Sunday, March 23, 2014

the story of how the story came to be told

MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood

When I realized that I was about four-fifths of the way through MaddAddam, I got that little wave of sadness that you get when you realize that soon you will have to leave a world that you are not quite ready to leave. Until that point, I didn't even realize that I was as engrossed in the story as I actually was, to tell you the truth. So I slowed down, trying to stretch out the book for as long as I could. But it is hard to slow down when you are in the midst of a final battle for revenge led by intelligent pigs.

The world that Margaret Atwood has created in MaddAddam and in the two preceding books in the trilogy (Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood) is so fully realized, with every detail of genetic programming fleshed out, that takes a bit of time to adjust to the real world again. Atwood claims that all of the technologies that exist in this dystopian world either already exist or have the potential to. It is a chilling reminder of the consequences of playing God.

In MaddAddam, the survivors of a man-made plague that decimated the earth are eking out a living amidst a rapidly re-forresting earth. They have a nice little enclave, where they keep Mo'Hairs (a species originally engineered for growing replacement human hair) for their milk and, while gardening and foraging for the world's dwindling supplies, they offer protection against pigoons and Painballers to the Crakers (a bioengineered species of gentle vegan, mosquito-repellent semi-humans) who graze on kudzu and mate with glee. 

MaddAddam tells the story behind the stories of the earlier two books. There is the ongoing narrative, of daily life in the compound and of the larger concerns of attack from sadistic former prisoners. There is the evening story - full of ritual - that Toby, a former God's Gardener, tells the Crakers who hunger for tales of their creators and their own creation. And most intriguingly, there is the story that the hacker Zeb tells Toby, of his life in the time before the waterless flood, of his escape from a murderous depraved father and his religion of petroleum. For me, Zeb's stories were the strongest part of the book - rivetting and intense. I couldn't wait for these sections.

MaddAddam is not a perfect book. There were times when the voice used did not really work for me, particularly when Blackbeard, the young Craker, took on the mantle of Toby's voice. But generally, I was enthralled with this book and it made me want to re-read the previous two, just to get back into that world.   


Eugene Knapik said...

It has been years since I've read any of her books.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

This trilogy is definitely worth wading back into those waters for, Eugene.

Vol-E said...

OK, here's some silly for you. I've only read The Handmaid's Tale and have feared trying any of MA's other titles lest they prove not as good. Thank you for spurring me to break out of the comfort zone; I will be home from the library with an armload of her other work next weekend. Cheers.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You are in for a treat, Vol-E. If you liked the dystopian aspect of The Handmaid's Tale, you should really enjoy Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.