the rate we’re going, so foretelling such a future isn’t shocking. But it’s Atwood’s storytelling that’s breathtaking–she has complete control over her world and creatures, over language and structure and all the nifty devices to intrigue you into wanting to abandon your reality and live in hers.

I felt like an unsuspecting house guest ushered in through an entryway that has been expertly booby trapped, and each landmine is discovery.

One night, I wanted to take Oryx and Crake to bed, and found myself inwardly shrinking from the idea of opening that book, and opening that world, at night. So I promised myself I’d read it first thing in the morning.

And I felt mollified by my wise concession, until I realized (with a frown) that, yes, Atwood is really that good. (Now I’m reading Year of the Flood.)

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