Maddaddam: The Story Never Really Ends

Maddaddam

Maddaddam

I’ve promised this one for a while – and I finished this book a while back but I really wanted it to sink in before I wrote this blog. That’s how much I love this book and the trilogy as a whole. Bravo, Margaret Atwood, bravo.

I’m actually sad that it’s over. I could happily read more of this world and its characters – who knows, maybe it’ll happen? – but I doubt I’ll get the chance. There is a definite ending here, which is a whole different conversation (one I’ll discuss in the future, I’ve just decided). It’s been an interesting journey starting with Oryx and Crake, continuing with The Year of the Flood and now ending with Maddaddam. The latter is why you’re here, of course, so let’s get on with it.

Feel free to catch up with my thoughts on Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, first. Also, there will be spoilers, later. Another warning will help you divert attention if you haven’t finished it yet.

This one does pick off from where we left off

Unlike with The Year of the Flood, which takes place at roughly the same time as Oryx and Crake, Maddaddam picks up more or less right after. You could almost argue that it’s not a sequel to The Year of the Flood alone but Oryx and Crake as well.

Toby continues to serve as our narrator and protagonist now, although Jimmy isn’t out of it totally, but his use is limited. You’ll remember this from the previous books and discover how he fares as you read on. Also, as with most first person stories, there’s a fair amount of bias in Maddaddam. In The Year of the Flood, Toby was fairly even and neutral but that’s changed now there are other people around and Zeb returns.

She does get a bit whiny at times but I can’t say I’m not sympathetic to her. You’ll have to let me know if you agree.

Other than that, this book is written as skilfully as the others. There isn’t a moment in any three of them that I didn’t enjoy. Once you get past the fragmentation and accustomed to the characters, it flows fantastically. You won’t even remember how clunky and confusing it was at the beginning after a while.

It’s even more fragmented

Yeah, you heard me. Both books before this were fragmented with events that happened before and events happening then. It was easily to become lost and confused with Jimmy’s and Toby’s thoughts, memories and current events.

Maddaddam goes a bit further. Here, we learn the story of Zeb throughout the book. That might not sound much different or more complicated than the others but there’s more. This story runs alongside the main one, so we’re used to that by now but following each section of Zeb’s story is a retelling of that part to the Crakers.

And there are changes.

This is a big clue to Toby’s frame of mind and character – a bigger clue than any other. Don’t glaze over these parts too because it all adds up to something in the end, which is important to all three books.

Are these spoilers?

The search for Adam One is a big part of this book and if you don’t know already, you’ll learn for definite who he actually is along the way. Is he dead or alive, though? I won’t tell you that.

While survival is still important, we are given more information about the daily life of the survivors and the things they have to deal with. This is always exciting, it’s Zeb’s story which provides more of that – along with plenty of laughs. Maddaddam will reunite old friends, kindle hope and also break your hearts. Be prepared for some emotional goodbyes because after all the work the survivors put in, this isn’t a perfect happily ever after.

It’s a satisfying conclusion all around and it shows that just because the story ends, the world does not. That’s one of the things I like most about stories – they live on in our imaginations long after the words have ended. When there are questions to be answered, we’re even more intrigued. I will return to this topic later, it’s an interesting one. For now, however, go read this book – and the others too!

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Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake

I’m an avid sci-fi fan. It was my favourite genre growing up, and while that has given way to fantasy as I’ve gotten older, I’m always on the lookout for good science fiction novels. During my third year of university, I studied a module looking at medical ethics within writing. It was very “sciencey” – yes, not a word, but it is the word used to describe the module to me – but the module was rooted in reality. One of the books on the reading list was Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. I was dubious at first, but this has since become one of my favourite books out of three years at university.

Some will call it science-fiction – and there is enough in there to classify it in that genre. The best term I’ve heard is speculative fiction, as this is something that could possibly happen in the future. This can be said of any science fiction story but some hit a bit closer to home because of the technologies and research being done at the time of writing, and this where Oryx and Crake crosses that line. Genetic modifications and manipulations, a strong underlying theme throughout the book, is in the news quite often anyway. That brings a sense of realism to the story. There’s more, but that would spoil the book.

I enjoyed the flow but it is fragmented. Your protagonist, Snowman, will take you into his past to set up the world the reader is first presented with. There are a lot of questions that are answered as you go through the story, and more questions that are left to your own imagination. Once you get past the change in time frames, there is a good flow to the story. You are given the end of the story at the beginning, and throughout this era, you will go through the events leading to it. It works well, but you need to stick with it, as there are a lot of names thrown at you in short spaces of time and they all have a role to play. Atwood uses everything meticulously. If not, there’s a reason, and I’ll get to that later.

Despite the science-fiction or speculative fiction genre, there is not much in the way of technical talk. Snowman is not a scientist and this shows through with his wording and characterisation. Rather than technical talk which might be more befitting the story and genre, there are much longer and unnecessary words. It really separates Snowman from the story, situation and genre all in one without losing anything. Brilliant.

I found the world addictive; it was fantastically descriptive but left me wanting more at every time. This is why The Year of the Flood was a bit of a saving grace for me. It is set in the same world as Oryx and Crake, but from different perspectives. The changing perspectives mixed with different time frames can disrupt the flow again, but it actually works well. It gives a much fuller account and the characters, places and events all tie in. It’s fantastic, but there will be more on that in a future post.

Overall, I love this book. It’s a great “what if” story and world, which is feasible in some small way – although you hope it definitely wouldn’t happen. Combine Oryx and Crake with The Year of the Flood and you get a whole new view of the same story. Excellent planning and I’d love more to come in this world.

Update: Read about The Year of the Flood and Maddaddam in these posts.