In the MaddAddam trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam), Margaret Atwood paints a unique, dispiriting, but beautiful near-future apocalypse. Most humans are dead, intentionally wiped out by rogue genetic scientists, and the survivors spend the three books trying to make sense of this new world, while fighting to stay alive. With them are an assortment of fantastical genetically modified creatures and the hangovers of a rampant consumerism and religiosity that echoes our own. The NYT describes MaddAddam’s brilliance more eloquently than I can: “Atwood’s ingenious trilogy lights a fire from the fears of our age, then douses it with hope for the planet’s survival. But that survival may not include us.”
I love these books, without apology or reservation. For me, for all the brilliance of the world she has created, it’s Atwood’s characters which make the books and ultimately helps the reader to buy into the message. There are the Children of Crake, created to be live peacefully and without impacting on the environment, and their conflicted but heroic protector Snowman/Jimmy. There’s wise Toby, the refugee from the “Pleeblands” who unites the survivors and wins Zeb’s heart (you’ll love Zeb too). Their responses to a world that could so easily be our own is equal parts terrifying, heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Margaret Atwood has a delightful habit of turning up in my life at unexpected but formative moments. The Handmaid’s Tale was prescribed reading at university when I was still working out how I felt about feminism (I mean, I think I’ve always been in favour but I spent some time thinking about how and why it fitted into my life). A few years later, when I was trying to work out how to engage with Twitter in an intelligent and open way (see me failing at this daily here), there she was again: funny, political and open-hearted. Early in 2014, when I put a call out online for book recommendations with a science fiction bent, Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy was one of the first suggestions and I am so glad. Even if SciFi’s not really your thing, I really recommend these books.