I would have finished MaddAddam a lot faster if I hadn’t been camping last week. That’s okay. I didn’t mind spending more time with Margaret Atwood and her version of the future. I’m not sure that I’m going to end up having a whole lot to say about this book because there’s a lot more going on than I feel capable of/qualified to delve into from a literary criticism standpoint. There’s just so much social commentary and probably religious symbolism and that sort of thing that I don’t really know where to begin to truly write an educated-sounding review. But that’s not really my thing on PfP, that’s Bethany’s. So I’ll just tell you a bit about what I thought while I was reading it.
It was somehow appropriate that I read a good chunk of this book while I was miles away from cell phone reception, “roughing it” at a beautiful campground on the Sonoma-Mendocino coast. I felt pretty far away from civilization, though not as far away as the characters in MaddAddam are. The novel is told in a combination of flashbacks to the days before “the waterless flood,” as well as present-day action. I wish I knew what years all this stuff is supposed to happen in, because it seems like sort of the not too far distant future; I’d guess fifty years or so, maybe less. The more I read, the more creeped out I got because I could see hints of the present day evolving into this awfulness. In Atwood’s future, the gap between the rich and poor is even wider than it is now, and the middle class has essentially ceased to exist. The rich live in compounds owned by the giant corporations, and all their needs are taken care of inside the wall of the corporation (or corps) compounds (I feel like this is already starting to happen with Google and some of the other Silicon Valley companies), while the people who aren’t employed by the corps are relegated to the “pleeblands” outside, which sound like the worst possible slums. There’s also been loss of coastal land because of global warming (I assume): Santa Monica and New York are essentially underwater, along with other coastal cities. Many religions are “sponsored” by the corps, like Zeb and Adam’s father’s church, the Church of PetrOleum. They worship St. Peter, as well as oil….
In the present-day of the novel, the major conflict is between the remaining humans—the remnants of the MaddAddamites (they were the hackers on the front lines of the resistance against the status quo before the plague) and the God’s Gardeners (an anti-technology, back to the Earth, hippie-dippy cult led by a fellow known as Adam One. His half-brother, Zeb, is the leader of the MaddAddamites. They were on the same side in the struggle, though they had different ways of approaching the problem. Adam was for peace and harmony, while Zeb had a more aggressive philosophy. The brothers completely lose track of each other during the plague days, and Zeb deeply hopes that he will be able to locate Adam) are trying to protect themselves against the two remaining PainBallers on the loose, as well as those pigoons, who keep trying to break into their community and steal the vegetables. PainBall was a reality TV show in which prison inmates found guilty of violent crimes have to battle to the death. The reward for winning is a somewhat shortened sentence, and some prisoners elected to play in multiple “seasons” in order to further lessen their terms. It’s said that anyone who wins PainBall more than once has lost their sense of right and wrong and most of their humanity. They are cold-blooded killers, in essence, and they are gunning for our heroes. They also begin killing pigoon young, which causes the pigoons to want to form an alliance with the humans. Interestingly, the Crakers, or genetically engineered people who were immune to the plague, among other interesting attributes, including being able to live on an entirely herbivorous diet like a cow, and communicate telepathically with the pigoons, are instrumental in this alliance formation. The decisive battle reunites Zeb and Adam, which is a lovely scene of brotherly affection. The battle itself is not drawn out like some of the battles in The Last Town, the last book in the Wayward Pines trilogy, but then this is Margaret Atwood! She’s won the freaking Booker Prize. She doesn’t need to spend a hundred pages describing violence and death. I wouldn’t have minded a few more pages, though. Of course this fight scene is hardly crucial to the plot of the novel except it does give the reason for the pigoons, Crakers, and humans to begin to work together. But that fact is more important to everything that follows than the outcome of the fight.
I haven’t even mentioned Toby or Katrina WooWoo or Swift Fox or Ren…. There’s a lot that happens in this book, and the best part is that it all seems to make sense to me, as opposed to the events of the first book in this trilogy. I would love to go back and read all three of the books one right after the other and see if I enjoy Oryx & Crake more. I think I probably would. I would recommend the whole series to people who enjoy dystopian fiction, but not to people who didn’t enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale, or who aren’t fans of Margaret Atwood, because this is very much an Atwood series of novels. I am, of course, an Atwood fan from way back, since my old roommate Lauren first recommended I read The Handmaid’s Tale back in 1995 or 1996, so this book (and the entire trilogy, in fact) was right up my alley.
Next up for me is another “High Priority” hardcover purchase from the fall of 2013. What can I say? I’ve been busy….