If you haven’t read either Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood (the first two books in the MaddAddam trilogy), the latest and final book, after which the series is named, won’t make a whole lot of sense. That being said, even if you wander into a book shop, snag the latest Margaret Atwood book off the shelf, and find yourself face first in the middle of some ‘Pleeblands’ without any real idea of what a ‘Pleebland’ is, you still won’t be nearly as lost as you think you are.
It’s impossible to describe MaddAddam without heavily mentioning the first two books of the trilogy, as Oryx and Crake – Atwood’s own version of the apocalypse – provides the foundation, layout, setting, and cast of both the pre- and post-apocalyptic world upon which the following two books are built. For the record, Oryx and Crake is the book that explains what a ‘Pleebland’ is.
The Year of the Flood establishes what a Pleebland is like. The book runs on a parallel timeline with Oryx and Crake, though The Year of the Flood is told from the perspective of the characters who exist outside of the ‘Pleeblands’.
The MaddAddam trilogy is a lot like books three and four of Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, only Atwood did it first, and fewer characters die – with the exception of the majority of the human race, but who’s counting? The Year of the Flood ends with a cliff-hanger that takes place maybe four or five seconds after the cliff-hanger at the end of Oryx and Crake… which leaves twice the suspense, and a whole lot of anticipation for MaddAddam to finally clear things up a little bit.
As it turns out, MaddAddam is a lot like the other two books, save for the more frequent use of the word ‘dick’ and the fact that MaddAddam does indeed take place after the other two end. Don’t worry if you haven’t had enough of the other timelines, because MaddAddam is also riddled with flashbacks! Only this time these flashbacks are told from yet another point of view. These flashbacks are as tightly woven together as they were in the previous books, but they do give readers slightly deeper insight into this apocalyptic world Atwood started building with Oryx and Crake in 2003.
In fact, MaddAddam really doesn’t offer much in the way of actual answers, nor does the plot seem as meticulously planned out as it did in Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood. Essentially, MaddAddam is easy to tear through because after ten years, you’re half-crazy with starvation for the “happily ever after” you’ve been waiting for since Oryx and Crake.
As a whole, the MaddAddam trilogy is still great. The way Atwood tackles the apocalypse is refreshingly different, the execution rose to meet the high bar fans hold to Atwood’s name, and there’s just enough vulgarity to make you feel a little weird about reading these scenes that come out of a 74-year-old woman’s head.
Collectively, the three books read almost exactly like one really long Atwood novel, right down to her tendency towards vague and ambiguous endings that make you wish she had kept writing. This time, she did continue; it just didn’t get you much further.