‘Gender roles suck’, says Swift Fox.
Then you should stop playing them, thinks Toby.
MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood, pg.342
Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, MaddAddam, is an intriguing end to the amazing ‘MaddAddam Trilogy’ that began in 2003 with Oryx and Crake (you can read my review here) and The Year of the Flood in 2009 (review here). Following on from the events that occur simultaneously in the first two books, MaddAddam moves the plot further, telling of the imminent problems now facing the survivors of the man-made plague that has swept future-Earth, whilst also attempting to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.
Told mainly from the perspective of Toby, who we are introduced to in The Year of the Flood, we begin to understand more of how the world has been wiped out through the stories Zeb tells her of his extraordinarily eventful life. Zeb, as we remember, is a fellow God’s Gardener. We find out in MaddAddam that he is actually the brother of Adam One, the creator of the God’s Gardeners. They grew up together under the same household and both equally detested their cruel and abusive father. However, with Zeb’s advanced computer-hacking abilities and Adam’s careful planning, they are able to siphon off money from their father’s phoney Church of PetrOleam accounts and disappear – and yes, that is a church that worships oil.
‘Will this be a painful story? It’s likely: most stories about the past have an element of pain in them, now that the past has been ruptured so violently, so irreparably’.
MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood, pg.313
Toby hears, in detail, the numerous different identities Zeb took on until the moment they first meet at the God’s Gardeners. From a magician’s assistant in a floating pleebland to working on a Bearlift project airlifting left-over food to bears in the mountains, Zeb has done it all. However, it isn’t until he bis assigned to work undercover for a major corporation that his story begins to fit in with another story we are familiar with – that of Crake’s childhood. It is here that we begin to make the connections between Crake and the God’s Gardeners, which we were unable to do in the previous novel.
When I went to see Margaret Atwood give a talk about her latest novel a couple of months ago at the Southbank Centre, I remember she said that the reason why she didn’t choose to write from the perspective of Crake is because it is difficult to write from someone’s perspective without bringing them down to your own level. Crake is meant to be read as a larger than life, mythical character, therefore, we only ever really catch glimpses of him through the viewpoints of other characters.
There are some shocking revelations in MaddAddam which I didn’t expect and reinforces my view that Atwood is such a magnificent writer and thinker. I don’t want to give anything away of the turns and twists of this novel, but I do want to touch on the ending. The end of MaddAddam sees the peaceful unity between the Crakers, the bioengineered creatures Atwood has created and the remaining human survivors of the BlyssPluss Pill plague. They are living in a natural wilderness that has reclaimed the concrete jungle that once took its place. Although this scene appears very idyllic, I can’t help but read the ending with a sense of foreboding. Through my literature and history studies I have come to realise that idyllic, utopian states never last long. Already, the Crakers have started to show signs of creativity and idolisation that Crake tried desperately to do away with. It is with these thoughts in the back of my mind that makes me read the end of MaddAddam with the feeling that we are just witnessing the beginning of history repeating itself.