I’ve been waiting for this one! I read the first, Oryx and Crake (2003) as well as the second, The Year of the Flood (2009) when they came out so I don’t have my old reviews. – Suffice it to say I thoroughly enjoyed Oryx and Crake but thought The Year of the Flood was kind of silly – YA fiction perhaps – ? Still, overall, I looked forward to MaddAddam.
First, although I’m happy with this very imaginative and heavily satirical futuristic dystopian tale I’m not exactly delighted. (It took me a long time to warm up to it.) Second – to get it out of the way, there is no actual singing here! In fact, the narrator tells the Crakes to “stop singing.” (That was one of my complaints re “The Year of the Flood.”)
********* SPOILERS RE THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE SERIES: *********
AND THESE TWO BOOKS ARE IMPORTANT FOR MADDADDAM TO MAKE SENSE!
Basically, Oryx and Crake is about two friends, Jimmy (Snowman) and Glen (Crake), who develop a species of human (the Crakers) which is peaceful and so on. There are a lot of scientifically mutated animals running around at the time and humans are basically confined to large compounds. This much is a dystopian fiction. Oryx is an Asian woman they both fall in love with. Glenn/Crake sets loose a chemical-viral storm which kills all the humans leaving only this species (the Crakers) and Snowman, who has been inoculated. At the end, Glenn kills Oryx and Jimmy kills Glenn.
The Year of the Flood examines what has happened to another group during the same time. God’s Gardeners is a small group with a rather radical religion – they are devoted to preserving life on earth – to saving it from the “flood” which has been predicted (and which is really the viral storm set loose by Glenn/Crake). Toby is a fast-food server who managed to survive the apocalypse but she landed in a seriously bad place. Adam who is a guru for the Gardeners saves her. Ren was working in a sex-spa when she was saved. The Painballers, escapees from the Corps and horrendously violent, are the enemies of the Gardeners. Jimmy/Snowman, Glenn/Crake and Oryx appear briefly.
Now in MaddAddam Toby and Ren rescue Amanda from the Painballers so they’re all together along with Zeb, Toby’s lover, and assorted others in the MaddAddam cob house somewhere in the wilds. Jimmy-the-Snowman is also there at the house but he’s very ill (due to getting lost and being accosted by a bear which he eats) so Toby continues the ever-growing stories of MaddAddamism (with Crake as creator). There are also several Crakers in the group, the pacifist-vegetarian-seasonal maters of the big blue penis variety, who came along. Glenn/Crake invented-developed the Crakers. They are all MaddAddamites now, but Adam is nowhere to be found although there are plenty of Painballers, pigoons and other strange mutations. Toby spends a lot of time explaining Craker ideas and human reality to the Crakers who have taken all this on as a sacred theology. Jimmy and Zed give her further information but it gets very sanitized and altered in Toby’s telling.
Much of the narrative is comprised of back-story to the times before the man-made plague and the Gardeners.
Although Toby is the narrator for the most part, in other places Atwood switches to a different narrator or, once or twice, a 3rd person . Much of the story is background info on Zeb and Adam and how they escaped from their petro-god worshipping (Peter in the Bible) preacher father where they used and stole whatever they could from his vast holdings – legal and otherwise. Zeb has to take off to hunt for Adam One.
And the old human themes of religion, jealousy, sex and contemporary culture play heavy roles either in the satire or in the human characterizations – Toby especially.
At times I thought Atwood was losing it – this has elements of Tom Robbins and some kind of satirical dystopian adventure fantasy. But other times the level of ingenuity in creating this futuristic dystopian world is very, very high – way higher than anything I’ve read in the last 5 or so years.
I’m a long-term fan of Atwood, my first by her was Alias Grace (1996) and I went on to Cat’s Eye (1988), The Blind Assassin (2003 – and my favorite), Oryx and Crake (2003) The Penelopiad (2005), The Year of the Flood (2009) and now MaddAddam. Imagine my surprise if I had expected something similar to Alias Grace should I have read that alone and then picked up MaddAddam. (shock)