The final part of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy brings together the bioengineered Crakers from Oryx and Crake and the eco-religious cult known as God’s Gardeners from The Year of the Flood. Picking up from where both of these books end after the human race has been almost entirely wiped out by a man-made plague, Toby takes centre stage once again, leading the small community of survivors along with Zeb, a mysterious minor character from ‘The Year of the Flood’.
The third parts of trilogies tend to climax with some sort of prolonged epic battle but an author as innovative as Atwood doesn’t provide her readers with anything as predictable as this. Rather than building up tension for a big showdown, ‘MaddAddam’ is a much more subdued book than I was expecting, mostly because much of the book is taken up with filling in the characters’ back stories, recapping events which had already happened from alternative perspectives. As a result, there is much less momentum in terms of plot compared to the previous volumes. Although we learn more about Zeb and his brother Adam (the founder of the God’s Gardeners), I had been hoping to hear more about Jimmy/Snowman from ‘Oryx and Crake’ but it turns out he is unconscious for most of this book while he is nursed back to health by Toby.
On the other hand, I enjoyed seeing how the characters adapt and exist in their new post-apocalyptic reality and Atwood continues her satirical critique of corporate control with a near-perfect balance between bleakness and humour. As she reminds us in the acknowledgements section, “Although MaddAddam is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies or biobeings that do not already exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory.” Without wanting to give too much away, the book concludes on a relatively hopeful note with the cautionary message that life will probably go on, just not as we know it, and not necessarily with us in it if modern lifestyles and developments in technology continue on their current path.
For me, ‘MaddAddam’ is a mixed conclusion to the trilogy, although I think this has a lot to do with the long gaps I’ve left between reading each part. The summary of ‘Oryx and Crake’ and ‘The Year of the Flood’ at the beginning of my copy of ‘MaddAddam’ helped refresh my memory, but I wonder if reading the three books all in one go would be a more immersive and satisfying experience for the reader.