MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the conclusion to the MaddAddam trilogy, a book I anticipated so highly I bought it in hardcover (signed!) and on audio. It concludes the science fictional series about a world so corrupt, it deserved to be wiped out by its own tools.
MaddAddam starts right where The Year of the Flood left off, which Ren, Toby, Amanda and Jimmy in the woods with the Crakers and the Painballers. They go back to their refuge and attempt to treat Jimmy's high fever and severely infected foot, while Toby quietly pines for Zeb, and the rest of humanity that remains tries to find purpose.
The story is told through Toby's perspective, with interjections from Zeb, as related to Toby. These sections often echoed techniques from The Blind Assassin, and effectively so. We're never told how the characters are interacting, but we get a good look into what's going on by the dialogue framing them.
There are also some sections, toward the end, narrated by one of the Crakers. Blackbeard (and the irony of Crakers' never growing body hair is noted by Toby) spends a lot of time with the humans, picking up some of their quirks and becoming a translator, both figuratively and literally. Only the Crakers can understand the pigouns who invade the humans' settlement, and so Blackbeard is called upon to serve as their bridge. Meanwhile, it is he who inherits the important task of telling a story and shushing the singing until the right moment. It lends a fascinating perspective to the human themes within the book.
The book's pace is meandering, reflecting the lethargy of the humans who have found themselves on the winning side and made no plans for what happens afterwards. The conflict is far removed until the last few chapters. Even then, the most exciting part is reflected upon by Blackbeard, who doesn't even fully understand violence or anger. His detached, euphemistic narration is perfect for those final sections, though, as he transitions the reader to the new world created by Crake.
That is not to say the pacing is boring, though. There's plenty to keep a reader entertained along the way. If the poetic writing doesn't grab you, there's the mystery of Zeb, perhaps the most enigmatic of characters in the trilogy. There's the question of what's going to happen to humanity, and what the humans are going to eat when their supplies run out. There's humor within the narrative, most of it Zeb's dry wit or Toby's reactions to the Crakers. There are some new mysteries, and leftover ones from the previous two books. There's the hope of Jimmy's recovery, even if he does represent everything the God's Gardeners hoped wouldn't survive the waterless flood.
As the book wound itself up, I could feel only grief. The ending was perfect: melancholy yet hopeful, and in keeping with the tone of the books. But finishing it meant I didn't have any more of it to read. I can always reread, but I can never discover those words again for the first time.
I listened to MaddAddam on audio. Toby's narrator was the same as in The Year of the Flood, with new narrators for Zeb and Blackbeard. They all narrated crisply, though Zeb's narrator often sounded annoyed when he had no reason to be. Blackbeard's did a good job of capturing the boy's wide-eyed innocence and the competence inherent to his species.
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