Margaret Atwood: MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy #3) (review)

13_10_atwood_book_club_eventIf you look at a basic hierarchy of needs, you’ll find things like food and water at the bottom with safety on the next level. In some ways, this is what the two first books in the MaddAddam trilogy was about. The world fell apart and we followed a few people and saw them carve out a way to survive, securing their basic needs. But in this third book, they are beginning to be able to strive for bigger and better things like beginning to create a foundation for a way to live together, the beginnings of a society for both Crakers and plain old-fashioned humans.
Granted, the world is not safe. Three men who have served time in the Painball tournament, a tournament where murderers are pitted against each other and the survivors are released, are doing what they can to satisfy their needs, no matter how depraved.
These men are a constant threat for our settlers in this book. Other than that, this is mostly the book of Toby and Zeb. The Crakers have added Zeb to their pantheon of gods and this means that Toby has an excuse to get Zeb to tell her his life story and we get to listen in on this as well which fills out even more of the puzzle we have been working on fitting together throughout the first two books.
What I absolutely loved in this book, was, whenever it was story time for the Crakers. Each evening, preferably, they want a new story and these stories are part of their mythology, their way of understanding the world. Whoever tells the story has to put on Jimmy-the-Snowman’s red cap, eat the fish (or frog) brought by the Crakers and then tell them a story about Crake, Oryx, Zeb – or maybe Fuck, the special helper you call whenever you are in trouble. I absolutely adored reading these stories and how the story teller, Toby on most occasions, are really struggling to keep the Crakers from breaking out singing whenever the name Crake is mentioned and is really trying to explain the Crakers what’s going on as well as tell them stories from the past.
At later points, a young Craker named Blackbeard starts telling the stories and Atwood does a masterful job of changing the voice of the story teller while at the same time letting some things be a stable of the story telling. Both Jimmy and Toby has repeatedly been asking the Crakers to stop singing when they tell stories, and of course when Blackbeard is telling a story, he says the same things even though he too is a Craker and used to the singing.
I also really loved the Pigoons, the Pig Ones. After having seen animals reduced to what was needed to create meat in the first book, it is amazing to see these half pigs/half humans express themselves, care for each other and work together with the humans to eliminate a threat.
The ending of this book was sad, yet hopeful. I am torn between thinking that the ending was a very brave move on Atwood’s side and the only way this trilogy could possibly end. Either way it was a very fitting end to an amazing trilogy. A lot of things were explained but not quite everything. I’m still trying to piece together why Crake did what he did to Oryx and also, the importance of this girl who plays a somewhat small role but is still important enough to be in the title of the first book and be the mother of all animals in the Craker mythology.
Whereas the focus in the first two books was on survival and how they ended up in this dystopic world, this book is more about living. This means building relationships, making long-term solutions for their lives as well as teaching the Crakers things. Not only teaching them their history through story telling but also teaching writing and the importance of caring about books. What Toby learns Blackbeard is similar to the practice in Medieval cloisters where the monks copied the books when they read it so the words were spread. Particularly the Bible, of course.
It is interesting how Crake tried to remove all what we normally consider human qualities from the Crakers and yet, some parts were impossible to remove if they were to have anything resembling a working mind. He couldn’t do away with the singing – they became mindless bag of bones if he did. So what this book also is, is a comment on what makes us humans. The Crakers are humans too and they need to have both their singing and their stories, their faith, to exist. In a time where we often focus more on making money and on productivity than on almost anything else and where the world is being destroyed, it is necessary that we are reminded of what makes us humans and not just shells of flesh. We need the arts, the humanities, philosophy – we need all that to be the best we can be.

‘If a nation’s culture survives, so too does the nation.’
Jan Mládek

First lines: In the beginning, you lived inside the Egg. That is where Crake made you. Yes, good, kind Crake. Please stop singing or I can’t go on with the story.

  • Title:  MaddAddam
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Publisher: Virago
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 394 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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Margaret Atwood: The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy) (review)

9780349004075‘According to Adam One, the Fall of Man was multidimensional. The ancestral primates fell out of the trees; then they fell from vegetarianism into meat-eating. Then they fell from instinct into reason, and thus into technology; from simple signals into complex grammar, and thus into humanity: from firelessness into fire, and thence into weaponry; and from seasonal mating into an incessant sexual twitching. Then they fell from a joyous life in the moment into the anxious contemplation of the vanished past and the distant future.’ (p. 224)
What exactly is going on? Why am I reading about someone named Toby? And some stripper named Ren? Supposedly this is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy, so where is Snowman, Oryx and Crake?
Well, yeah, I guess I know where Oryx and Crake are and why they are not exactly playing first fiddle in this book. But we kind of left Snowman in a situation which could turn both good and bad in the first book of the trilogy, Oryx & Crake, so why are we not reading about him?
Oh well, I guess both Toby and Ren are kind of interesting and … what’s this? There’s some connections between them – and to Snowman aka Jimmy. And to Crake. Interesting.
So this is the story of Toby and Ren. Ren is working as a stripper/hooker at Scales and Tails while Toby is working at a spa. Both are lucky and survives the plague we heard about in the first book, the plague that Crake caused. Both have a past as God’s Gardeners, a sort of vegetarian eco-sect who grows it’s own vegetables and lives on a roof top, being careful not to attract too much attention to themselves.
These Adams and Eves are not your everyday mad cultist but rather an extremely intelligent bunch of scientists. Their teachings are actually really interesting. Each day has it’s own saint, various people they pay tribute to. People who worked for the environment, for the preservation of species, for clean air. Each part of the books begin with a sermon by Adam One as well as a song from the gardeners’ oral hymnbook.
And their biggest fear is the waterless flood aka the plague Crake unleashed.
Not only did I think it was really interesting to hear about the mythology put together by Adam One and the gardeners, I was again fascinated by Margaret Atwood’s skills as a writer. In this trilogy, she is amazing at just slowly revealing information a little at a time and jumping back and forth in time. She did it in the first book and she does it again in this one. Add to this, that the characters we had gotten so interested in in the first book, are not a huge presence in this one. But even though this is so, she manages to give us a lot of information about Crake and Snowman which explains a lot about the events in the first book as she lets us look at them through the eyes of other characters. After spending the entire first book seing the world through Jimmy’s eyes, it is so fascinating to now see this world as well as Jimmy through the eyes of someone else. And this book is told solely from female view points in contrast to the male perspective in the first book. It is in fact a parallel story, telling the same events but filling in some blanks because it’s told by other characters who have new information for us that helps us understand what exactly is going on.
Add to this a whole new set of interesting characters in this one. Gardeners like Zeb, Pilar, Amanda and of course Adam One and our two main characters Toby and Ren as well as real creepy guys like Blanco, the guy Toby is rescued from by the Gardeners. And of course the Crakers. Zeb in particular is interesting as he is second in command but doesn’t really seem like a gardener.
I absolutely loved this book. I think Atwood has written an extremely clever trilogy which manages to be both a timely comment on the way we choose to live now and the way we abuse our world as well as being extremely clever books that hook you right in and keep your interest. I can’t wait to read the third novel and finally find out exactly what MaddAddam is and get the final pieces to the puzzle. I have a feeling that this series will only improve with each reread and I’m diving right in to MaddAddam.

First lines: In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. She uses a mop handle for balance: the elevator stopped working some time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, and if she slips and topples there won’t be anyone to pick her up.

  • Title:  The Year of the Flood
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Publisher: Virago
  • Year: 2010
  • Pages: 518 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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