Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Maddaddam, Margaret Atwood

What a thrill for me, to have an opportunity so early in the existance of this blog to share an author I have never written about yet truly enjoy, with the release of her most recent book! Margaret Atwood is an incredible writer, who has truly changed the way I read. She effortlessly creates such complete dystopias, from the classic stand-alone novel The Handmaid's Tale, to the trilogy that Maddaddam finishes.

“There's the story, then there's the real story, then there's the story of how the story came to be told. Then there's what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too.”

Maddaddam is a spellbindingly deep dystopia. The world has been ravaged by a devastating virus created by the mastermind Crake, wiping out humanity with a flood-like efficiency to clear the way for Crake's newest bio-engineered creation, the dangerously naive "Crakers." The few human survivors of the plague are a ragtag ensemble of former bio-engineers, God's-Gardiners (a farming co-op that takes the idea of hippy culture to an almost Jainist level), and Pleeblanders. Threatened by the violence and untrustworthiness of other potential survivors and their weaponry, as well as the dangers of wildlife, including bioengineered creatures like liobams and Pigoons, the group of survivors that came together in Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood are left trying to protect themselves and the Crakers, whose simplicity and youthfulness makes them such easy targets.

This installment is a delicious ode to the power of storytelling, as former Gardiner Toby regales the Crakers with the histories of the plague, as well as their own creation, continuing from where Oryx and Crake's Snowman left off. She is bound by their deeply religious understanding of how the world as they know it came to be, as well as their painful reverence of Crake and Oryx. How to tell them the damage Crake's machinations truly created, without upsetting their sensibilities? How to tell them anything, when they were created without concepts like ownership, writing, or even sexual control. The story telling becomes very mythological and darkly comic, as Toby is intermittently offering poignant reasonings for the very things we take so for granted as parts of 'human nature.'

There is so much beauty in the interactions between the survivors of the plague and the Crakers; even within the dark end-of-the-world circumstances, the community that has come together shares food, shelter, and attempts to move forward with love. Couples bond, women become pregnant, and despite a narrative delving so deep into such a tragic past, the tone of this trilogy's conclusion is one of bittersweet hope.

Margaret Atwood has concocted an incredibly full future setting, bursting with creative nunaces and details. Atwood's acknowledgements at the end of the novel include the following:

"Although ‘MaddAddam’ is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies or bio-beings that do not already exist, are not under construction or are not possible in theory.”

Now isn't that terrifying! This novel is set within our own century, and if that doens't make you savor every fine detail of this trilogy, nothing will. When fiction can participate in conversations about future technologies and bio-engineering ethics so insightfully, it is our responsibility to take note, especially when presented to us so respectfully by the prolific Margaret Atwood!

Atwood is always razor sharp, but in Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam, her darkly comic insights pack the pages, offering so much for discussion. Maybe you'll think twice about what's in that wrinkle preventative skin cream you use nightly, or read more about the preservatives in your food. Not to be too morbid, but this is the effect good fiction should have. Techies, science enthusiasts, literature lovers, all can unite in this brilliant dystopia creation!

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