Monday, July 21, 2014

Numbers 29, 33, and 34: The Maddaddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

One, Two, Three
I have read A LOT of Margaret Atwood's work, starting (of course) with The Handmaid's Tale as some of my required reading in high school. Still, I resisted reading her 2003 novel Oryx and Crake for the past eleven years. One of the things I like best about her writing is how beautifully she narrates from a female character's perspective. Oryx and Crake was her first novel written from the viewpoint of a male character and, without knowing anything else about the book, I avoided it.

I know now that this was wrong of me.

Oryx and Crake is awesome. Atwood limits the reader not only to the main character's knowledge, but to his stream of consciousness. She reveals the background of this world through his fragmented mind, a mind tortured by both his past and his present. I don't want to give anything away, so all I'll say is I'll be damned, if this isn't one of the finest stories I've read in the past decade. Just fucking read it.

The Year of the Flood makes a powerful case for itself as the strongest book of this trio. Rather than a true sequel in the sense that most people have of the word, the events run concurrently with those in the previous book. Here, Atwood splits the narrative duties between two women whose connection becomes clearer as the reader moves through the tale. The prose, as always, rings with clarity and precision as it fills gaps in knowledge from the previous book, giving a lush impression of a world gone horribly awry and yet, somehow, still full of hope. You don't have to read Oryx and Crake to understand what's happening in this book, such a rarity in most trilogies, and it stands on its own as another excellent addition to Atwood's canon.

In Maddaddam, however, some important nuances and connections might go unnoticed had the previous two novels gone unread. It serves the purpose of joining the first two and forming a cohesive whole. While not quite as stylistically and emotionally captivating as Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, it provides a welcome sense of closure to the world created in those novels. Though sad to see it end, I did not feel unsatisfied in any way other than my typical sadness at having reached the end of a great story.

Honestly, I think if you start this trilogy at any point, you won't want to leave it behind until you've read all it has to say. Of all the books I've read so far this year, none has been so fascinating or touching as these three (and I have already re-read a book this year that makes me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME). I suggest you get your ass on over to the library, or if you're not feeling patient, buy 'em up. These are worth adding to any collection.

N.B. Do yourself a favor and don't read any little breakdowns or copy for these. Discovering what's between the covers is part of the magic.

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