Recently my blogs have focused, primarily, on the dissection of Apocalyptic film; that said, it seems an appropriate time to return to the other component of Eng 3722: literature. This past summer I read – and thoroughly enjoyed – the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (comprised of, in order: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mocking Jay.).
The trilogy follows the life of 16 year old Katniss Everdeen and is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Panem – what remains of North America after decades of natural disaster; this world has been divided by the authoritarian capital-based government into 12 districts, each of which specializes in the production/collection of a particular resource. Katniss, unfortunately for her, lives in the impoverished District 12 and – even more unfortunately for her – is morally obliged to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games: a nationwide, bi-annual contest in which two children from each district are selected and pitted against the other 22 in a ‘last-man-standing” fight to the death.
For a more detailed summary of this fantastic trilogy you can go HERE or, instead, read the books – which I highly recommend.
To avoid spoiling the plot I will discuss, instead of plot development, a specific – and somewhat minimal – aspect of the book: biologically engineered creatures; in true comparative fashion, these creatures will be discussed in combination with those presented in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake – the book that inspired me to write this article.
In Oryx and Crake we are presented with a post-apocalyptic world in which Jimmy (Snowman) lives alone with a colony of biologically engineered humanoids; these creatures were engineered by his now-dead-friend Crake: the man, coincidentally, who orchestrated the apocalypse – creating and disseminating a deadly Virus. Crake, however, before the pandemic, was not the only man dabbling in bio-engineering; the world in which Snowman lives is riddled with the genetically altered remains of a multi-billion dollar industry.
Though both books contain these transgenic mutations, the purposes for including them differ. In Oryx and Crake the new species are created for a variety of purposes:
Pigoons: are pigs genetically modified to house human organs and, as such, serve a beneficial purpose.
Rakunks: adorable skunk-raccoon crossbreeds created for keeping as pets.
Spoat/Gider: a goat-spider mix used to produce high tensile fibres for bulletproof vests etc.
Wolvogs: wolf-dog combo that look like adorable puppies, intended to draw unsuspecting victims in before viciously chewing them apart like a wolf.
In fact, chimeras have been created to serve almost all human purposes; for the purposes of this comparison, however, the Wolvogs – created by CorpSeCorps to serve malicious/protective purposes – are one of the only creatures that might, unobtrusively, be seen running around in Collins’ trilogy.
In The Hunger Games trilogy the creatures – referred to as muttations – are engineered, by the Capitol, for unanimously malicious purposes. There are no “beneficial” creations:
Jabberjays: are genetically engineered birds who listen out for anti-capitol sentiments among the masses, and reproduce them within the Capitol for the purposes of prosecution.
Wolf-Muttations: are reincarnated versions of their dead competitors (in wolf form) introduced, specifically, to kill Katniss and Peeta.
Tracker Jackers: are deadly wasps that were made by the Capitol whose stings raise large puss-filled lumps on their victims; their venom (engineered to target fear in a victim’s brain and alter their memories) causes hallucinations that can drive people to madness. More than a few stings will kill a person.
There are various uses for biologically engineered creatures within contemporary fiction and the works of Collins and Atwood provide an opportunity to examine more than a few of them! The days of wolvogs and spoat/giders aren’t far away; until then, however, we’ll have to be satisfied with Lygers.
Also, for further reading… SPIDER GOATS ARE REAL!!