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: Oryx & Crake (The MaddAddam Trilogy #1) (review)

oryx-and-crakeThe world as we know it, is falling apart. We have almost used all the oil, the poles are melting, animals are dying, there’s not enough food to feed everyone – and yet it seems we don’t really care enough to do something about it.
For Snowman, the time where it was possible to do something, has long passed. And even though it was tried to solve the world’s problems, well, he’s the last of his kind, living on his own, sleeping in a tree and taking care of the Crakers.
But why are Snowman living alone and how can he be the last of his kind when he’s human, for gods sake?! Well, that’s not something Atwood just reveals to us. Slowly, slowly, she reveals what has been going on and why Snowman has ended up this way. And who the Crakers are.
By jumping back and forth between Snowman’s childhood and his current life, we start to discover what has been going on. As a child, Snowman was a normal boy named Jimmy. He spend a lot of time with best friend Crake, playing computer games, watching wars, executions and porn – all the things of normal boyhood. But even though they live in one of the compounds, one of the safe places, not everything is as it should be. For starters, Crake is living with his mother and her new husband after his father had an accident and fell to his death. But maybe it wasn’t an accident. And why has Jimmy’s mother quit her job and is just staying home, doing nothing? That is, until she disappears and take Jimmy’s pet animal with him?
There’s no question that Crake is the smart one of the two. But just how smart he is, well, that actually shocked me. Or, rather, it shocked me what he chose to do with all his intelligence. There are definitely a couple of twists in this one, that I didn’t see coming.
Before starting this, I knew that Margaret Atwood is an excellent author. I have read and reread Alias Grace and I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale – and I’ve enjoyed them both so much. Excellent, excellent books. And this is another one. Atwood is quickly closing in on the elusive list of my favorite authors. Only five authors on it so far but Atwood is definitely in the running.
And not just because this book was really good. Also because she tackles some big issues, she does it in an fascinating way and she’s just such a clever author. She reveals the true scope of things so very slowly in this book. You are constantly left guessing, she’s peeling away layer after layer until finally everything is revealed and you are left completely speechless and having to read that one key scene over and over to realize that yes, that’s what happened and yes, she did do that.
This is definitely one scary book. When looking over my notes, I see a lot of questions at first and then it goes quickly through bafflement and bewilderment to holy cow territory and just poor what the fuck. When she finally explains what the Crakers are and explains the Paradice Project, I was just floored. I couldn’t believe that anybody could or would take science this far – yet I totally buy into the premise of the book and that there are scientists who would do things like this if they had the skills. This following scene gave me the creeps – and it actually got worse from there: What they were looking at was a large bulblike object that seemed to be covered with stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing.
“What the hell is it?” said Jimmy.
“Those are chickens,” said Crake. “Chicken arts. Just the breasts, on this one. They’ve got ones that specialize in drumsticks too, twelve to a growth unit.”
“But there aren’t any heads,” said Jimmy. He grasped the concept /…/ but this thing was going to far. At least the pigoons of his childhood hadn’t lacked heads.
“That’s the head in the middle,” said the woman. “There’s a mouth opening at the top, they dump the nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those.”
“This is horrible,” said Jimmy. The thing was a nightmare. It was like an animal-protein tuber.
“Picture the sea-anemone body plan,” said Crake. “That helps.”
“But what’s it thinking?” said Jimmy.
The woman gave her jocular woodpecker yodel, and explained that they’d removed all the brain functions that had nothing to do with digestion, assimilation, and growth.
(p. 237-238).
Is that nasty or what? Then imagine what they are able to do with humans…
This is a good book. It’s a clever book. It’s a book that hooks you in while you are slowly learning the lengths humans are willing to go to to survive. And if any one man stands a chance of stopping it. And who exactly that man might be.

First lines: Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still sleep.

  • Title:  Oryx & Crake
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Publisher: Virago
  • Year: 2003
  • Pages: 436 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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