MaddAddam

Margaret Atwood. Doubleday/Talese, $27.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-385-52878-8
The final entry in Atwood’s brilliant MaddAddam trilogy roils with spectacular and furious satire. The novel begins where Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood end, just after most of the human species has been eradicated by a man-made plague. The early books explore a world of terrifying corporate tyranny, horrifying brutality, and the relentless rape of women and the planet. In Oryx and Crake, the pandemic leaves wounded protagonist Jimmy to watch over the Crakers, a humanoid species bioengineered to replace humankind by the man responsible for unleashing the plague. In The Year of the Flood, MaddAddamites wield science to terrorize corporate villains while God’s Gardeners use prayer and devotion to the Earth to prepare for the approaching cataclysm. Toby, a God’s Gardener and key character in the second book, narrates the third installment, in which a few survivors, including MaddAddamites, God’s Gardeners, Jimmy, and the Crakers, navigate a postapocalyptic world. Toby is reunited with Zeb, her MaddAddamite romantic interest in Year of the Flood, and the two become leaders and defenders of their new community. The survivors are a traumatized, cynical group with harshly tested self-preservation skills, but they have the capacity for love and self-sacrifice, which in a simpler story would signal hope for the future of humankind. However, Atwood dramatizes the importance of all life so convincingly that readers will hesitate to assume that the perpetuation of a species as destructive as man is the novel’s central concern. With childlike stubbornness, even the peaceful Crakers demand mythology and insist on deifying people whose motives they can’t understand. Other species genetically engineered for exploitation by now-extinct corporations roam the new frontier; some are hostile to man, including the pigoons—a powerful and uniquely perceptive source of bacon and menace. Threatening humans, Crakers, and pigoons are Painballers—former prisoners dehumanized in grotesque life-or-death battles. The Crakers cannot fight, the bloodthirsty Painballers will not yield, and the humans are outnumbered by the pigoons. Happily, Atwood has more surprises in store. Her vision is as affirming as it is cautionary, and the conclusion of this remarkable trilogy leaves us not with a sense of despair at mankind’s failings but with a sense of awe at humanity’s barely explored potential to evolve. Agent: Phoebe Larmore, Larmore Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/10/2013
Release date: 09/03/2013
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