Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: MADDADDAM, by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. Published 2013 by Random House. Literary Fiction.

Okay, if you've ever read this blog before you know I am Margaret Atwood superfan. I'm not going to go all Misery but she is my favorite author. So when she has a new book, everything else just stops.

MaddAddam is her latest, the third in the trilogy that began in 2004 with Oryx and Crake. In that book, we met a guy named Jimmy, who was in love with a former prostitute named Oryx; sadly she was in love with Crake, a brilliant scientist. The three of them lived in a gloomy future in which corporations controlled life, people were breeding bizarre animals and life was just generally pretty bleak. I appreciated this book more on my second read; you can read my thoughts here. In 2009 she followed it up with The Year of the Flood, which told the story of this world from the point of view of a group called God's Gardeners, a sort of hippie sect that rejected the man-made and tried to opt for a way of living closer to nature. I loved YotF and have been waiting for this third installment ever since.

I have to release some gentle spoilers.

The flood referred to in the title of book two is a pandemic that wipes out most of humanity. MaddAddam picks up just after the "flood," when a small group of survivors from the first two books comes together along with some creatures made by Crake, a race of gentle, mango-colored beings referred to as "Crakers." Crake made them to replace humans, to be perfect, at least as he understood it, and to take better care of the Earth than he felt humans had. Toby, a middle-aged woman who had holed up in a spa during the outbreak and whom we got to know in The Year of the Flood, returns along with Zeb, a former Gardener turned rebel, Jimmy himself, still reeling from the final events of Oryx and Crake, and more, plus some of those genetically designed animals, one species of whom plays a crucial and unexpected role.

The big plot point is the showdown between our gang and a group of three men called Painballers. Painball is like a souped up, hyper-violent paintball crossed with the Hunger Games, and the people who survive it have nothing left but the need to hurt, rape and kill. As the survivors regroup they know the Painballers are out there and that there will be a confrontation. In the mean time as we wait, we get a full and extended backstory for Zeb and by extension his brother Adam, founder of the Gardeners. In the present day, Adam has disappeared and understanding Zeb's relationship to Adam is crucial for the final denouement.

I usually have two or three books going at once, but when I picked up MaddAddam not only did I put them all aside for the duration, I wanted to go read all of Atwood's books again. She's really that good, folks. So yeah, I loved it. I loved learning Zeb's crazy life story, seeing his relationship with Toby play out, and watching the interactions of three different species, all of whom have to navigate some pretty crazy stuff. Some bloggers have complained about how lovelorn for Zeb Toby is after seeing her as self-sufficient in The Year of the Flood. I wasn't bothered by the shift in her characterization because I didn't see it as a shift. She always loved Zeb; she loved him in that book, too, but he wasn't present with her for most of the action. When she sees him again, all these feelings are reignited and I thought the nerdy pair were charming and their relationship genuinely moving. It was the best part of the book for me.

And I did love it. I will say that you should read the first two first though. Atwood includes a thoughtful and thorough plot summary at the beginning but... read the first two first, but it doesn't matter which of the two you read first. In MaddAddam Atwood provides a beautiful and fitting end to the story. I don't have to tell Atwood fans to read this; they have already. But the rest of you- get on it!

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure:  I received a copy of MaddAddam for review.


bermudaonion said...

Woo hoo! I'm glad to see this met your expectations!

Jeanne said...

I agree that I wasn't reading anything else while I read this one, and it made me want to go back and read the first two again. And the interesting thing is, we loved different things in the book!

Buried In Print said...

Readers are complaining about that? Wow, I didn't know you can't be self-sufficient and love someone so completely. I admire Toby's character and, like you, was really curious to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Re-reading the first two, and following up (yes, finally!) with this volume in the trilogy is definitely one of my reading highs for this year. Glad to hear you enjoyed it too!

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

I love Margaret Atwood too, although I still have quite a few of her books left to read. I haven't read any of this trilogy - I'm excited that all the books are out now so I can read them back-to-back. Thanks for the review!