***Disclaimer – I am a rabid Atwood fan and have a permanent saved search in my library’s catalog that alerts me whenever we buy one of her books – and not so I can put them on hold, but so I can preorder them from Powell’s. Yes, I, the cheapest woman on the planet, buy Atwood books. In hardcover. It’s a sickness.) I tend to like her realistic fiction better than her weird visions of the future, but I willingly follow her anywhere.***
Okay, now on with the scoop. This book is the third of a trilogy. The first two books in the trilogy cover the same time period and show the same major events, but from two different perspectives. In this near future dystopia, society has spilt into 2 segments – wealthy people live in walled compounds sponsored by corporations, while poorer people inhabit the “pleeblands” outside them. Oryx and Crake is told by a character from the compounds, while Year of the Flood is told by a plebe. If you have read either of these, go ahead and read MaddAddam right now. Even if your memory of the other two is rusty, this one will plop you right back into that world and you won’t be lost. If you haven’t read either, I suppose reading this cold would be fine – but you might spend a great deal of your time trying to figure out what a pigoon is and where the Crakers came from and well, why struggle? Read Oryx and Crake first just to get the basics of this world down, then either of the other two will make a good follow-up.
Of the three books, MaddAddam is not the best – in fact I would say it’s the weakest. The reason I love Atwood’s books so much is that she usually tells you right at the beginning what situation the characters are in right now, but then spends the novel explaining HOW they got there. You are compelled to read the story not to find out what happened or whodunit, but how and why it went so horribly awry. In both of the first two books, you know that mankind has been nearly wiped out, but you don’t know just enough to keep you reading – in the first book, you have to know why and how it happened, and in the second you have to know who survived, and where they are, and whether they will all find one another. In MaddAddam, we pick up where both of the first two ended, and learn what happens once the characters from both books find one another and proceed from there – which really ought to be more interesting than it is. Don’t get me wrong – it was nice to find out what happened to the God’s Gardeners, Jimmy and the Crakers – it just wasn’t Atwood’s usual obsessive-stay-up-all-night-reading-to-wring-the-story-out-of-the-pages type of book. But you should read it anyway, because hey, it’s Margaret Atwood, and after reading the first two, you need to know how it all ends.
Books in a similar vein:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri Tepper
Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (YA)
I am told that Divergent by Veronica Roth and Feed by M.T. Anderson (both YA) are similar, but I haven’t read either yet so I can’t be certain.