I first read Oryx and Crake 7 years ago, it was the first Margaret Atwood book I ever read and I was blown away. I went on to read more of her novels, loving that each of them are so very different from the last- well ok, they all usually have a post apocalyptic plot or some dystopian outlook.
I absent mindedly put MaddAddam on my ever growing list of books to read last year, not realizing it was the third book of the Oryx and Crake trilogy. A few weeks ago, I went to the library with a Sarah Waters book in mind which they ended up not having, and so I frantically googled ‘feminist fiction books’ (though Atwood does not identify as a feminist, let’s not even get into that) because I left my reading list at home and am hopeless without it. Margaret Atwood’s name came up and I moved over to the ‘A’s and saw they had The Year of the Flood- the second in the trilogy.
TYOTF was so good I sped through the 500 pages in 6 days. So ok, only a handful of those days were working days, and I had a lot of time to kill in the airport and on the flight to Munich., but it was so good I actually gave up a nap on holiday in favour of reading more!
This novel goes into the backstory of Oryx and Crake most of which I did not remember. It covers the lead up and aftermath of a Waterless Flood and details the movement of the God’s Gardener’s who worship plants and animals more than anything else and are led by Adam One.
It follows two main characters, Toby, a woman who is rescued from life in the ‘pleebs’ working in a fast food joint that serves a side of sexual abuse to its employees, and Ren, who joins the Gardeners as a little girl with her mom from the Corps, where they led a very plush and controlled lifestyle. I loved reading from Ren and Toby’s perspectives, I sometimes find with novels where it takes the perspective of two or more characters, there’s one character that feels like more of a chore to read than another, but this was not the case.
A great deal of the chapters covers the daily lives of the Gardeners, which I found fascinating. I thought, being a Gardener doesn't sound so bad, I agree with most of their principles like growing your own food and extreme creative recycling, however I’d draw the line at wearing smelly shapeless clothes, showering once a week and singing hymns. (Though I have to admit I have since bought a ‘salad’ plant, thinking yeah growing your own food is the way to go, even in a London flat. The salad plant has now died and I’ve replaced it with a basil plant.)
TYOTF was so good and I was on such a book high that when I went to the library to return it and I saw MaddAddam on prominent display, I instantly grabbed it. This is the one where the Crakers- humanoid creatures that were bio-engineered to lack the more unsavoury human features, such as body hair and the inability to eat only leaves- begin to hang out with the surviving humans, at this point mainly Gardeners and MaddAddamnites.
The only thing I didn’t find so great about the trilogy was the violence against women. I know that if there was some great world disaster and most of the population died and a few hardened (and I mean really hardened) criminals were left along with ‘the good guys’, things would not turn out great. So in a way it’s just representing the evil in this world and what was supposed to be wiped out in the Waterless Flood. Thankfully, Atwood never goes into too graphic detail and yes, she picked two strong female characters (well, we see Ren grow up into a strong character) to run the show. But the fact that the even Crakers have a no holds bar behaviour with sex is a little disturbing. (Though my writer eye sees it as perhaps a future plotline for the 4th novel? A regenerated world with a half human, half Craker population, when does the human side come out and when does the Craker side?)
Read this if you’ve read Oryx and Crake, duh*. But if you haven’t read Oryx and Crake, get on it! Because you must have read The Handmaid’s Tale already, right?
*A word of advice though, if you’re like me and get overly obsessed with something and then get slightly disappointed when it does live up to your expectations, wait a bit between reading TYOTF and Maddaddam. Firstly, MaddAddam explains a lot of what happens in TYOTF, which I guess you have to do with a trilogy that comes out years apart. But more importantly, you should live with those characters in your head for as long as you can, I’m not going spoil it for you, but obviously all good things and people come to an end.