A Book Devoured: Review of The MadAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood
Friday, March 7, 2014
When I get into book series, I become very very focused. I cannot stop reading the series until I am done, so that's why I am writing this review as a summation of the series, rather than boring you all with three different book review posts!
The MadAddam trilogy by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, is over 10 years in the making and contains content ripped straight from modern headlines. As in her other dystopian novels like The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood weaves a cautionary story of a post-apocalyptic world that is eerily plausible.
In the near future, monopolistic corporations have taken over everything. Bio-engineered creatures like glow-in-the-dark rabbits and chickens grown without limbs or brains are the norm. The world is overpopulated, over-polluted and humanity is split between the seething, struggling masses in the "pleebs" and the gated, pristine communities of the "compounds". It is from the latter that super genius Crake is born and his mission to correct humanity's faults will change everything.
How the world ended and why Jimmy survived is the basis of the first book, Oryx and Crake. As a protagonist, Jimmy is more of an anti-hero in my opinion. Jimmy is lazy, needy and a womanizer and his mission in life seems to be to get drunk and laid as much as possible. All these characteristics makes hims a dubious guardian to the "Crakers," a new species of human genetically engineered by his BFF Crake to inherit the Earth. Alone, starving, and struggling to act as prophet to the newly born Crakers, Jimmy's present is a slow descent into insanity from dealing with the pressures of surviving the death of every person on Earth.
Yet Jimmy is not as alone as he believes. There are other survivors and their story is picked up in the second and third books. In The Year of the Flood and MadAddam, we're introduced to Ren, Amanda, Toby and Zeb, who are all part of a group of quasi-religious environmentalists called God's Gardeners. Incidentally, two of these characters are also ex-girlfriends of Jimmy's and it is this part of the book that I find most annoying, as it seems highly implausible that so many of the survivors of Earth could be his ex-lovers. Sure, a guy can get around, but that much?
In the rest of the series, the story depicts how each of these new characters has survived thus far. Year of the Flood is my least favourite of the series as it tells the story of the God's Gardeners. Not only is the story of the God's Gardeners kinda boring, but each chapter is separated by a series of hymns supposedly sung by the Gardeners. All the hymns just interrupt the flow of the story and seem a bit self-indulgent to me. Apparently there's even a CD with all the hymns put to music! Why anyone would want that is beyond me.
Things pick up though in the last book where the story ditches the Gardeners and turns to the more interesting circumstances of present day. It is in MadAddam that we're introduced to Zeb, brother of Adam, the founder of the God's Gardeners. Zeb is the perfect kind of bad-ass, giving no F's kind of character that you love to root for and his story of becoming the leader of MadAddam, the activist offshoot of God's Gardeners is quite satisfying to read. Also in MadAddam, the readers learn more about the Crakers and the pigoons, a highly intelligent race of bio-engineered pigs. All this, plus a war with two murderously insane ex-cons and you've got a great way to conclude a series.
Overall, if you're a fan of Atwood and sci-fi, then this series will be really entertaining for you. I found these books to be faster paced than other Atwood novels and less abstract in that you actually get some answers on how some things came to be. Be warned though: upon reading this series, you may just find yourself signing online petitions against GMO foods and stocking up on organic survival gear.
See more of my recommended reads on GoodReads.