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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
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.
There's simply no way to talk about the novel's failures without referring to specific plot points, so read no further if you intend to read MaddAddam but haven't read it yet.
The first problem is, having contrived to have Snowman and the Crakers meet up with the survivors of the MaddAddam / God's Gardener's group at the end of both of the previous novels, Atwood was, very clearly, at a total loss as to what to do with them next, how to move the story forward. Therefore, the "forward" plot movement of the novel only starts in earnest after p. 261, when it is (very implausibly) revealed that the Crakers (the genetically-modified humans) can communicate with the pigoons (the genetically-modified pigs) and the latter want the the normal Homo Sapiens's help with killing the two "painballers" captured at the end of Year of the Flood, but who were allowed to escape at the very beginning of this novel (another feeble implausibility). This, despite the fact that the MaddAddamites themselves have also been killing and eating the pigoons all along. So, the remaining humans, relying on the pigoons' sense of smell and a Craker translator, track the two killers down, but not before Snowman and Adam One are allowed to die comically melodramatic, self-sacrificing deaths, worthy of the most sentimentally piffling of Dickens's endings.
Atwood does understand that this wee episode--"bad guys escape; good guys hang around doing nothing in particular for several months; good guys track down bad guys"--isn't nearly enough of a plot to construct an entire novel around. So, most of the novel has nothing to do with that. Instead, it's backstory--yet more backstory, in a series of novels that has already consisted largely of flashbacks--this time about the previously peripheral character of Zeb.
Alas, this new backstory must rank as some of the very worst writing Atwood has ever done. It is completely haphazard, un-thought-out, driveling, and trivial. It reads, for all the world, like a very bad parody of Thomas Pynchon. Zeb steals millions of dollars from his father, a corrupt fraud of a fundamentalist preacher, and goes on the lam, spending hundreds of pages flitting from one nonsensical disguise to another: a pilot for an environmental group aiding polar bears, a burger flipper, a professional hacker, a magician's assistant, a toilet cleaner, a bouncer, a gardener, a data-entry drone...and probably others I'm forgetting. Not a single one of these incarnations is well-developed...or even lasts long enough long enough for me to begin to be interested in the new environment where Atwood has randomly inserted Zeb, always for only a single chapter, with no rhyme or reason. Whether working the most menial of jobs or more middle-class covers there's *never* actually a compelling reason for Zeb to be where he finds himself, especially since he supposedly has millions in the bank. It's all a chaotic, vapid shaggy dog story with no punchline at the end, told largely in annoyingly ersatz Raymond Chandler-eque "tough guy" speak.
Worse than the unnecessariness of Zeb's story, though, is the sheer sloppiness of its plotting. At one point, for instance, Zeb is assigned the important task of smuggling some dangerous new bio-engineered pills out of the HelthWyzer West compound where he has been working. The description of this goes on for pages and pages: the precautions Zeb takes when leaving the compound; the precautions taken hiding them at his new place of employ; how careful they are not to reveal the hiding place. Then, on a whim, he uses half of the pills in an act of revenge, and mayhem ensues. Following this, the person who asked him to smuggle the pills in the first place, Pilar, decides it might just be a good idea to find out what's actually in them. But then that plan to analyze the pills is casually abandoned, and the mysterious pills are simply retained by Pilar. And then, equally casually, after some years, they are sent to the young Crake as a legacy after Pilar's demise. And then Crake (it is presumed) uses them as the basis for his own BlyssPlus pills that destroy humanity.
What a muddle. All these cloak-and-dagger peregrinations and machinations...but then Crake gets the keys to destroying humanity almost as an afterthought? Or did the saintly Pilar of YOTF actually intend that he use them in precisely that way? Atwood's intentions here are entirely opaque. It's especially frustrating, as the long-hinted-at connection between the God's Gardeners and Crake otherwise never comes to full fruition. Likewise, Zeb and Adam have to live in hiding for years and years, but then end up living together openly in the same community using their real names? It hardly makes any sense.
In all, MaddAddam reads like a first draft that nobody dared question or revise--an improvisation in which loose ends, instead of being tied up, are multiplied exponentially.
Also, as a scant handful of insightful reviewers here have pointed out, the characters of Toby, Ren, Amanda, and Snowman (irritatingly referred to here mostly as "Snowman-the-Jimmy") bear only a passing resemblance to the major characters of the same name in the earlier novels. Tough, self-reliant Toby of YOTF has become a simpering and pathetically insecure helpmate to Zeb--forever girlishly worried that he's eyeing one of the younger surviving women. Ren is a virtual non-entity, relegated to one or two unmemorable lines every 50 pages or so. And Snowman spends most of the book in a coma...and when he finally wakes up, he's without a scintilla of the self-awareness or irony that animated the narrative voice of Oryx & Crake. The "continuity" failure in relation to the previous novels is almost complete. And the brief reappearance of Adam as a hostage at the end of novel proves to be pointless as well as being utterly beyond belief.
Being Atwood, the novel is, of course, not 100% bad. There's a good deal of wit in Toby's attempts to render Zeb's stories about his life into a form the innocent Crakers can comprehend and use as the basis for a newly-minted bible / creation myth of their own. And some of the details about day-to-day life in a post-Apocalyptic world are cleverly worked out.
On the whole, however, this is a very sorry misstep from an author I've previously admired very much. I rather wish I hadn't read it and had spared myself this saccharine and third-rate chaser to the enjoyable Oryx & Crake and Year of the Flood.
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