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MaddAddam: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 3, 2013
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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
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.)
Top customer reviews
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.
------------------ SPOILERS AHEAD -------------
OK, I will try not to reveal too much, but the layers of improbability that bring person after person together, and connect them all to Snowman the Jimmy at first make the world fee very small and lacking depth... but then as the book concludes and character after character is removed you think. Well, maybe the writer just doesn't want to worry about writing about these people anymore. It has a perfunctory feel, and missed opportunities abound. I mean 3 of Jimmy's exes survive the apocalypse and get reunited with him... so maybe something interesting would happen? Nope.
Timelines are soft. Zeb / Toby age at seemingly different rates than other characters. OR something like that. Whatever it is, the time between key moments appears to shift with various narratives.
One little nit to pick... Toby's rifle. At some point i was so bored by the rambling pillow narrative of Zeb that I started thinking about toby and her rifle, and her time riding out the killer flu... and how the author so carefully describes many such details for key characters... but nope. just a thing, don't worry about it. I'm sure the rifle was at the spa.
* Spoilers Below *
My main issue with this novel was its lack of a meaningful adversary. Yes, the painballers are horrible, evil people. However, there are two of them, and an entire community of armed Maddaddamites and Gardeners, as well as telepathic Crakers and giant pigoon boars and sows on the other side. The final battle feels like the final battle of Avatar... if all of the animals and Navi were only battling two people. The first novel really positioned Crake as a kind of adversary. He was much more interesting, more complex, and engaging as the person who orchestrated the world's demise - not to mention that for much of the novel the reader isn't really sure who has orchestrated the demise (or if it's a natural disaster). In the second novel, Blanco is a terrifying villain, but the larger adversary is the Corps and everything it represents.
In this novel, even the pigoons I assumed would attack the cobb house end up on the same side. So every chapter or so we're reminded that the two Painballers with limited weaponry are still at large and need to be killed. When HBO makes this trilogy into a series, I really hope they expand the number of Painballers or perhaps keep Blanco until the end - it seems so random for him to die so early in the narrative when he keeps coming back into it in YOTF.
Beyond that issue, I agree with the way women in the novel are portrayed. Amanda is reduced to nothing. Understandable - after everything that she's been through - but we get no insight into her subjectivity; as far as the reader is concerned, becoming a mother and seeing the Painballers die "cures" her of her PTSD. Ren is a nonentity. Toby remains a strong character, but her possessiveness of Zeb seems completely unnecessary, as does Swift Fox's annoying flirtatiousness with Zeb that mysteriously disappears after a while. Both of these traits make these female characters seem like 2-dimensional stereotypes. Atwood usually has such complexity in her female characters.
I also felt Zeb's backstory dragged. Part of what I found so fascinating in Oryx and Crake was that this seemingly boring, average joe character could have such an engaging narrative. Yet here we have an interesting character with an uninteresting narrative. Why do we need such a long, tiresome account of his Bearlift episode? It didn't seem to have much importance in the story, unless he wanted to boast about his survival skills.
I had other issues with the novel, but I wanted to mention some of the things that did work. The Crakers seemed silly to me in the first novel, and while they retain some of that silliness in Maddaddam, the relationship between Toby and Blackbeard adds some interesting development to the story and recalls Toby's sadness about not being able to have children in YOTF. Their relationship felt appropriate for the larger trilogy narrative. I also have found the religious commentary in this novel and YOTF - while slightly silly - fascinating. It's an interesting commentary on religion - how on the one hand it can seem so silly and implausible, but on the other hand can provide a moral compass or have groundings in reality (speaking from the perspective of an agnostic here). The act of recording historical events without fully understanding them shows how a religious text can contain truth while distorting it at the same time, and hence is subject to constant interpretation.
I am disappointed that the third book was so weak in comparison to the other two, but I'm still glad I read it. I hope Aronofsky can address some of the plot point issues when adapting the novel for television.
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