Saturday, March 8, 2014

"MaddAddam" by Magaret Atwood

MaddAddam is the culmination of Atwood's trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake, a book I believe I read on my way to my first job interview nearly 10 years ago. MaddAddam culminates the story by following a small group of survivors living together after Crake wiped out most of humanity in the first novel. This third book picks up characters from the previous two, especially the second book--The Year of the Flood--and it also retraces events from the earlier novels from different perspectives.

Familiarity with the other novels is somewhat a two-edged sword. Though I've read both, I have very little memory of either, particularly the second (I appreciated that both novels were briefly recapped in summaries before the beginning of this book). So when events were retold or characters reappeared, I had a sense I should have been feeling "a-ha" moments of new understanding--instead, it was just a story. On the other hand, I could see where it might be dull to read a new book that is mostly a rehash of what already happened. In fact, most of the novel takes place in flashbacks as Zeb recalls his upbringing with his brother Adam.

In the present day setting of the novel, relatively little happens. Former God's Gardener Toby is living with the other human survivors. With them is Jimmy--Crake's friend from books 1 and 2--as well as the Crakers, simple-minded and pure human-like creations of Crake (also see books 1 and 2). The group is busy building up their compound and keeping themselves safe from things like the Pigoons (vicious pig hybrids) and Painballers (humans who had survived killing matches back in the day). But mostly the book follows the day-to-day, including Toby's burgeoning relationship with Zeb.

One area that particularly bothered me (spoiler alert): The book begins with Toby and others searching for Amanda, who has been captured and raped by the Painballers. They are reunited and discover themselves among the Crakers. The Crakers mate much like animals--they're aware when a female is in heat and they pursue (and are happily accepted by the females) accordingly. So, when the Crakers come upon Amanda and the other women, they (innocently) assume the women are open for procreation and have sex with them. We learn at the end of the novel that Amanda, Ren, and Lotis Blue were impregnated from that evening with the Crakers.

Okay, so these women are raped by the Crakers. Yes, the human-like beings had no malicious intent, but does that change what happened to the women? Yet the fact or implications of such rape are never mentioned. The women seem totally cool with it--yes, Amanda's emotionally troubled, but it's made clear that solely because of what the Painballers did. The women would have been fighting and protesting--something else that seems rather hurried over since everything appears to happen in seconds, and I really don't know how that could work--and (not to be crude) the Crakers have huge penises, yet it's dismissed as a simple misunderstanding. The women seem equally and inexplicably cool with having the children as well. I'm not saying the Crakers should have been punished or anything, but for such events to be glossed over seemed problematic.

Otherwise, I thought the most interesting part of the novel was the Crakers and their growing understanding of the world they've been created in to. The book wasn't nearly as interesting as Oryx and Crake, but it concludes the trilogy appropriately.

No comments:

Post a Comment