MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

What a book! MaddAddam rounds up all of the loose ends of Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood in fantastic style. Most of this book is told from the perspective of Toby, who we met in The Year of the Flood, as she and her fellow survivors decide how best to attack the dangerous survivors of the ‘waterless flood’. Atwood touches upon so much here: religion and belief, science and technology, the good and bad instincts of humanity. Everything, just everything.

In MaddAddam we get a lot of backstory from Zeb, who Toby is in love with, and information about the formation of the God’s Gardeners. I really like how Atwood plays with the idea of storytelling, especially in this final book. One of the Crakers, Blackbeard, is transfixed by reading and writing. In the Crakers, Crake thought he had formed the perfect people; they apparently have no need for metaphor, for violence, for sexual related strife. They are less complex than humans, humans with the chaos removed, and are less harmful to the planet and themselves. But these people love to hear stories – he couldn’t remove this aspect of them without turning them into ‘vegetables’. Atwood experiments with the ways in which stories are told throughout the trilogy. She plays with reader expectation and narrative perspective in complex ways.

This series contains so much that it has restored my faith in literary fiction, which had been dwindling slightly. The humans have to survive in this new world – a world which is certatinly possible – but Atwood covers the small things as well as the big things. Toby is jealous of another woman and this is portrayed wonderfully. Toby thinks envious thoughts and tries to rationalise them because she is not used to having a significant other. The pettiness of surviving humans is well-observed, as well as the bigger questions of life and death.

Speaking of which, there were a couple of times near the end that I nearly cried, and again this returns to storytelling. Blackbeard, the Craker, narrates some of the more horrifying parts, and his understanding of it feels sadder somehow than if it actually had been narrated by a more emotional character.

There are problems with writing about this book because I don’t want to spoil anything. There are surprises and twists that it would be unfair to reveal, I think. It is a wonderfully written series. Above all, I think it highlights that people, both humans and Crakers alike, need stories. Yet in the world before the waterless flood, and increasingly in this world, we forget about stories in favour of other distractions. I have been playing on the internet less in the past few weeks because I have been spending more of my free time reading this series. I just really loved reading these books, if you can’t tell.

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