Superfluous Matter
Books - Oryx and Crake; The Year of the Flood; and MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood recently released the final book of her speculative fiction trilogy that began in 2003 and with "Oryx and Crake." In order to properly prepare myself for "MaddAddam" I reread the first two books and so I should be able to talk about them here all at once with some level of clarity.

I use the term speculative fiction for the trilogy because that is how Atwood sees it. A less considered classification would file the novels as science fiction but that would be a disservice to the work. Atwood explicitly points out in the afterword that, "Although MaddAddam is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies of biobeings that do not already exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory." She has tried to paint the story of a plausible future, a task for which she is well-skilled (see "The Handmaid's Tale" for example). The trilogy is intensely dystopian for sure, but at no point are the events unimaginable.

MaddAddam follows a similar format to the other two books, tracking the trials of characters in a post-apocalyptic world while in parallel reliving the events leading up to the apocalypse through flashbacks to the characters' past. MaddAddam sees the characters of "Oryx and Crake" and those of "The Year of the Flood" meet up in the present and struggle to find safety and security in the new world. It provides a satisfying end to the trilogy without giving easy answers to the problems of the protagonists. It's not clear they will survive, but it is possible to see how they might.

Like the human protagonists, the future of the Crakers (a genetically-engineered species of neo-humans) is also left uncertain. They are peripheral characters in all three books, but even in that role it is possible to see them evolve and change. Their progenitor intended for them to be perfect and to avoid the mistakes of humanity's runaway intelligence, but it's not clear he succeeded.

I think all that is left unsaid is part of what is so great about the books. Atwood strikes a nice balance between explicit exposition and leaving things open to your own imagination. The unanswered questions are not frustrating, they are intriguing. They stick around in your mind for days.

This trilogy was excellent and I think it would appeal to anyone.

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