Book Review: MaddAddam

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Now what have I done? she thinks. What can of worms have I opened? They’re so quick, these children: they’ll pick this up and transmit it to all the others. What comes next? Rules, dogmas, laws? The Testament of Crake? How soon before there are ancient texts they feel they have to obey but have forgotten how to interpret? Have I ruined them?

MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam continues the same themes begun in Oryx and Crake and continued in The Year of the Flood. It’s both a continuation and parallel story of the previous novels. We learn about Zeb and Adam and the beginnings of the God’s Gardeners and Crake, when he used to be Glenn.

To be honest, I didn’t think MaddAddam added much to the trilogy. In comparison to the first two books, I didn’t learn much that was new, but I guess that’s to be expected. I did like that the last book focused on Zeb and Toby, since they were my favourite characters. The relationship between levelheaded, pragmatic Toby and playful, clever Zeb is kind of a cliche, but looking back, the series as a whole is stuffed with cliched romances.

If I wrote a paper about MaddAddam, it would definitely be about one of two topics: language or gender roles. The power of language, both oral and written, is not so subtly highlighted. Storytelling is a sacred act, not only for the Crakers, who avidly listen to Jimmy, then to Toby, but also for the MaddAddamites, including Toby herself. She functions as both a storyteller to the Crakers and the audience for Zeb’s retelling of his past.

And most importantly, Toby writes. She chronicles her days, counting it as the reason she maintained her sanity when alone in the AnooYoo spa, recording all of the God’s Gardeners’ holidays. She passes writing down to Blackbeard, a Craker child who is naturally curious but also clever. Once Blackbeard begins to write, Toby worries that she has led the Crakers to the downfall, that with the invention of writing they’ll succumb to the same dangers as humans before them.

The end of the story is narrated by Blackbeard, and it’s apparent that he’s realized the power of language. He proposes several endings for Toby’s story, and decides on one as being the truth because it is the least sad. Toby’s gift of language gives the Crakers originality of thought, which wasn’t bestowed on them by their creator, Crake.

The use of gender roles in the novel also got me thinking about how far gender roles are embedded into us. Even though their world has literally experienced an apocalypse, some of the surviving humans still perpetuate gender roles and even rape culture. Swift Fox complains that Amanda doesn’t pull her share of the work, even though her lack of effort is a result of depression after being raped.

Even though Crake programmed the Crakers to be unable to experience romance or jealousy, I thought that the novel hints that the Crakers will soon develop these feelings of their own, when, near the end, Blackbeard compares the Gardeners’ marriage ceremony to his own flower giving ceremony. Maybe this hints that romance, jealousy, and gender roles are all inevitable, especially after contamination from those who have already experienced them.

YES OR NO?: YES. Like many third books of trilogies, MaddAddam is simply not as strong as its predecessors. However, if you enjoyed the earlier books, and especially if you were annoyed by the incessant pining in The Year of the Flood, I’d recommend this. It could have been more concise, with less shown of the Crakers and their sometimes mind-numbing blandness, but overall, it’s a decent end to a worthwhile trilogy.

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