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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February 2014 – monthly update

So February has been a frustrating month. It seems I just couldn’t find time to read all that much. I have been working a lot all month and have just been too tired. In January, I read whenever I could find time and read through 6 books and lots of pages. This month I have unfortunately prioritized watching sucky tv more. I think it is sometimes easier to just vegetate in front of the tv when you are overworked and stressed out instead of picking up a book even though you know that in the end, you will enjoy the book more.
NightCircus.final_.2But still, I did read 5 books this month and I have still read some amazing good books this month. The first one was Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus which I had postponed reading but absolutely loved when I finally got around to it. The setting in this book was breathtaking and so lovely and I was just blown away by it. An entire black and white circus suddenly appearing out of nowhere and just spellbinding it’s audience. I also really liked the story in this book and the characters and I am really looking forward to Erin Morgenstern’s next novel.
possession-by-a-s-byatt[1]My other favorite novel this month was A.S. Byatt’s Possession. I watched her give a lecture back in 2005 and I was so impressed by her. So impressed that I actually got scared. She is just so clever and knowledgable and I have been really scared that I wasn’t able to get her books. But then I read her The Children’s Book a while ago and really liked it and I watched the movie version of Possession and decided to put the book on my list of reading goals for this year. And then I actually read it. And loved it. It’s a wonderful intelligent book and a beautiful love story. I was so engrossed by the romance of Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Ash. Talk about star-crossed lovers! Add to this that it is a literary mystery with beautiful writing. This is going to be one of my favorite novels of the year – and I can’t wait to reread it. I think it will be one of my favorite novels of all time. It is so intelligent that it can stand to be reread over and over.
It seems that I should learn from this experience not to postpone novels that I really want to read because I’m scared of not being able to get them or scared they are not able to live up to my expectations. I should just read whatever I want when I want it. I might have to work a bit on this before I accomplish doing so!
oryx-and-crakeI also began the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood. I will not say too much about this novel or this series here before I’ve read the entire trilogy but I will say that Oryx & Crake is quite an accomplishment and the more I think about it, the more impressed I am. I am reading the second part of this trilogy right now, The Year of the Flood, and I’m just getting more and more impressed. This is clever writing!
My complete list of novels read in February look like this:

  1. Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus
  2. Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage
  3. Susan Hill: Howard’s End is on the Landing
  4. A.S. Byatt: Possession
  5. Margaret Atwood. Oryx & Crake

Last year I read about 50 pages a day. This year, I wanted to do better. My goal was 100 pages a day. Sadly, February has been the month where it dropped. Not only below 100 but actually below 90 (although I ended the month just above 90 pages a day). I know it’s silly getting caught up in numbers and that the important thing is the reading experience. I know I should care more about reading amazing books and taking the time to really enjoy them than care about the amount of books I read. Still, I can’t help it. I want to read many books and therefore I want to read a lot of pages each day. And I just haven’t read all that many pages in February and it depresses me like hell, especially since I could have read so much more if I had just kept on prioritizing reading above other relaxing pastimes.
I’m actually a bit amused that I feel this way because five books in a month is excellent given my current schedule. I think I will have to think quite a bit about whether this focusing on pages a day is actually benefitting me or rather stressing me out. Five books is good – especially since these weren’t short books and they were really good books.

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Book Buying 2014 #2

Luckily I didn’t sign up for any challenge to not buy books this year. Because I just went crazy in my favorite Danish bookstore and well, I bought about a billion books. The thing I did right – or wrong, depending on your point of view – was to make a list of books I wanted. This was in part compiled of the list I made of the books I missed in 2013. And well, armed with a list and then exposed to all the other amazing books in the store, I just went nuts and assembled to huge piles – which my boyfriend didn’t even want to help me carry, because he thought he thought I had to experience the consequences of buying giant piles of books. He caved later – I’m sure I won’t.
So here are all the amazingness I bought. Who said you couldn’t buy happiness?

078960-fc222 the eyre affair thewell 390px-Lost_in_a_good_book RifkaBrunt_Tell-the-Wolves

Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage. So Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors and I sometimes forget why exactly but when I then pick up one of her books, I’m just blown away by her writing skills. She is just an amazing writer and this book about a girl who goes missing, possibly because of a disabled Iraqi veteran, sounds amazing.
Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair, The Well of Lost Plots and Lost in a Good Books: I’ve read the first book in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair, and I loved it and have been wanting to read the rest ever since. So when I saw the entire series at the store, I almost bought them all but well, I sort of tried to be just a bit responsible and only bought the first three…
Carol Rifka Brunt: Tell the Wolves I’m Home. This book just sounds amazing. It takes place in the 80s and deals with AIDS and homosexuality in a time, when these things weren’t well-known parts of everyday life. June looses her uncle to this illness, she knows nothing about and doesn’t quite understand and then suddenly she notices a strange man attending her uncle’s funeral and a bit later he tries to get in touch with her. I’ve only heard good things about this and I want to read this one soon.

Mistbord 001 burial-rites.jpg?w=500 179948_525507750818731_1177546746_n htm_20140110235648a010a011 the-golem-and-the-djinni

Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire (Mistborn Book One). I first heard of Brandon Sanderson when he was chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan died. He seems to be a really great fantasy writer and the Mistborn series is seemingly universally loved so I can’t wait to read it. Still, I only bought the first volume because I wanted to check it out for myself before committing to the whole thing.
Hannah Kent: Burial Rites. This one has been making it’s way all over the blogging world. Everyone has read it, it seems. And no wonder, it sounds amazing. Hannah Kent went to Iceland as a teenager and heard the story of the last woman executed in Iceland and that inspired her to write this book. It reminds me of Alias Grace and everybody seem to love it so I am really looking forward to it.
Leigh Bardugo: Siege and Storm (The Grisha book 2). I loved the first book in this series. It was a great thrilling ride and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Alina and Mal when the Darkling catches up with them – as I’m sure he will.This is pure fantasy brain candy and I’m looking forward to diving into this second book.
Chang-Rae Lee: On Such a Full Sea. I heard an interview with Chang-Rae Lee where he said he wanted to write a book about Chinese factory workers and did all the research and somehow ended up writing a dystopian fantasy novel instead. I have read several books about China and taking place in China and I so want to read this book.
Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Djinni. I first heard about this on the New York Times Books podcast and it sounds like a wonderful combination of fantastic elements, mythology, love and great storytelling. I’ve been fascinating by Golems ever since we were in Prague and heard about them so this one is another book I’m looking forward to.

oryx-and-crake 9780349004075 13_10_atwood_book_club_event 9780575099272 9780575099326FS

Margaret Atwood: Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam. So I’ve read Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood but nothing else and really want to read more because she write great and very interesting books so I’ve been wanting to read this series ever since it started coming out but kept myself waiting until the entire trilogy was out. And I’m really looking forward to find out who Snowman, Oryx and Crake are.
Connie Willis: Blackout and All Clear. Historical fiction, time traveling – it seems to be rather popular to combine these two. Just think of the Outlander series and Kindred by Octavia Butler. It’s about a time travel lab in 2060 who goes bad to WWII and it sounds amazing and so many people have recommended it to me so another one I’m really looking forward to.

haroun_and_luka_salman_rushdie.jpg?w=620

Salman Rushdie: Haroun and Luka. I really like Salman Rushdie and I loved reading his autobiography of the years of the Fatwa, Joseph Anton. And what he wrote about especially Haroun and the Sea of Stories made me really want to read it. Especially since he wrote the book to his son. So it’s supposedly an easier book than most of Rushdie’s books and it sounds imaginative and wonderful. And as a bonus, when you turn the book over, you get Luka and the Fire of Life so two books in one.

So yeah, these were the only books I bought. Yeah. I’m not sure I’m exactly proud of myself but I’m very much excited about all of these. Such good books. And I’m actually already almost done with the first of these – Joyce Carol Oates’ Carthage. Loving it. Hopefully all the rest of these are as good – and I’m pretty sure that at least a bunch of them are. So happy reading to me!

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Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

toptentuesday-1The tree is is ready, reindeer food has been thrown in the garden and cookies and chocolate are waiting for Santa next to the tree. We are ready for him to show up and decorate our tree and put our presents beneath the tree.
Because that’s our tradition in our home. Santa decorates our tree and brings the presents while we sleep. The family arrive at 3 PM and then we eat, sing Christmas carols while walking around the tree and then we exchange gifts at about 6 PM or so – and then for the rest of the evening…
So this is the list of the books I hope to find tonight.
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence. Each year, my boyfriend gifts me a Classic which I then read sometime before next Christmas. This Christmas Classic is one of our traditions and Iove it. This year I have wished for my first Edith Wharton. Previous Christmas Classics have included War and PeaceLes Misérables and Madame Bovary.
  2. Stephen King: The Shinging & Doctor Sleep. I love The Shining but I don’t own it and with it’s sequel being published this year, of course I have high hopes to find these two under the tree.
  3. Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch. I love Donna Tartt’s books. She takes forever to write them but they are worth the wait. And The Goldfinch sounds so wonderful, I can hardly contain myself. So, so want!
  4. Kahled Hosseini: And the Mountains Echoed. Third novel from Hosseini. Another of this year’s big books. I own, have read and loved The Kite Runner and I want to read both this one and the previous one, A Thousand Splendid Suns.
  5. Walter Moers and John Brownjohn: The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear (Zamonia #1). Because of SJ, I seriously hope to get this one. If not, I have to order it for myself. The fourth book in this series is called The City of Dreaming Booksfor crying out loud. I have to read these!!!
  6. Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood & MaddAddam. (See how I managed to make this a very long Top Ten?) I want to explore Margaret Atwood’s books. That was actually one of my goals for this year and I haven’t done so… But I really want to read this trilogy so fingers crossed that it will be there and I can dig into it before New Years!
  7. Karl Ove Knausgaard: My Struggle. I have been postponing reading these – or maybe rather trying to avoid reading them. But I keep hearing about how amazing this series are so I promise to stop trying to avoid them and instead embrace them. It’s sort of a modern Proust – so what’s not to like? (says the girl who’ve read one book of the 14 books Danish translation…!)
  8. Féliz J. Palma: The Map of the Sky. I loved The Map of Time. I keep saying it was a wild ride and it was and I want more books that are like that so I’m hoping the sequel will be too.
  9. Andrea J. Buchanan (ed.): It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters
    and
  10. Peggy Orenstein: Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Both of these books for pretty much the same reason. I have girls, two of them in fact, and I really want them to grow up to be independent, strong and with confidence in their own abilities. And since I am a book person, of course I read books about raising kids, raising girls.

(I actually have more wishes but I forced myself to stick with ten – or almost sticking to ten…)
Have a very Merry and beautiful Christmas – hopefully filled with books (and family, love, laughter and all that stuff, but books too!)

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Top Ten Series I’d Like To Start But Haven’t Yet

toptentuesday-1So this week the Top Ten theme is Top Ten Series you want to start reading but for some reason haven’t got around to yet. I thought this would be piece of cake but it turns out that I have read the first book of a lot of series – without reading any further. So such a Top Ten would have been easier. Especially because – we already did that one. Back in September: Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished. And I actually made a bonus list back then of 4 series, I hadn’t started yet – so that did make this post a bit easier, well, not so hard. And then I looked a bit closer at my book shelves and well, turned out it was rather easy to put this Top Ten together.

As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. There’s about a billion participants each week so go check out some of the many others if you are keen to find a new series to read.

I already own at least parts of the first 7 series mentioned below so really, I have no excuse for not starting to read them sometime soon!

  1. George R.R. Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire. Do I really have to explain myself here? Maybe rather try to explain why I, a self-proclaimed fantasy lover, haven’t read this one yet? Or watched the tv series? Well, I have no explanation and now, I own all the published books of this so I hope to get around to at least start reading it sometime this year.
  2. Robin Hobb: The Farseer Trilogy. This is about a boy and his dog, roughly put. I have been told that it will make me cry. Not just a little bit, but full on ugly cry. That’s why I have put it off. But I have also been told that I will absolutely love this story of the bond between human and animals – so we’ll see which one will win out. Maybe it will be both!
  3. Patrick Rothfuss: The Kingkiller Chronicle. I’m trying to wait with this one until the final one in the trilogy has been published. I have been told that it has quite a bit of cliff hangers and that it’s insanely good so I’m really trying to not read it before they are all out. It’s the story of a powerful wizard, how he became to be so powerful and how he ended up a fugitive.
  4. Ken Follett: The Century Trilogy. Whatever I have forgotten or never known about 20th century history, politics etc, I expect to learn from reading this novel. I really enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth, so I expect to enjoy this one quite a bit – especially because I find the 20th century of more interest than the building of a cathedral in the Middle Ages… – even if that turned out to be rather exciting!
  5. Deborah Harkness: All Souls Trilogy. This is supposed to be the intellectual’s Twilight. I like Vampires (Buffy, anyone?) but I have no intention of reading Twilight, ever! So this book about a young woman, a witch I think, who stumbles upon a bewitched manuscript which unleashes hordes of vampires, demons and witches, sounds right up my alley. I have heard both good and bad about this one so not sure if it will be a good read but I’m definitely going to give it a go!
  6. Jasper Fforde: Shades of Grey. I have the first one of this trilogy – and it’s the only one published so far and the next one is not due out before 2015. So I have no guilt about not having started this one yet. Only thing is – I really want to read it soon because it sounds so cool. A society where your social status is determined by your ability to see colors? Fascinating!
  7. Neal Stephenson: The Baroque Cycle. I own Quicksilver, the first one of this trilogy of huge books. It’s historical fiction, it’s about philosophy, religion and history and I don’t know what’s not a part of this book. I think it’s a very demanding book and that’s probably why I have put it off. But I want to give it a go – I think it will be a rewarding, though difficult, read.
  8. Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, Maddaddam: I don’t know if this series has a name. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? I just want to read these – in part, because I want to explore Atwood some more since the two novels I have read by her (Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale) have been really good, but also because Oryx and Crake is another post-apocalyptic tale from Atwood, this time about possibly the last human – and it just sounds really interesting.
  9. John Updike: The Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series. I just wrote about this one the other day when I rented the first one at the library. I’ve been wanting to read this for years! You just keep hearing about this one! It’s supposed to be so good and Updike is supposed to be one of the best contemporary (although now dead) American authors. I have only read one of his novels, Terrorist, so I really have not much of an impression of Updike. He is another author I want to explore so really, it’s about time I get around to the Rabbit books.
  10. Jacqueline Carey: Phèdre’s Trilogy. This erotic fantasy about a young woman, part spy and part courtesan, is supposed to be really, really good. I have been hearing about it for years but am yet to buy and read it. I almost bought it last time I was in Paris and saw that W.H. Smith at Place du Concorde had the entire trilogy – but I ended up not buying it because I thought it would be easy enough to get it later and I had already picked out way too many books… I will read this one at some point!

Quite a bit of fantasy on my list, I think. It’s great because I love fantasy – I just don’t feel I have the time to commit to reading three books (or more!) in a row (which is silly since I can easily enough commit to reading huge, difficult books that take way more time than reading a fantasy trilogy). Anyway, I hope the making of this list will make me remember, that I actually really want to read these books!

Which series are on your list?

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