My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If I were to have a writer crush, it would be Margaret Atwood. If I had an aspiration as a writer, it would be to write prose that seems to matter the way that hers does — the vision, the power, the beauty. The scope of her imagination is so vivid, so breathtaking, and yet so entirely grounded in reality — I’m not sure how she does it, but I love it. With that being said, MaddAddam is the latest book in my Atwood repertoire, and though it wasn’t my favorite, it certainly didn’t disappoint me either.
MaddAddam is the third and final installment of Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, which primarily focuses on the life of Adam and Zeb before the Flood and the post-apocalyptic life of the survivors after it. Unlike the previous two novels in the trilogy (Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood), which can be more or less read out of order (though I don’t necessarily recommend it), I recommend reading this one last.
Based on the ending of The Year of the Flood, the MaddAddamites and former God’s Gardeners have a lot to deal with. Everyone and everything has finally come together. With the external threat of the lurking painballers and pigoons, survival is paramount. On the inside, the characters face smaller dilemmas: moments of inevitable discord, the questioning of what it means to be human, and the challenges of being a handful of survivors in a damaged world.
And, in the end, its the smaller or internalized dilemmas that bind the book together. Sure, the pigoons and the painballers matter, but to be honest, they don’t, actually — so if you dislike the anti-climatic, almost as an afterthought, handling of them, keep in mind that this isn’t their story. The things that matter to this story are other stories: the stories of the characters, their relationships, and their day-to-day success and failures.
A quick rundown of the characters: The novel is more or less told from Toby’s point-of-view. If you liked the strong and independent Toby from The Year of the Flood, then you may dislike her sudden insecurities. I managed to label her emotional issues as being human, but some might deem them as a rather un-Toby form of whining.
As stated earlier, Zeb also has a prominent role. He tells Toby his story, which is told more or less from his perspective (in the third person). If you liked Zeb, you’ll definitely be satisfied, in this aspect.
The Crakers play a larger role in the novel as well, and I enjoyed getting to know them. The character of Blackbeard is charming, curious, and naïve, and he’s the first of the Crakers we get to meet on a more personal level. I think most fans of the novels will like his character and Atwood’s portrayal of him.
Sadly, the other characters mostly end up taking backstage, which was somewhat disappointing, acting only as catalysts for problems or resolutions. Jimmy has a minimal part, so if you liked his character, you may be disappointed by this. Ren and Amanda are also delegated to lesser roles — Amanda is still mentally recovering from her time with the painballers.
My one issue: When reading these novels, you have to be willing to accept a series of improbable coincidences — namely that all the people who survive the end of the world were somehow connected to one another before the world actually ended. And that somehow they all ended up in the same place. In the first two novels, I was willing to accept the majority of these connections, but the final installment pushes some of them beyond the realm of suspended disbelief.
Final thoughts: Overall, this was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Atwood leaves us with hope — that the human race will persevere, but at the same time, that humans will change (or do something fundamentally different to avoid the mistakes of the past). Adding the Crakers into the mix certainly changes some aspects of mankind’s future, and it’s fun to speculate whether the world will be a better place because of them (or will they too eventually fall prey to former humanity’s mistakes?).
If you enjoyed the other two novels in this series, then of course you should read this one. If you haven’t read any of them, then you should go to the nearest website/bookstore/library and acquire a copy of Oryx and Crake as soon as possible.
As always, Atwood is highly recommended for anyone who loves bold prose, meaningful stories, and memorable characters.