Book Review: Maddaddam – Margaret Atwood

November 20, 2013
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No spoilers!

In 2003, Margaret Atwood published the critically acclaimed and wildly inventive Oryx and Crake, a madcap, speculative romp into the possibilities of our genetically wacked-out future. And in 2009, she followed it up with the equally darkly hilarious Year of the Flood. Now, as 2013 welcomes in the autumn, Atwood concludes the trilogy with MaddAddam, a delightful, bittersweet finale to what’s become my favorite novel (collectively). The third novel continues Atwood’s dark exploration into our own technological and scientific hubris, while bringing it to a lovely, spine-tingling close.

Atwood's latest foray into Dystopia

For those of you who’ve never read the trilogy, don’t be like those jerks that think they can just jump in in the middle of the story. Atwood makes sure that even a chapter missed is a vital detail lost, so make sure to read each novel closely. Minor characters come back to alter the narrative in massive ways, and each page has at least one poetic gem ripped from colloquial language. My advice? Start from the beginning of Oryx and Crake and don’t stop till the final pages of MaddAddam are flitting through your fingertips.

Although the novels are speculative fiction, and borrow heavily from the dystopian and science fiction genres, the trilogy is a purely new invention in its approach. A seasoned sci-fi nerd, or someone who’s read Brave New World a thousand times (like me) will note similarities, but Atwood’s novels stand alone. It’s still good to have an idea from where the novels derive, though, so as to fully appreciate her message.

All three books comment heatedly and with dark humor on the growing obsession with science in our society. The first novel introduces all kinds of possible, horrifying splices, and the second focuses on neo-hippies trying to stem the tide of nightmarish changes to the ecological landscape. I won’t say what happens, but I will say that anyone looking for an incredibly keen look at one super likely future, rife with apathy towards the arts and nature, should look no further. And, bonus, the trilogy is not hard sci-fi (Atwood herself has distanced herself from such a moniker), so everyday folks can enjoy it the same way they’d enjoy a bestseller, but with enlightening changes of perspective that are unavoidable. MaddAddam is well worth the trek through the first two books, and may even inspire you to relive Oryx and Crake to find clues Atwood so cleverly makes sure to hide.

The trilogy is infectiously good, and should enter the canon with 1984, Brave New World, We, Fahrenheit 451, and Atwood’s own The Handmaid’s Tale. Just like with those novels, reading these books will make you realize how far we’ve yet to fall, but how close we may already be.

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