Day 593: Maddaddam

Cover for MaddaddamBest Book of the Week!
Maddaddam is the final book in Margaret Atwood’s funny, cruel, and profound Maddaddam trilogy. At the beginning of the novel, all of the remnants of the Gardeners cult and the Maddaddam hackers have teamed up to try to survive the horrendous conditions post-Waterless Flood together. Ren and Toby, the main characters of The Year of the Flood, have managed to rescue Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They have also found Jimmy and the Crakers, from Oryx and Crake. The two groups of survivors are worried about the two remaining Painballers and incursions from the pigoons on their garden. They are also searching for Adam One, the leader of the Gardeners.

This novel again returns to the time of the other two, providing a look at events from the point of view of Zeb. Zeb has been a mysterious presence in both books, returning periodically to the Gardeners and going off again. Toby is so happy to see him after the long isolation following the Waterless Flood that she uncharacteristically bursts into tears. The story moves forward as Zeb, now Toby’s lover, tells her about his life with his brother Adam.

The novel is humorously punctuated with the stories Toby is telling to the Crakers. As Snowman-the-Jimmy is sick for the first part of the novel, Toby reluctantly takes up his role as the interpreter of the Crakers’ origins. She also befriends a young Craker boy named Blackbeard.

Maddaddam is touching and exciting, building to a battle between the surviving decent humans and the Painballers, with one side making an unlikely alliance with the clever pigoons, pigs with human DNA that were created during the manic gene-splicing days of the large drug companies. The aftermath of the battle is touchingly related by Blackbeard.

This trilogy is a profound one, about the evils of greed and rampant corruption, the perils of climate change, and the madness of one man who felt that the only solution was to wipe humans from the face of the earth and replace them with a gentler species. The third book is also about a group who understood where everything was going and did their best to save some of the people.

This series is great.

Day 557: The Year of the Flood

Cover for The Year of the FloodThe Year of the Flood covers much the same time period as does the first novel of the Maddaddam trilogy, Oryx and Crake, only from the points of view of different characters. What the two main characters of this novel have in common is the Gardeners, an ecological religious cult.

Years ago, Toby was a pleeblander attending a mediocre college until one of the Corporations wanted her father’s land. After her father’s questionable suicide, Toby destroyed her identity and got along as best she could in the margins of society. When she found herself captive in an abusive relationship with a thug named Blanco, her friend Rebecca and the Gardeners came to her rescue. At the beginning of the novel, though, Toby is living alone in the Anoo Yoo spa after the Waterless Flood, long predicted by the Gardeners.

Ren lived in the elite Compounds where her father was a drug industry worker until her mother ran off with Zeb, a Gardener, taking Ren with her. She spent most of her childhood with the Gardeners until her mother split from Zeb and moved back to the Compounds, claiming to be a kidnapping victim. Ren is in isolation at the sex club where she works when the Waterless Flood occurs. Being locked away from others saves her from the plague.

Both women find they must leave their sanctuaries and venture out into a deadly world, the unintended consequence of the madness of Crake.

The Year of the Flood provides more insight about the events leading up to the Flood and the identities of the group calling themselves Maddaddam. The novel is ironically punctuated by the homilies of Adam One, leader of the Gardeners, and by Gardener hymns.

This novel is fascinating, full of sly humor and an incredible inventiveness. I can’t wait to read Maddaddam.

Day 516: Oryx and Crake

Cover for Oryx and CrakeBest Book of the Week!
Snowman may be the last human left on earth after the plague. He is not alone, though, because nearby is a race of human-like beings that his friend Crake bioengineered. Snowman himself lives like a vagrant—wearing nothing but a sheet in the unbearable heat from global warming, scrounging through the detritus of a lost civilization for food.

Snowman soon realizes that he will starve if he doesn’t return to the compounds for food. Not long before, he lived in a world where the privileged workers for the biochemical industry and their families lived apart in their own secure compounds. The other people, called pleeblanders, could fend for themselves. Gene splicing to create new species was rampant without regard for any consequences, and greed and consumerism all-important.

As Snowman makes his journey, he recalls his childhood with an embittered mother and oblivious father and his long friendship with Crake. Most fondly he remembers Oryx, the love of his life. Through these memories we learn how the world got into this dire situation.

This novel is both inventive and absorbing. Although Atwood’s descriptions of the pre-plague world with its abominations of nature seem comic at times, they are still horribly believable. This is dark humor with a knife edge about a world that has lost its sanity.

Oryx and Crake is the first of a trilogy, and I am looking forward to reading the other two volumes.