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MaddAddam (The Maddaddam Trilogy) Paperback – August 12, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2013: Margaret Atwood’s genius is fed by her appetite for synthesis: she sees every consequential cultural and tech trend (the realized and the possible) and spins them out into a near-future that’s both freakishly strange and horrifyingly plausible. MaddAddam concludes the trilogy she started with Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, simultaneously set stories of the survivors (and the late creator) of a deliberately unleashed plague that’s left a few ragged stragglers—the fever-dreaming Snowman, remnants of a peaceful God’s Gardeners cult and eco-warrior MaddAddamites, psychotic escapees from the Painball arena, and humanity’s bioengineered “replacements,” the bizarrely placid Crakers—all bushwhacking through a trashed world of animal mash-ups (including some wicked-smart Pigoons). Depending on your outlook, she’s a scathing satirist, an alarmist, or an oracle. But the world she imagines feels near enough that you won’t soon forget it. --Mari Malcolm --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The final entry in Atwood's brilliant MaddAddam trilogy roils with spectacular and furious satire. The novel begins where Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood end, just after most of the human species has been eradicated by a man-made plague. The early books explore a world of terrifying corporate tyranny, horrifying brutality, and the relentless rape of women and the planet. In Oryx and Crake, the pandemic leaves wounded protagonist Jimmy to watch over the Crakers, a humanoid species bioengineered to replace humankind by the man responsible for unleashing the plague. In The Year of the Flood, MaddAddamites wield science to terrorize corporate villains while God's Gardeners use prayer and devotion to the Earth to prepare for the approaching cataclysm. Toby, a God's Gardener and key character in the second book, narrates the third installment, in which a few survivors, including MaddAddamites, God's Gardeners, Jimmy, and the Crakers, navigate a postapocalyptic world. Toby is reunited with Zeb, her MaddAddamite romantic interest in Year of the Flood, and the two become leaders and defenders of their new community. The survivors are a traumatized, cynical group with harshly tested self-preservation skills, but they have the capacity for love and self-sacrifice, which in a simpler story would signal hope for the future of humankind. However, Atwood dramatizes the importance of all life so convincingly that readers will hesitate to assume that the perpetuation of a species as destructive as man is the novel's central concern. With childlike stubbornness, even the peaceful Crakers demand mythology and insist on deifying people whose motives they can't understand. Other species genetically engineered for exploitation by now-extinct corporations roam the new frontier; some are hostile to man, including the pigoons—a powerful and uniquely perceptive source of bacon and menace. Threatening humans, Crakers, and pigoons are Painballers—former prisoners dehumanized in grotesque life-or-death battles. The Crakers cannot fight, the bloodthirsty Painballers will not yield, and the humans are outnumbered by the pigoons. Happily, Atwood has more surprises in store. Her vision is as affirming as it is cautionary, and the conclusion of this remarkable trilogy leaves us not with a sense of despair at mankind's failings but with a sense of awe at humanity's barely explored potential to evolve. Agent: Vivienne Schuster, Curtis Brown Literary Agency (U.K.). (Sept.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In MaddAddam, as in the trilogy as a whole, I found myself slipping in and out of suspended disbelief. My basic feeling was that the quasi-dystopia before the near-extinction of humanity is a powerfully imagined world, while the social life of the band of survivors of the "waterless flood" is cartoonish -- though at the same time, the evocation of the language and inner life of the bioengineered mutant Crakians with whom the human remnant interacts is remarkable and haunting, an interior Eden. The weakest part is the back-story, taking up much of MaddAddam, of the remnant community's protector and founder, Zeb. He's a superhero, not a character, and his account of his dealings with supercriminals of the underworld reminds me a little of children's author Madeline L'Engle's attempts to imagine gang life in The Young Unicorns: not, shall we say, an insider's account. His narrative voice is self-deprecating tough guy, as if Bono had been a drug lord.
Those caveats aside, the earlier narrative of several characters' trials in the pre-flood anarchic thugocracy is fully imagined, as is the nasty brutish society of the global failed state: its faux-civilized, luxurious corporate compounds, in which whistleblowers and would-be escapees are ruthlessly eliminated; its decayed urban infrastructure, where everyone is a squatter; its depraved online entertainments (real-time executions and child sex always on tap), its vicious streetwise child gangs, its multiple forms of sexual slavery; its cults formed in reaction to the chaos (the cult central to the tale is in fact lovingly if slightly mockingly evoked, its theology quite sophisticated).
Entering this world has colored my understanding of our own, and our future. Three malign factors plausibly converge: global warming, which drowns the coastal cities and triggers mass extinctions, disrupting the human food supply; genetic engineering, which further corrupts the natural environment; and the overwhelming of state authority by corporate elites (in cahoots with corrupt latter-day "prosperity churches"), who develop private police forces that merge and morph into a leviathan answerable only to itself.
At one point Crake, the young genius who later engineers both the destruction of most of humankind and a race of more pacific human variants, explains that once the central cables of our built environment are cut, our technological society could not be rebuilt (except, presumably, from its starting point, over millennia):
“It’s not like the wheel, it’s too complex now. Suppose the instructions survived, suppose there were any people left with the knowledge to read them. Those people would be few and far between, and they wouldn’t have the tools. Remember, no electricity. Then once those people died, that would be it. They’d have no apprentices, they’d have no successors...All it takes...is the elimination of one generation. One generation of anything. Beetles, trees, microbes, scientists, speakers of French, whatever. Break the link in time between one generation and the next, and it’s game over forever” (Oryx and Crake, p. 261).
Crake, a teenager here, is talking about the destruction of the world he knows, the proto-dystopia of the trilogy's narrative past. What's truly scary about Atwood's work is that it's easy to imagine our world devolving into that brutal anarchy-- and that there would be no way back from such a world, either. That, ultimately is I think Atwood's conclusion, astonishingly enough: that the murderous Crake, who wipes out most of humanity while designing its successor, was right to do so. As the not-so-saintly Zeb sums up toward the end:
“All the real Gardeners believed the human race was overdue for a population crash. It would happen anyway, and maybe sooner was better” (MaddAddam Location 5014).
It's hard to gainsay that, if you imagine bringing children into the world that the main characters grew up in. That makes the book a disturbing Jeremiad. Repent, for the end may be nigh.
Ten years after the release of the first book in the Maddaddam trilogy (Oryx and Crake) and four years after the release of the second book in the trilogy (Year of the Flood), Margaret Atwood releases the final book in her apocalyptic/post-apocalypse series - Maddaddam. When Atwood first released Oryx and Crake, the post-apocalypse wasn't as fun and romanticized as it is right now - hard to imagine I know but ....: the Walking Dead was not yet on TV, Red Dawn had not yet been remade, and main stream romance publishing houses weren't regularly releasing post-apocalypse romance themed books. I think it is fair to say that in 2003, the apocalypse was not yet the rage. It is interesting that when the series ends, Maddaddam finds itself nestled on bookshelves next to other mainstream and best sellers that deal with the what-happens-when-society-collapses. Atwood is a visionary. But Maddaddam and the trilogy is not just about the collapse of society, it is about so much more.
Each book in the trilogy is told form a different point of view and at a different point in time, yet it is the same story and the same characters. The entire story is told in the present, but it is done with memory and flashbacks of the characters. Each book is about the time before the collapse of the world's society and each book is also about the time after the societal collapse.
There are no zombies, no aliens, no floods and the moon didn't fall out of the sky. Instead Atwood's book (and series) is really a critique of what she sees as a major movement in our culture and our world - corporate control and dominance. Can you imagine a world where the corporations call the shots? Where the governments are so weakened that the corporations are the ones truly running things? What if the motivation to earn profit by those at the top of the corporation is what ruled the world? And these corporations controlled all scientific endeavors and the production of all food? Hmmmmmm ..... These are the topics explored by the Maddaddam trilogy and Atwood does this with really well developed characters, an amazingly intricately built (but believable) future world. Atwood began writing about this topic in the early 2000s. She is such a visionary (yes I have written that word twice now in this review -- but remember her book The Handmaid's Tale?, yeah she is brilliant).
But it is also about relationships with our fathers and mothers. It is about sexuality, desire and how gender roles are constructed. The series takes on concepts of the building of myth and religion. And it is also funny.
"Rebecca's having a cup of what they've all agreed to call coffee."
But you know what it is not? The post-apocalypse is not fun and it is not romantic. In Atwood's imagined world, there is no coffee, there is no abundant supplies free for the taking and even with the majority of the population gone it is hard to find food. Empty buildings are dangerous as untended electrical wires and water pipes often mal-function causing fires and flooding. City centers can be filled with tainted water and structurally unsound buildings due to lack of human maintenance. Without family members around to support us and no hope for the future, motivation is hard to maintain:
"Daytime becomes irrelevant. You can get careless, you can overlook details, you can lose track. These days she'll find herself upright, in the middle of the room, one sandal in her hand, wondering how she got there; or outside under a tree, watching the leaves riffle, then prodding herself: Move. Move now. Get moving. You need to .... But what exactly is it that she needs to do?"
I would categorize this series as both literary fiction and science fiction. Readers who enjoy Margaret Atwood books or readers who read science fiction/post-apocalypse books to think about broader concepts beyond just the story would enjoy this trilogy. Fans of the first two books may be slightly disappointed by the beginning of Maddaddam, but stick with it. The story does start slow and has a different feel but it is very rewarding and addicting.
If you are reading this review as a consideration to purchase the book... do yourself a favor and make sure to read the first two prior to embarking on this one. There is just so much backstory in those books which makes this one all the more satisfying.