09/04/2013 11:54 am ET

'MaddAddam' by Margaret Atwood: The Book We're Talking About


"MaddAddam" by Margaret Atwood
Doubleday, $27.95
Published on September 3, 2013

What is it about?
The third installment in Atwood's trilogy of the same name, "MaddAddam" picks up where "The Year of the Flood" and "Oryx and Crake" left off. The first two books chronicle a biological catastrophe from two perspectives: That of the privileged citizens, including the bitter, ingenuous scientist who created the genetic pandemic, and that of the lower classes, including a religious group called God's Gardeners. Survivors from both groups unite along with a crew of peaceful humanoids, and other, more dangerous genetically-modified species.

Why are we talking about it?
This book wraps up a story that began in 2003 - one that sucked us in from its very first page. Atwood cleverly attempts an Orwellian culmination to her dystopian story, and sprinkles in some amusing wordplay along the way.

Who wrote it?
Margaret Atwood if a 73-year-old Canadian novelist, and occasional poet. She's been nominated for the Booker five times, winning once for "The Blind Assassin."

Who will read it?
Sci-fi lovers - especially those preferring a more literary bent - and fans of fiction with religious components. It's worth noting that Atwood actually prefers the term "speculative fiction" to "science fiction," as many of her fantastical predictions made in books such as "A Handmaid's Tale" have become harsh realities.

What do the reviewers say?

The Boston Globe: "This unsentimental narrative exposes the heart of human creativity as well as our self-destructive darkness. As with much idea-driven fiction, the book is sometimes didactic and works better as cerebral exercise than as absorbing story. The self-consciously clever 'MaddAddam' doesn’t offer much complex characterization, evocative setting, or deep insight, but the special effects are zippy. While I’ve always enjoyed Atwood’s earnestness, it’s fun to see her living through her first childhood in this playful romp through the near future."

Los Angeles Times: Sometimes Margaret Atwood can get a little goofy. I mean no disrespect to the author of 'The Handmaid's Tale' — in fact, it's a good thing that she writes intelligent works of dystopian fiction with a sense of humor. Otherwise, the end of the world as we know it might be just too grim.

The Guardian: "I should say at this point that I thoroughly enjoyed 'MaddAddam' and the other two books. But they do present an eccentric spectacle – of a fierce, learned intelligence, throwing out references to Robinson Crusoe, Blake and especially Milton, while writing what is essentially an epic B-movie."

Opening lines:
"In the beginning, you lived inside the Egg. That is where Crake made you.

Yes, good, kind Crake. Please stop singing or I can't go on with the story.

The Egg was big and round and white, life half a bubble, and there were trees inside it with leaves and grass and berries. All the things you like to eat.

Yes, it rained inside the Egg.

No, there was not any thunder."

Notable passage:
"Zeb started hiking. The 'thropter had come down on the gentle hillside, sloping to the west, and west was he direction he took. He had a rough map of the whole area in his head. Too bad he didn't have the paper map, the one they always kept open on their knees when flying up there in case of digital failure.

The tundra was hard walking. Spongy, waterlogged, hidden pools and slippery moss and treacherous mounds of tussock grass. There were parts of old airplanes sticking out of the peat - a strut here, a blade there, detritus from rash twentieth-century bush pilots caught by fog or sudden winds, long ago."