Book Review: Maddaddam Trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, Maddaddam) by Margaret Atwood

These are the first books I’ve read by Margaret Atwood and I am certainly going to look for more. They are about a pre- and post-apocalyptic world where the apocalypse is driven by genetics run amok. As with most dystopian novels they have the potential to become thoroughly depressing, but what is exceptional about these is that they are saved by excellent tongue-in-cheek writing and great characters. The world may be falling apart, but the people in the middle of it somehow manage to see the irony.

My advice is that you read them one after the other. I had a gap of several weeks, and several other novels, between the first and second. I was able to catch up for the most part, but people and situations show up in The Year of the Flood that tie back to Oryx and Crake in ways that are fairly subtle so it’s better to come read them close together. You definitely want to read them sequentially.

The first two novels in the series are flashbacks back and forth over the same span of time from the point of view of different characters. They start to tie together toward the end and both end up at the same climax but from different points of view. The third then carries on the story past that climax.

I don’t like to rehash the story in a review because, after all, you can read the novels, and there’s always the danger of giving something away. But in a nutshell, the book is about the worst parts of human nature colliding with out of control genetic engineering in a way that destroys most of mankind, the waterless flood. The exceptions are the few people who escape the disease that ravishes the planet, and the Crakers, a new breed of people intended by their creator to be the replacement for mankind.

There is a lot of flashing back and forth between the world leading up to the apocalypse and the world afterward in the first two novels. There is plenty to get depressed about because the negative view of human nature is all too believable for anyone who watches the world around himself with any degree of intelligence. There is also plenty to laugh about at how absurd it all is as the characters realize what they’re caught up in but also know they are pretty much helpless to do anything about it.

The best example of the writing is the one I gave in an earlier review of Oryx and Crake, so I’ll repeat it here. It h

“Crake allotted the special piss to men only, he said they’d need something important to do, something that didn’t involve child bearing, so they wouldn’t feel left out. Woodworking, hunting, high finance, war and golf would no longer be options, he’d joked.”

You can go back and read the other review if you want more discussion of the story in the first novel. But my advice is that you skip that and get the books. For myself, I’m going to go out and find some other books by Margaret Atwood to read.


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