Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood
Maddaddam starts where Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood end. If you haven’t read those books yet, I recommend you put this one down and start with either of them. Like the first two, Maddaddam tells the current story with a lot of flashbacks to what happened before the world fell apart.
Toby and Zeb are the elders of the small community of survivors. She had been a God’s Gardener, a pacificist, until everything fell apart. She quickly learned to defend herself and the people with her. Now she is the only person in their group with a rifle. They also have a few spray guns for defense. Zeb had been a MaddAddamite, an eco-terrorist. He now has one of the spray guns and is the strongest in the group.
There are some painballers in the area – wicked men who like to take, rape, and kill. Toby and Zeb each take groups to look for other survivors, Zeb’s brother Adam, and the painballers’ location. Zeb returns with information. Toby returns with a comatose Snowman (from Oryx and Crake) and the Crakers. The Crakers are the genetically engineered human race that are herbivores and peaceful. Toby has to bring them back with her for fear of what the painballers would do to them.
The Crakers are innocents who cannot understand evil. When they first encounter a tied up painballer, they let him go because the ropes hurt him. They need to learn about dangerous humans. Snowman had told them stories before he got sick. Now they have Toby take on the ritual. They believe Crake and Oryx, their geneticist creators, are gods. They want to sing every time they hear Crake’s name. They do not understand any word that was not in the original dictionary Crake provided for them. As they demand the stories, Toby has to be prepared to explain words and concepts or change the story into a myth with a smoother picture. Zeb is their focus at the moment, so Toby has to learn Zeb’s stories and pass them on.
The small group know they have to confront the painballers. It’s not safe to go foraging away from their compound. Any of the women could be kidnapped again. Also, Zeb believes Adam is still out there. The community prepares for another battle as well as a search. They find some unlikely allies as they define their future in this apocalyptic world.
In the Maddaddam trilogy, Margaret Atwood looks at today’s technology and attitudes and asks herself “what if?”. She sees greed and selfishness combined with big business and scientific advances. She also sees honor and ethics combined with idealists and their followers. Atwood includes those people like Zeb who are a combination of selfishness and honorable – like most folks.
Maddaddam is realistic – in the right circumstances could come out of the news in just a few years. Atwood’s future looks bleak but still holds promise for the future. Her flawed characters strike chords with the reader, pulling the reader into her world.
The trilogy is also a cautionary story. If humans don’t monitor themselves, they could ruin the world. They can use our current science and technology to completely change the appearance of our existence.
Atwood uses Toby and Zeb as the focus of Maddaddam. She includes a third major character, a child Craker called Little Blackbeard. He is Atwood’s foil in showing the learning and growth of the Crakers as well as the hope for the future in both the Craker and human communities. Much of the language in the book is crass, more than needed in my opinion, but it helps shape the human characters as well as highlight the innocence of the Crakers.
Atwood’s book is a look at mankind’s current situation (and stupidity) and the real possibility of what could happen. While books like The Hunger Games, 1984, or Brave New World look far in the future, this trilogy could happen within the next few decades. Check out the books, winding up with a bit of hope in Maddaddam.
Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong language, Suggestive dialogue or situations