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MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy, Book 3) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 497 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
- Crake's storyline = I'm still torn whether I'm satisfied with how Crake's story plays out in the book. At times his story seems a little bit underdeveloped and shallow, but I also think it could be to make him seem like that on purpose (i.e. the reason he did what he did was more because he could and he wanted to and he is basically a sociopath)
- Crakers = Maybe there is another book for them down the road, but I feel like the book developed their story up until the last two chapters and then conveniently wrapped everything up a little too quickly in order to finish up.
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.
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