Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, which is being fortified against man and giant Pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasihuman species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. While their reluctant prophet, Jimmy--Crake's one-time friend--recovers from a debilitating fever, it's left to Toby to narrate the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb. Meanwhile, Zeb searches for Adam One, founder of the God's Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. Now, under threat of an imminent Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters. At the center is the extraordinary story of Zeb's past, which involves a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.
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I’m tempted to crown Atwood the Queen of Dystopia. There aren’t many authors who can make the grim not-so-distant future seem so … inevitable. Her conception of a North America taken entirely over by corporations and their private security forces — CorpSeCorps, one of her many sly bits of wordplay — might have seemed a bit farfetched in 2004 when she wrote the first book of the trilogy, Oryx and Crake, but in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that money is equal to free speech in politics, and a major presidential candidate glibly declared “Corporations are people, my friend” during an appearance in my home state, I doubt many people would feel Atwood stretched her point very far at all. After reading about Atwood’s vision of a desperate, ecologically damaged future, the idea of a worldwide pandemic that destroys (almost) all of humankind doesn’t seem like such a bad thing at all. It's not, so to speak, the end of the world.
Of course, it is a bad thing, and the beauty of MaddAddam lies in how Atwood further explores the reality we first encountered in The Year of the Flood, and yet manages not to repeat herself. Flood gave us an up-close and personal look at how one woman, Toby, copes with her total isolation from other humans. In MaddAddam, Atwood ruminates on how that same woman copes with the small group of humans that she encountered at the end of Flood. Not to mention the small group of non-humans, the Crakers, a genetically engineered people meant to rebuild civilization by preserving the best human attributes and eliminating the worst.
The book’s theme is so grim that it might be unreadable except for Atwood’s deft use of humor. In addition to her lively fun with names mentioned earlier, she uses Toby’s interactions with the childlike Crakers to leaven the gloom. Some of the best parts of the book are the passages in which Toby tries to explain the violent, cruel, selfish ways of humans to the kind, gentle, essentially humorless people.
It’s always difficult to read the end of a series peopled by such vivid characters, but overall I was pleased with how Atwood managed to bring a sense of closure to the trilogy. She doesn’t exactly tie things up in a neat little bow, but she plays fair by giving readers a real sense of what life will be like going forward into this not-so-brave new world.
Read the rest of this review at The Lost Entwife on September 3, 2013.
While the plot that moves the book along is how the group deals with the Painballers, it really doesn’t take up much of the text. The majority of the story is Zeb’s history: how he and his brother (who became MaddAddam) grew up tortured by their father, the head of the Church of PetrOleum; and the close calls he had after running away. This history serves to tell us about how the world right before the apocalypse was functioning.
It’s a horrific world that God’s Gardeners and the rest inhabit, but t he real horror is that humans already possess the technology to make all the creatures in this book, including the deadly diseases that wipe out humanity and the Painballers with their inability to care about anyone other than themselves. We are already on the course of megacorporations taking over our lives and government. Ice caps are already melting and permafrost thawing. The gap between rich and poor widens.
‘MaddAddam’ is brilliantly written and serves as a warning about the path we’re headed down. But it’s not preachy; it’s a damn good adventure story. My only complaint was with the character of Toby; in ‘Year of the Flood’ she is an incredibly strong person, focused and capable. In ‘MaddAddam’, we witness her relationship with Zeb turning her into an insecure, jealous woman, tortured by doubts about Zeb’s feelings for her and whether he is having sex with other women- especially one who is putting on a display of her sexual readiness for all the males of the camp. This bothered me a lot to see Toby reduced to this state, but later I wondered: was she written like this to compare her to the Crakers, who have no sexual jealousy? Or to show that in a situation where the world has ended and must be rebuilt, the fertile woman is reduced to her ability to repopulate the world? Or perhaps just that no matter what happens in the larger world, human beings will be human beings. I don’t know, but I found it very irritating.
The best part of the book is the way that big parts of it are told by Toby to the Crakers in their nightly story time. You only hear Toby’s voice; what the Crakers are saying and doing is implied by her answers. I found their naivety funny and felt sympathy for Toby’s frustration with their incessant questions. One of the most surprising things in the book is who became the allies of the God’s Gardeners in the end.
While it wasn’t the most satisfying conclusion, it’s still a very good book. It’s a standalone novel and has a ‘the story so far’ section in the front, but I recommend reading the first two volumes before this one.
The sermons and present day sections are interspersed with the story of Zeb, Toby’s lover and God’s Gardeners strongman. Zeb’s story connects nearly every plot thread and character, and explains the origin of God’s Gardeners, the plague “flood”, and even how the group knew to prepare for this coming catastrophe. There’s also a few new things added to Atwood’s world of unchecked corporations, including a bizarre church that tries to use Christianity to justify fossil fuel consumption.
This was definitely a satisfying conclusion, wrapping both books together and closing all loose ends of the story, although there’s definitely room for future installments. There’s also an amusing new character, a curious little Cracker boy named Blackbeard, who latches onto a somewhat exasperated Toby. Maddaddam is a good book and a better read than Year of the Flood, even strengthening the previous installment.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Larger point: I'm pretty sure she had no intention of making this a trilogy. I know nothing about the writing process of these books, but after reading the third, the second two books just feel like one giant retcon. I was actually really floored when I initially realized Oryx and Crake even had a sequel--that book felt so complete and perfect to me. The ending with Jimmy, finally realizing he wasn't alone in the world, ready to take that first step into the unknown, couldn't have been better. It didn't need a sequel, let alone two, especially with a series-ender that would ruin the whole thing. Now, I liked The Year of the Flood, and I liked the way it fleshed out the world from a different perspective than Jimmy's. I had assumed, however, that once the storylines converged, it would result in a satisfying ending. Something bigger, something more. Honestly, it seems like she wrote Oryx and Crake, realized she had an opportunity to make a point, and then wrote a storyline that would vaguely hang around it, rather than letting the story, and what would make sense within that story, dictate what she was to say. It feels like she did a disservice to her own story, and that is unfortunate.
The whole point of the trilogy was to make the world safe for the Crakers? Wait, really? Why were three books and, in the end, a huge amount of irrelevant backstory, necessary for that? Why even bother introducing other characters? In the first book, the world is at an end, everyone but Jimmy and the Crakers are dead, no bad people exist. Boom, problem solved. Taking the first book alone, the world was safe for the Crakers! Crake succeeded! The conflicts were introduced in and exist solely in the sequels. I know, I know, she's making bigger points, but I truly think every point she wanted to make was done so beautifully and most interestingly in Oryx and Crake. Everything that came afterwards robbed it of its poignancy, and turned it into sappy clichés. Work together, racial/ethnic(?) cooperation is best, be excellent to each other. I really thought the story deserved better than that.
By the by, I find it irresponsible that the Crakers get to essentially be the ultimate heroes of this thing without either really discussing exactly how reprehensible Crake's actions were, nor exactly how disturbing some of the Craker's actions were. "Cultural misunderstandings"? For fuck's sake.
Let's talk about the "connections," shall we? I usually like it when authors do this--make all of the characters connected in interesting ways. This was pointless and implausible. So...basically everyone in the world dies, except for Jimmy and every single person he's ever met? Oh, ok. Some of them worked fine--Crake knowing Pilar from a former life, Ren and Jimmy dating, etc. I was even basically ok with Ren's former Gardener friend (I can't remember her name!) ending up as Jimmy's crazy roommate, implausible though it was. The first one that really annoyed me was realizing that Amanda was the Amanda from book one, and that Ren and Amanda both dated/loved Jimmy. After that, the hits just kept coming: The Gardeners sheltering Jimmy's mom, Adam somehow ridiculously knowing that Katrina Woo Woo chick, Mordis, Amanda not only being apparently the only person outside to live but also to find Ren, Shackleton and Crozier happening by the club, Blanco's entire existence. When all is said and done, Oryx's entire history. I legitimately put the book down and walked away when I realized she'd pointlessly, stupidly, resurrected Wakula fucking Price. Even the damn pigoons got to be interconnected! It all got so eye-rollingly absurd after awhile, especially when you realize these are the only people left in the world. Out of the 6 billion or so people on the planet, these specific people, who just happened to know each other in random and ridiculous ways, were the only ones who survived and they all just happened to end up in the exact same tiny geographic location. It's like she wasn't even trying to make it make sense.
Also, can we talk about how this book totally destroyed the characterization of the first two books? Jimmy, our protagonist from the first book, was relegated to a background character, at best. I had assumed that the storylines converging meant that this book would either be from his point of view, or the pov would be split, but no dice. Poor, sad, dumb but loveable Jimmy spent most of the book in a coma until getting casually killed at the end, off-screen. Just...why? Also, Toby. I had no real issue with Toby being the main pov character again in this novel. Well, awesome, kick-ass Toby from The Year of the Flood, that is. Not...whatever the hell this was. Why is Toby suddenly a whiny, clingy, love-sick Lifetime movie character? Why was Ren, also a former pov character, also relegated to background territory? Her most memorable appearances in the book were playing nursemaid and a horrific (yet oddly yada-yada-yada'd) rape-induced pregnancy (Oh, those silly Crakers! Ugh). Most importantly, who actually gives a hot damn about Zeb and his backstory?
I think this is the big crux of my problem with this book and, now that it's complete and this is its ending, the series as a whole. Naming the trilogy "Maddaddam," having Crake discover and be obsessed with the game, dubbing Zeb with the nickname "Maddaddam," naming this book after it, all indicated it was building toward something bigger. Some sort of big conspiracy, or...something. At the end of the day, Maddaddam was totally and completely irrelevant. There was no big picture. Just a fucked up kid with nihilistic tendencies who was given too much control and free time. Obviously, there's a point to be made there, but why all the Maddaddam bullshit? After the second book, after learning the kids called Zeb Maddaddam and seeing that he had something vital to do with the Maddaddam website, I thought maybe he was the mastermind behind it all. Somehow this was his whole grand plan, that he'd duped Crake and made him end the world so he could take over. Or something along those vague lines. Then, in the third book, when we learn that Adam was actually the one who brought Zeb into the world of Maddaddam, I thought maybe it was actually Adam who was behind it all. Either of those books would have been very good, made sense within the context of the story already established, and created a satisfying ending to this weird and mind-bending trilogy. But no. Maddaddam ended up being a non-entity. We never even figure out a) who created it (only that it wasn't Zeb or Adam), or b) why the kids called Zeb Maddaddam. How would they have even known about that, cut off from the world as they were? They wouldn't have. The whole Maddaddam thing ended up being nothing more than a convenient and hilariously contrived way to connect all of the characters and make them interact with each other. There's nothing "bigger" to it.
I don't know what she was attempting here, but she did it under the guise of a genre novel, without actually putting the story together in any coherent way. And, like I said earlier, knowing that kills the entire series for me, and robs it of its poignancy. She made clear what she wanted to say in the first book, and she did it better and more succinctly there than anything the sequels managed. Everything else was overkill and drudgery.
Moral of the story: Read Oryx and Crake, for it is excellent, then pretend the sequels don't exist. The Year of the Flood was wonderful, too, but reading it will probably make you want to read the third. Resist the impulse. It's not worth it.
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
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.
Just like the previous two books, copious flashbacks make this Maddaddam much more world-building than plot-driven. There are an infinite number of questions about the past desperate to be answered, both by the characters and by the reader. What kind of planet was this to lead Crake to take such drastic action? Did he do the right thing? How close is our planet to that tipping point? What will the future hold? Will all of Crake's work have been in vain?
What more can I say? If you enjoyed the first two then you're already desperate for an ending. If it sounds like you'd like it, go read the first book. In terms of the world as a whole, this is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. We can clearly see the direction this world is headed in. On a character-basis, however, the lives of the people the reader has come to understand so deeply just fizzle out, almost as if they were real people and this was a real future. Almost as if half the things Atwood made up in Oryx and Crake have come true already.
In many ways, MaddAddam is a quiet denouement to the frenzied dystopia depicted in the previous two books in the series. MaddAddam takes up right where both the previous
A lot of the story is taken up by flashback, relating the back stories of brothers Zeb and Adam, founder of the God's Gardeners, and answering many of the questions left hanging in the previous two books. This storytelling technique leaves the reader feeling removed from much of the action and not fully invested in the outcome. For instance, when Zeb and the others decide to go take out the Painballers, those events take place "off-camera," related only as a story to the Crakers, which steals a lot of suspense from the climax.
I suspect this is purposeful on Atwood's part, who seems to be painting the picture of a near-perfect utopia in her post-apocalyptic world. A utopia which, I might add, doesn't really need men -- at least, not non-Craker men. Other than Zeb, the most fully realized characters are the surviving women, with Toby (a major character from The Year of the Flood) providing their voice. Most of the women eventually become pregnant by the Crakers, giving the reader the assumption that human and post-human will eventually merge, eliminating the traditional male qualities like aggressiveness, jealousy and ego.
That's all well and good if we're fantasizing, but it doesn't make for a particularly exciting read. Also, I found it a bit problematic that even though the post-apocalyptic society seemed to be forming itself along matriarchal lines, the bulk of the story still focused on male characters. It was a jarring contrast. Oryx is the character who has gotten short shrift in all three of these novels, as she has now literally been turned into an unknowable goddess.
Atwood is a terrific writer, and her books are always enjoyable. But I can't help feeling that she ran out of steam with this idea. In my opinion, Oryx and Crake remains the best book of the trilogy, a significant contribution to the post-apocalyptic genre. MaddAddam can't quite measure up to that.
The plot revolves around the issues between the Gods Gardeners/MaddAddamites and the Painballers. There’s also the issue of the Crakers: they’re too naïve to really live on their own, but they are not of much help either. And of course there was the pressing need to figure out how to survive in a world with only each other and without basic technology.
Toby is not my favorite character, but I liked that MaddAddam was from her perspective. She seems to be one of the few characters that care about both immediate and long term needs. However, the strong and resilient character we met in Year of the Flood becomes overshadowed by her love for Zeb. She clings to him and seems put out if he doesn’t reciprocate immediately. She is often hostile towards the other women
Toby seems to be the only person to really care about the Crakers. She tells them Zeb’s story. I really enjoyed reading an adult’s perspective on the slow and sudden changes to society. However, I was more interested in seeing the characters’ future, not their pasts. Too much of the book is dedicated to Zeb wandering through seedy cities.
With all that said, the ending is bittersweet and it made up for a lot of the frustrations I felt reading this book.
Atwood creates a compelling vision of this world. Much of our world and its consequences for the environment and the human race is presented negatively, but she does so with acute judgement and a hugely inventive imagination. She delights in forming new words to describe things eg prostibots, an obvious advance on the blow up doll! I do wonder why , in the new world, characters dress everyday in a fresh bed sheet, appropriate for the mood or event- seems surprisingly awkward as a practical garment doesn't it.
Her clever language use and flowing narrative pace ameliorate the grimness of the story as it develops to a momentous finale.
This book begins by summarising the previous two, a good thing as alot goes on, and expands on how the survivors got to where they are. It also gives an incite into how life will be in their future.
An entertaining trilogy. Good not to leave too much time between reading each book.
Through flashbacks, Atwood reveals the interconnections of the various participants which on the surface could seem contrived but ultimately seems to be more a message of humanities interrelations. The main focus is on Zeb who acts a lynchpin between the groups.
While the survivors attempt to rebuild a semblance of existence, they must continue to battle the lingering evil of the escaped Painballers while protecting the Crakers who have no sense of the threat these humans pose.
This series looks at the evil that humanity can perpetrate on the environment, other species, and even each other, but this final book ends on a poignantly hopeful note of rebirth.
Received the book free from First Reads.
I'm in awe of Atwood's ability to make Zeb's language and style unique. I loved his expressions. At least there wasn’t much chanting and more dealing with the changed world. I wish the Painballer threat had been more tangible though. It felt far-removed and distinctly nonthreatening. I did like the cross-species cooperation though. That was a new one for humans 1.0 and I think they did a good job. Finally the Crakers have some purpose other than being annoying. Translation work seems like it has a good future for them, although I think the humans 1.0 will miss bacon.
MaddAddam covers a lot of the same events as the first two books, again from a different perspective. It also portrays what
Although this book is grim, like the rest of the trilogy, it also has a lot of humor in it. The humor largely revolves around the naivete of the Crakers, who are portrayed very convincingly. There are some laugh-out-loud funny moments in this book.
Atwood is a master of her craft, and that made this book a pleasure to read.
I listened the the audiobook, and the cast was generally very good, although the guy who read Zeb's parts has a really weird rhythm to his sentences that got annoying.
"By extension, anyone who liked smelling the daisies, and having daisies to smell, and eating mercury-free fish, and who objected to giving birth to three-eyed infants via the toxic sludge in their drinking water was a demon-possessed Satanic minion of darkness, hell-bent on sabotaging the American Way and God's Holy Oil, which were one and the same."
Atwood does a great job story telling and making the tale believable. In our current