I’ve just finishing the 3rd book in Margaret Atwood’s trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake (2003), continued with The Year of the Flood (2009) and finally concluded with MaddAddam (2013). Individually great stories but together, an exceptional epic story. Atwood has an amazing, imaginative and complex mind and this certainly comes out in her stories. I must say how much I respect her as a writer. She’s brilliant.
The first book, Oryx and Crake sets the scene for the other books. It begins in the aftermath of a devastating global pandemic (quite apt given recent circumstances with Covid-19) and is told from the perspective of a man named Snowman, who wears a bedsheet and lives in a tree by a lake. A strange ‘tribe’ of people known as Crakers appear to idolize him and seek guidance from him.
The story moves back and forth in time from present day post apocalypse, with Snowman telling the Crakers stories of the mythical Oryx and Crake who are seen as their creators and god like beings, and past times when Snowman was known by the name Jimmy. His parents worked for a science research company that made genetically engineered hybrid animals capable of growing extra organs (hearts, kidneys etc.) for transplant into humans.
We follow Jimmy’s life from his school / university days during which time his mother becomes disillusioned with the work that her company is doing and leaves both her job and Jimmy’s father and disappears. It is believed that she may be working for some underground subversive movement. Jimmy meets a very intelligent fellow student who calls himself Crake who is quite brilliant at both mathematics and science. They share an interest in online gaming and pornography. Jimmy’s passion though are words, so while Crake lands himself a top job in the science field, Jimmy ends up working in advertising. However they keep in touch and eventually their paths cross again when Crake offers Jimmy a job, at the company he works for, to promote a new pill called BlyssPluss which is meant to enhance both male and female libido, but also had a number of unrevealed side effects, one of which was to make the taker sterile. So you’ll have an amazingly multi-orgasmic sexual experience, but thereafter be incapable of reproduction.
Crake was also in command of a special secret experiment to produce genetically engineered ‘perfect’ humans. This all happened in a high security dome called Paradice, which was a secure home for this new breed of humans who Crake, never one for modesty, named after himself as Crakers.
I don’t want to give too much of the storyline away, because I don’t want to spoil things for you. There are many things that unfold during the story. One thing to bear in mind though is that all of the science involved is factual, is being done, or can be done, or at least in theory can be done. That in its self is quite a scary thought. Anyway it becomes clear who, why and how a major pandemic was released on an unsuspecting public…..and why Jimmy becomes Snowman, living in a tree, wearing a bedsheet and acting as some sort of guru for this new breed of humans.
The second in the trilogy – The Year of the Flood – introduces us to a whole new cast of characters many of whom are members of a group of eco-warriors known as God’s Gardeners. Again the chapters shift between present day and past to bring us a new focus on the pandemic, about the way people live, the way that society seems to have sunk to an all time ethical low and about the multitude of genetically engineered animals, now common place.
The new characters are many but the main focus is on former or current members of God’s Gardeners and their wish to live as natural a life as possible without government interference. They soon find themselves on a list of undesirables and face persecution. We follow several of the characters, Ren, Toby, Zeb and Adam One being the primary ones and examine their relationships with one another and their reliance on one another when things turn bad.
The shit hits the fan and people are separated from their loved ones, no one seems to know who has or hasn’t survived and roving bands of bandits and wild animals test their survival skills.
Again I don’t want to get into the plot too much as I’d rather you read all 3 books and hopefully enjoy them as much as I did.
The final book MaddAddam skillfully brings the characters and the plot lines of both of the earlier books together in a climactic finale where you find yourself saying “Oh I see….that’s how they’re related”. There is a coming together of long separated characters, happiness, surprises, the tying up of a number of loose ends left dangling in previous stories, as well as unexpected death and destruction….of course there is death and destruction – it’s a dystopian novel.
It’s a kind of warning, I guess, as to the direction that humanity seems to be heading and how we somehow yearn for self destruction. BUT it’s also about resilience, about unification and respect between the species. Let me just say that you’ll never look at a bacon sandwich in the same way again.
And it’s also a warning about how the actions and perceptions of one mad scientist…or should I say Madd scientist….can change the world forever.
If you’re into dystopia, read and enjoy these three books. Again, thank you for reading my blog-post. Likes, shares, comments and re-posts are all very welcome.