Monday, August 5, 2019

Review of MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

Snowman the Jimmy, Snowman the Jimmy, it’s such a pleasantly off-kilter name I can’t help but smile to myself every time I hear it. The Crakers, their car freshener body odor, periods of blue libido, and purr-healing providing a backdrop that only exacerbates the oddity. Snowman the Jimmy fits right in. And still MaddAddam (2013), third and concluding volume in Margarat Atwood’s Ory and Crake trilogy, manages to strike at the heart of the real humanity at stake in large chunks of contemporary socio-economic and technological reality.

MaddAddam picks up where events of each of the two previous novels left off. With Snowman the Jimmy (), it’s literally with the injury he had at the end of Oryx and Crake. In need of care, he gets it from Toby and Ren, the two women who had started a small community of humans and Crakers at the end of The Year of the Flood. Nursing the man back to health, the group try to rebuild some semblance of normal life in a world still threatened by painballers.

But while a dovetailing of the two prior novels’ narratives, MaddAddam likewise delves into the lives of Zeb and Adam in the same fashion as Oryx, Crake, Jimmy, Ren, and Toby’s in the previous novels. It echoes the methodology: Zeb’s and Adam One’s stories oscillate between past and present, their backstories filled in and the reader learns how their lives influence the small community building around the Crakers, Zeb, Ren, and Snowman the Jimmy ().

A lot of the previous two Oryx and Crake novels have been about juxtaposing dystopian and utopian ideas. The world collapsing economically and socially in the wake of corporate greed and human vice, the dystopian half of the picture has been clearly defined by Atwood. The utopian side, however, is where a fair amount of exploring has happened. The Crakers, particularly their innocence in the face of catastrophe, their extreme empathy, their desire to love and heal and extoll pleasure has gone a long way toward defining the opposite extreme. In Maddaddam, Atwood brings the two opposing (?) ideals closer together, I daresay indirectly stating the trilogy's position.

Among the oodles and oodles of post-apocalyptic fiction which has emerged the past decade, MaddAddam closes the Oryx and Crake trilogy to position it among the elite. Braiding together events in the first two novels and pushing them ahead in interesting, engaging fashion (Snowman the Jimmy!), Atwood’s concept feels complete as the world she created shifts into another phase. (Though, to be fair, I never thought she would return to A Handmaid’s Tale, and yet The Testaments will be released this year.) Thus, for readers who enjoyed the previous Oryx and Crake novels, there should be no hesitation picking up MaddAddam as it complements, evolves, and helps define the vision in highly readable fashion.

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