Saturday, December 28, 2013
I have at long last made my way through books two and three of Margaret Atwood's dystopian trilogy about a world destroyed by technology. Crake, an evil scientist develops and releases a virus that wipes out most of mankind leaving the few survivors to eke out a bleak existence from the detritus that remains in the mostly empty cities. This apocalypse is called the Waterless Flood.
Oryx and Crake sets the stage. Atwood imagines where escalating capitalism and consumerism will ultimately lead. Before they unleash the plague upon the earth Oryx, Crake and Crake's friend Jimmy live and work in a dome where Crake develops a bioengineered species of pseudo humans called Crakers. They are benign, naive, vegetarian creatures with luminescent eyes. They purr and sing and live peacefully together. When the females ovulate the males get huge blue erections; they have group sex, ensuring the procreation of their species. The Crakers are impervious to the deadly virus. Oryx and Crake perish and post-catastrophe it appears that Jimmy is the only human survivor of the plague.
The Year Of The Flood is set in the period when the flood has been unleashed. We learn that there are survivors of the Waterless Flood. God's Gardeners are a group of eco-centric urban farmers who have reacted against rampant consumerism by returning to nature. Harkening back to hippy communes and the "back to the land" movement of the 1960s they raise bees, grow their own food and make their own medicines. Their leader Adam One predicted a pandemic and when it comes they are prepared. A few barely human villains called Painballers also survive and prey upon the Gardener community committing unspeakable acts against them.
Much of the third novel, MaddAddam, explains how the world got itself into such fix. These flashbacks take the form of stories told by Toby to the Crakers. We learn that Adam One, his brother Zeb and other Gardeners worked with Crake on the plan to cull humanity. Pigoons, a pig/human splice have been at war with the humans since the Waterless Flood, competing for scarce resources. Eventually the Gardeners and Pigoons join forces against their common enemy, the Painballers, with the Crakers serving as translators. In the end Atwood imparts a message of hope. People survive. fall in love, have babies.
If you are a fan of dystopian literature (I am not) you will like these. I enjoyed Oryx and Crake, was mildly disappointed by The Year of the Flood and, unlike most others, found MaddAddam unsatisfying. It took a great deal of determination on my part to finish the trilogy. The characters failed to engage me and if it weren't for occasional hit of humour I would have drowned in cliches. I am relieved that the series is done and I hope that Atwood has finally worked this genre out of her system.