In this final book in her MaddAddam trilogy, Margaret Atwood gives us a look at a post-apocalyptic near-future populated by the remnants of super hippies, scientists, and genetically engineered humans and animals. There are so many interesting things to talk about in MaddAddam, I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s jump in.
A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack.
Told with wit, dizzying imagination, and dark humour, Booker Prize-winning Margaret Atwood’s unpredictable, chilling and hilarious MaddAddam takes us further into a challenging dystopian world and holds up a skewed mirror to our own possible future.
Out of all the books in the MaddAddam trilogy, I think this is my favorite. It ties together Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood and continues on the story of the characters we met from each of those books. Like the first two, the story is told both in the present and in the past, revealing events that led up to the apocalypse. Zeb’s history is an interesting one as we see him involved in some way or another with all the major players from the Gardeners, to both Oryx and Crake, so we get a lot more background info and gaps filled in. Zeb is the bridge between all things.
This story focuses a good amount of time to the future of mankind, or what’s left of it. They’ve built up a small community of survivors and they’re trying to make things work. I love Toby’s character and how compassionate she is, especially in dealing with the Crakers. A lot of the others, at first, see them as freaks of creation, but Toby feels for them and brings them into the fold. The only other character that I really felt connected to was the young Craker boy that Toby takes under her wing. I especially loved his part in the end of the story and may have teared up a bit.
The most unexpected thing in this book for me was just how damn hilarious it was at times. Because the Crakers are innocent in the purest meaning of that word, they tend to take everything literally. This creates a running joke throughout the story that I won’t give away here but is perhaps my favorite use of the word ‘fuck’ in literature. I also loved the structure of the book and the chapters where Toby was telling stories to the Crakers had quite a lot of humor the way they were written as well.
As for themes, I think there are many. Atwood always has a lot to say, of course, and this series is no exception. I like the way she has a religion that worships oil production so tying together capitalism with a religious fervor. And of course having the leader of that be thoroughly corrupt. But then you also have the religion of the Gardeners who, on the opposite spectrum of things, are super environmentalists. So we get a sense that religion is always used to promote other agendas…and that there are extremists on every side of things.
Then there is the classic science fiction theme of mankind meddling with creation and, to quote Jurassic Park ‘Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.’ But….despite all the havoc and world wide destruction caused by Crake, this volume doesn’t give us any answers as to if Crake did the right thing or not, only that this happened and now everyone that’s left has to pick up the pieces and make a new life, and maybe learn to live together with other species instead of above them (the Pigoons, for example). On the one hand, of course Crake was wrong–he destroyed the world. On the other hand–of course Crake was right–he rebuilt the world. In some ways Crake is god, but we’re reminded at the end that of course not, Crake was just a man and no man has the right to play god.
MaddAddam is fantastic because it’s one of those books that gives you a lot to think about, even long after you’ve finished with it. 5/5 stars.