MaddAddam: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Audie Award Finalist, Science Fiction, 2014
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Notable Book
A Best Book of the Year: The Guardian, NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, The Globe and Mail
A GoodReads Reader's Choice
Bringing together Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, this thrilling conclusion to Margaret Atwood's speculative fiction trilogy points toward the ultimate endurance of community, and love.
Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, newly fortified against man and giant pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. Their reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is recovering from a debilitating fever, so it's left to Toby to preach the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.
Zeb has been searching for Adam One, founder of the God's Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. But now, under threat of a Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters. At the center of MaddAddam is the story of Zeb's dark and twisted past, which contains a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.
Combining adventure, humor, romance, superb storytelling, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Margaret Atwood - a moving and dramatic conclusion to her internationally celebrated dystopian trilogy.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 24 minutes|
|Narrator||Bernadette Dunne, Bob Walter, Robbie Daymond|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 03, 2013|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank||
#12,953 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals)
#102 in Dystopian Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#189 in Humorous Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#225 in Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from the United States
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This series should really be called The Half Century of the Waterless Flood. The USA government failed around the year 2100 and the various Corporation security forces took charge ending up in "he who has the gold makes the rules". For safety reasons, the Corporations had already built their areas into walled enclaves of peace and safety, they just extended their influence into the general populace.
The 22nd century is a wild and crazy place. The gene splicers are running rampant in the center of civilization and at the edges. Many different animals have been spliced together or modified for different reasons. A religious cult had a liobam built from a lion and lamb and then set them to roam free. A drug manufacturer built the pigoon, a pig with significant human DNA for growing human hearts and kidneys, up to ten at a time. But the human DNA made the pigoon a predator and a team builder.
Crake was the best of the gene splicers. He bioengineered enhancements for humans to extend life and make people younger. And then he built his children, a new human with less violent tendencies and able to live from eating grass. And then Crake built a virus, a horrible virus that killed off 99+% of the human race around the globe in a year. Except, those few people that Crake gave the vaccine to or managed to quarantine themselves away from the populace.
All good things must come to an end and so must all horrible things. The series was very good and also very horrible. The Waterless Flood Pandemic killed over 99.9% of humanity with the gengineered virus. Yet what was life like afterwards ? Do the children of Crake and Oryx repopulate the planet ?
I read MaddAddam, the third and final book in Margaret Atwood's dystopian trilogy of the same name, in an indulgent fervor. I neglected my own writing regime to read it, read it past my bedtime. I went camping this past weekend, and instead of hiking or moving around in some semblance of an athletic and rugged way, I set up my tent and curled up on top of my sleeping bag to read more MaddAddam. I consumed the book, swallowed it whole. It's hard to tell if I liked it or not--I am pretty sure I did--but I can say with certainty that I was engaged with it.
Ok, so the book itself: unlike Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, where much of the action and plot really takes place in the book's narrative past through the use of flashbacks the action in MaddAddam is pretty evenly split between the book's diegetic present and past. There's even, at the end, a bit of diegetic future thrown in. In my review of The Year of the Flood I discussed how the first two books of this trilogy were mirror images--structurally similar but inverted in terms of their themes and respective focus. I wondered if MaddAddam would follow suit or attempt to unify the other two books. MaddAddam, I think, establishes itself firmly as a concluding volume through its attempt to unify the other two books in the series. MaddAddam picks up right where The Year of the Flood leaves off and carries the narrative thread of what happens to Toby and Ren and Jimmy in the book's present, that is in the lonely aftermath of Crake's Waterless Flood. At the end of the previous book, the Crakers--Crake's genetically engineered `perfect' humans, part of whose perfection seems to be an utterly guileless nature--set free a pair of vicious criminals into the woods. Much of the plot of MaddAddam is driven by this pair of murderer/rapist/all around evil guys as they skulk around the protagonists' homestead, pick off the wildlife, and engage in a lot of psychological warfare. The book's resolution, such as it is, comes as a result of a climactic standoff between the protagonists, the MaddAddamites, and the criminals in the Paradice Dome where the Crakers were engineered. Intercut with this is the story of Zeb, a MaddAddamite and former God's Gardener who ends up as Toby's lover, was Ren's stepfather, and knew Crake when Crake was a boy. The origins of the God's Gardeners cult is revealed through Zeb's back story, and through him we get deeper insights into the ever-enigmatic mad scientist Crake.
That's the plot, but like with all of Atwood's work the plot plays second fiddle to its themes. One of those themes is the power of narrative. This theme has been a unifying point through all three books, though how it's been perceived and presented has varied from character to character. While the other two books in the trilogy are fairly straightforward in terms of how they're told, this one is more complicated. In Oryx and Crake and in The Year of the Flood the story is revealed through one or two people's viewpoints, and those viewpoints are static inasmuch that we know it's Jimmy or Toby or Ren thinking these thoughts, having these memories, experiencing this or that thing. MaddAddam confuses things: Toby is the protagonist, for the most part, but what we, the readers, actually get is a mix of Toby's thoughts, Toby's experiences, Toby's retellings of other people's stories and, eventually, other people retelling Toby's story. What we find out about Zeb's history is both in and not in his voice--the stories start from Toby's perspective as the pair lay together in the dark, and eventually Zeb's voice appears to take over. Occasionally the stride of his voice is broken when Toby interrupts. Then, Toby takes his stories and translates them into myth and legend for the Crakers. Toby herself becomes both the teller of tales to the Crakers and a tale to be told by the Crakers by the end of the book. While Jeanette Winterson in Weight dealt with how we use narrative to construct ourselves Atwood here is highlighting the power of shared narratives to construct a community. It's a theme that richly permeates the book, start to finish, in both subtle and obvious ways. It's a theme that builds on pieces from the other two books. It's masterfully done, especially given that there is so much potential for an approach to narrative this way to be confusing but the book remains clear throughout.
So, that's one theme I saw coming long before I cracked open the book. Way back in Oryx and Crake I picked up on the idea that Atwood was writing these books to show us how redemptive and damning narrative can be, that we can change our trajectories by changing the kinds of stories we tell ourselves. That's what speculative fiction is all about. But there was something else which crystallized in MaddAddam a theme, or rather an open question, which I did not see coming. Maybe I'm the only one who didn't, I don't know. The question is this: what is it that makes us worth saving? This questions starts about humanhood--what makes us human? Are the Crakers, with their genetic modifications and guileless, deeply innocent frame to the world, are they human? What does it mean if they aren't? What does it mean if they are? While these questions have been lurking along the outskirts of the text in both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood they come to the forefront when Toby and Ren bring a very sick Jimmy to the MaddAddamite compound and the Crakers insist on following. The MaddAddamites propose scientific delineations: are the Crakers capable of abstract thought, can they produce viable offspring with a normal human, etc.
The question of humanhood turns into a question of personhood over the course of the book. The Pigoons, huge pigs engineered to grow replacement organs for the human elite including human neocortex brain tissue, end up in an alliance with the MaddAddamites. The Pigoons have been around since the very start of the series--Jimmy's father used to work on them in one of the science Corps--and hints have been dropped along the way that they have developed sentience. But, still, the moment where one of the young Crakers literally communicates with a Pigoon and serves as a translator between the Pigoons and the MaddAddamites is a moment of profound strangeness not least because it shakes what we construct as personhood at its foundations. And in that moment, we gain great insight into Crake's plan, his vision, his reasons for spreading a swift and deadly plague across the world. If the natural world demands we adapt or die, then the only way destructive humanity as it exists to adapt is to die, for us to replace ourselves with more harmonious creatures, for us to make space for something to be a person besides ourselves. The moment this happens is wrapped up in a swiftly moving plot, with little textual time to chew over it or ponder it. I wanted the book to slow down a second, to unpack it, but it pushed on ahead.
I rate this book 4 stars because it's close to perfect but not quite. A side plot of the book, the search for Adam One of the God's Gardeners cult, fizzles and dies without the emotional resonance it needed. I could have done without some of Toby's repetitive insecurities about her relationship with Zeb--while realistic I feel they defanged her character somewhat, which was a pity since she's such a tough, strong, fallible and emotionally truthful character. And, as I said, the pacing of the plot sometimes ran roughshod over the thematic developments. In spite of all that, MaddAddam is a wonderful and rich book in its own right, peculiar and heavy, and a masterful end to a trilogy. In terms of its ability to deepen and provide closure to a very good series of books it reminds me of Pullman's The Amber Spyglass*.
*If you haven't read Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy you really, really should.
Top reviews from other countries
Oryx and Crake dealt with the upper-echelons of society and the scientific genius who created the plague and the new humans, while Year of the Flood told the interlocking story of the underclass and the God's Gardeners environmentalist cult. The two books worked well together to fill in each other's blanks, give various different perspectives on the world and the plot, and create a fully rounded universe. I was therefore unsure what else this third book could add.
As with the earlier books, MaddAddam presents both a linear narrative of life after the "Waterless Flood" for the handful of survivors, and flashbacks to life in the pre-plague world of genetic engineering, stark class divides and armed corporations.
The "modern-day" sections focus on Toby, who is holed up with a combination of God's Gardeners, former MaddAddam affiliates, a (mostly unconscious) Jimmy from the first book, and a large group of Crakers, the new humans, to whom she tells selective stories of the past as a sort of creation myth. The focus is on the story-telling sessions, on the group defending themselves against Painballers and the world's strange man-made animals, (though there is very little action), and on Toby's relationship with Zeb. The storytelling concept and the development of the Crakers was interesting, but otherwise, these sections, while redeemed by Atwood's writing skills and characterisation, were ultimately quite dull.
The storytelling sessions and Toby's diary, which ultimately become a sort of Bible, are well done, playing with ideas of folklore, origin stories and the development of a shared culture. Though this premise was intriguing, I ultimately felt it was a little laboured and overdone. Constant Craker interruptions and misunderstandings of Toby's stories became trying when I just wanted to immerse myself in the tale, and the sections told by the Crakers felt a little twee. Cloud Atlas did a similar thing much more succinctly and subtly, by showing how one character's police interview became a religious text in the future. Still, I'm a firm believer that there shouldn't be a solid divide between literary and genre fiction, so it's refreshing to see such complex ideas being explored in this sort of story.
The best parts of the book were the flashbacks. The dystopian world is so well developed that it's fascinating to spend time there. That said, I didn't feel that these sections, focussed on Zeb and Adam One this time, added much to what readers have seen in earlier books. Zeb has lots of adventures, but doesn't really seem to do much. And while it's heavily implied that Adam is heavily embroiled in various plots, I was no clearer on his actual role in events by the end.
In essence, I don't think this book needed to be written in order to make this a complete series, and I don't think it's as good as its predecessors. That said, the writing, the imagination on display and the fascinating world still make it a pleasure to read, and I raced through it, complex ideas about storytelling and exciting tales of fights with mutant bears alike. I'd definitely recommend to fans of the author and the series, and if you haven't read the earlier books yet, do so now. If you have, a quick re-read may be in order - at times I struggled to remember the details of earlier plots and it would be interesting to see how they all merge together.
Also - the Crakes! Sweet Jesus! The Crakes are the sole reason I'm only giving this novel 2 stars. For the first two novels, they were always in the background, and that was fine. In MaddAddam they are very much in the foreground and they need every last little thing explained to them. This didn't move the plot along and it read like the character(s) were talking to a guinea pig... not in the experimental sense. Like talking to a literal, rodent, guinea pig. Not up to Atwood's usual standard.
A good book and fitting end to the story...... but I still want more of this story-line. Very seductive writing by a great novelist.
I did think the narrative style was interesting: the re-telling of stories in different genres, with the naive and simplified myths for the Crakers forming an interesting contrast to the more cynical, realistic first person narratives. Unlike several reviews I've read in newspapers, I thought the Crakers were fascinating, and I also found Zeb's story gripping once I got into it. I wanted to get inside Amanda's and Ren's heads more, however.
What I found unsatisfying was the sudden change to a distanced retrospective narrative to tell the climactic part of the story. Without giving away the actual plot, I found the method of telling this tense and dramatic part of the story rendered it much less tense and dramatic. The first two novels in the trilogy are imbued with an apocalyptic sense of intensely-conveyed dread - you just feel that something even more appalling is going to happen all the time. The painballers are a constant unseen threat in this novel but somehow the episode that deals with them seemed oddly disconnected and under-compelling, as if Atwood herself couldn't stand any more tension and wanted to step back from the immediacy of the action. In one way, this was a relief as I could barely stand reading about any more terrible things happening to this group of people I had grown to feel as if I knew, but it also felt vaguely like a cop-out.
My other slight gripe was the pregnancies which appeared to be the result of an innocent gang-rape by the Crakers, as far as I could tell - a disturbing and weirdly under-discussed event. Did this occur in Book Two? Like other reviewers, I felt I should have re-read the earlier books before embarking on Book Three as I had clearly forgotten the details of the story. More detailed knowledge of the earlier story would have helped flesh out my reading experience while reading Book Three. So I advise would-be readers to re-read Books One and Two.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It was very well-written as always, Margaret Atwood being reliable as a writer of great skill. I also recommend reading the hard-copy novels rather than an ebook version as it somehow felt less real to me reading it from my kindle.