"Maddaddam": What's your verdict? SPOILERS ALLOWED

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"Maddaddam": What's your verdict? SPOILERS ALLOWED

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1nohrt4me2
sep 11, 2013, 8:48am

Haven't quite finished, but my guess is that lots of us are looking at this book. Talk about it here when you're done. If you HAVE NOT READ IT, please stay away, as spoilers will be allowed. (Don't say you weren't warned ...)

2overlycriticalelisa
sep 11, 2013, 6:07pm

you're quick! i look forward to getting this book and reading all 3 at once. i'll star this and come back then...

3nohrt4me2
sep 11, 2013, 7:34pm

SPOILERS: About halfway through, so far kind of disappointing. Zeb's backstory, told through pillow talk with Toby, seems to be a major focus. It's interesting, but I keep wondering if Zeb's just a big fat liar.

Toby's jealousy of the younger girls is kind of depressing, though I'm telling myself that these are all modern people forced to revert to a hunting/gathering society in which "grandmothers" are healers and caretakers while the younger women are in their breeding years. And that would create strains among women sorting themselves into their "proper" roles.

We get to know the Crakers better, and, despite the contempt in which they're held by the remnants of "real" humans, efforts are being made to help them retain their innocence. So far.

4Yells
sep 11, 2013, 11:24pm

I have it from the library but want to reread the other two first.

5vwinsloe
nov 23, 2014, 3:10pm

I just finished Maddadam and am surprised not to see more discussion here. I thought that the structure of the book was interesting for a trilogy, with virtually all of the exposition in the final book.

In the end, I found Maddadam surprisingly humorous, perhaps satirical. The book left me wondering about the beginnings of our own religious traditions and beliefs. It also left me wondering what sort of world might be created by a disaffected teenage prodigy with ambitions larger than a mass shooting.

6sweetiegherkin
nov 25, 2014, 4:59pm

Thanks for reviving this, vwinsloe, I didn't realize there was a Maddaddam specific thread on here.

When I read the book, I had similar reactions to nohrt4me2. Personally, Maddaddam was the weakest read in the series. The long expository stories of Zeb were a bit dull to me and, yes, their veracity is something to be debated. And I found Toby's insistent jealous and insecurity a sad diminishing end for such a strong character. However, nohrt4me2 makes a good point about there being "growing pains" in a rebuilding society as everyone struggles to adjust to new roles.

Vwinsloe, you make an interesting note about the food for thought in terms of religion and tradition, although I recall this coming up in the other books, too. Indeed, in the first book, Snowman muses on how Crake would more than likely be unhappy that his "perfect" creatures were viewing him as godlike. I do agree also that there was a lot of humor for a look at a post-apocalyptic society, especially in all the explanations of Toby describing things to the Crakers, like Jimmy the Snowman's good friend "O Fuck," but then again, some of those "jokes" got a little bit tired after a while.

7nohrt4me2
nov 25, 2014, 5:59pm

#5 I thought that Year of the Flood was the best of the lot ... and the most humorous. Maddadam had some very good moments. In retrospect, it's a brilliant imagining of how a society re-assembles itself after a catastrophe. The execution episode was especially interesting.

The novel ends ostensibly on a high note with impending births, and the mingling of Craker/humans, the continuation of the race.

But what will those creatures be like? Human/Craker men seem destined to become alpha males, prone to more violence and greed than their Craker-only counterparts.

And it strikes me that the whole point of the trilogy up to that point has been to show what cruds human beings are, particularly men, the extent to which they've screwed up the world ecologically, socially, and economically.

I'm not sure what to take away as the "lesson."

8sweetiegherkin
nov 25, 2014, 9:22pm

I liked both of the first books a lot, but probably leaned toward liking Year of the Flood a little better just for showing more than the one perspective in Oryx and Crake. Agreed that I'm not sure about there being any takeaway lesson, but I tend to feel that way with Atwood in general. I guess the "lesson" is not to let it get that far ...

9overlycriticalelisa
nov 26, 2014, 1:08am

i thought she was saying something (not like she'd be the first to say it) about the inevitability of religion. i thought it was interesting, although not a "takeaway lesson" necessarily.

10vwinsloe
nov 26, 2014, 8:56am

>7 nohrt4me2:, >8 sweetiegherkin:, >9 overlycriticalelisa:. I had wondered what Atwood was getting at myself. So I did a little surfing and found that in an interview in The Scotsman on August 31, 2013 there was this:

~~~~~“What is the message of the MaddAddam trilogy?” prompts a, “Message? There is no message. Ha! Be nice to people,” she drawls, faux-nice. “If you want to do a message rent a billboard and do an advertising campaign,” she says.

There may not be a message, but Atwood’s trilogy reflects her concern for the environment and what we are doing to our world. The books hint at salvation and survival through evolution. At the end of MaddAddam, one of the few survivors of the eco-apocalypse, a bio-engineered human who has been taught the art of storytelling, finishes the story.

“Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage,” says Atwood. “If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don’t go there to swim, then those young people don’t have to find out by trial and error. Primate mothers show their young, do this, don’t do that, though they don’t have the gift of narrative and the most attentive ones raise better equipped young,” she says.~~~~~~~~~~

There were a number of themes examined in the trilogy even if there was no satisfactory conclusions drawn from them.

-religion, for sure. There was definitely a comparison being drawn among the Oleo Church run by Adam's father, the Green Gardeners and the religion of the Crakers. The Craker's religion seemed the most irrational and fatalistic, and for that reason more nimble and pragmatic, and maybe more lasting than the other religions.

-sexuality was a theme that I wish she had explored a bit more. Would it be a good thing if women had esterous cycles instead of menstrual cycles, and if men could clearly see whether a woman was receptive or not? Especially if the norm was still that the male had to be chosen by the female even if in heat? How does that compare to the sexual narratives that went on with Toby and Zeb and Swift Fox, the rapacious Painballers, and any number of other human sexual plot points?

Other themes included death rituals, artificial selection vs. natural selection, corporate and personal greed etc.

Lots to think about in these books!

11sweetiegherkin
nov 26, 2014, 9:29am

“If you want to do a message rent a billboard and do an advertising campaign,” she says.

What a great quote! That is something I really appreciate about Atwood's books, especially the more I read by her. She gives you lots of food for thought about tons of social/political/religious issues, but she isn't preachy and/or force-feeding you her opinions.

12nohrt4me2
nov 26, 2014, 10:02am

Distilling the novel's ideas into platitudes suitable for billboards cheapens the books, to be sure. But I get sick of authors who slam those who are looking for what their books tell us about the human condition. In my view, that's the only reason reading is worthwhile at all.

And, I suspect that at Atwood's age, you don't spend years conceiving and writing a trilogy of that magnitude without having some definite points of view and commentary on human life to convey.

I like what she says about storytelling, and, to the comments re religion, what is religion, at heart, if not story?

If you can tell a story about a human who looked beyond rank, occupation, and legal standing of other people to love them as fellow creatures, who loved them so much he was willing to let them execute him for heresy rather than to retaliate ... well, you've told an awfully powerful story that would make life better for everyone. You don't have to believe that anything about Jesus (or any other prophet) was true to see the truth in the story.

Crakerism seems to be mostly a religion of taboos--no meat, no killing, no rape, no violence. But the Crakers seem to have developed a sense of social responsibility all on their own, for example, the responsibility they take for ensuring that anyone who is sick or injured gets purred on.

Toby's leaving the group to die by herself strikes me as very un-Craker.

Boy, now I'm going to have to go re-read this!

13vwinsloe
Redigerat: nov 26, 2014, 11:16am

>12 nohrt4me2:. So perhaps the UNmessage of the book is the importance of storytelling? The storytelling/religious intersection reminds me of an old Hasidic parable:

"When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: "Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer," and again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: "I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient." It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient." And it was sufficient.

God made man because he loves stories."

Perhaps in the guise of religion (or magic), evolution has a lot to do with the telling of stories. You don't have to necessarily scientifically understand the information transmitted, you just have to believe in it. If you do, you are less likely to be eaten by the crocodiles.

14nohrt4me2
nov 26, 2014, 1:38pm

>13 vwinsloe: I love the Hassidic story. Thank you.

Jesus taught in stories/parables. The Old Testament (except for Leviticus) is nothing but story/parable/metaphor.

And, IMO, Atwood's trilogy is the deepest parable she's written, more so than The Handmaid's Tale.

The lovely-and-confounding thing about teaching-by-story is that there are always multiple interpretations.

15sweetiegherkin
nov 26, 2014, 11:46pm

> 12 Not to be persnickety here, but I think there is a distinction between discussing the human condition and having a message. With the former, I think you tell a story that people can relate to and yet still has many possible interpretations; for the latter, it's when the author is too heavy handed and wants to make sure you understand exactly what point/view they are imparting.

16vwinsloe
Redigerat: nov 27, 2014, 9:47am

>15 sweetiegherkin:. I think that it is a matter of degree. A good read doesn't have to have a message of any kind. The writing can be good or the plot riveting or the characters compelling.

But I think that literature, particularly great literature, does usually have a "take away." A message that may not be crystal clear, but that illustrates something for the reader to think about long after the book is finished. More like an exploration of a subject from many different angles.

The converse is pulp fiction that may be fun to read in the moment, but is totally forgettable beyond the final page.

I think that a lot of people who read Maddadam, myself included, just couldn't fathom what Atwood was trying to say or trying to get the reader to think about. In some ways, there was almost too much stuff going on in the book, and the tone was very uneven.

But after I did a little googling and found that interview that I quoted above in post #10, I think that Atwood's intent and her central theme were put into focus for me:

The sections in which Zeb told his story to Toby that some of us found to be a tedious and artificially structured was actually critical to the book, because they were the basis of the stories that Toby then told to the Crakers. Toby's stories were the parables that were to be incorporated in their religious history.

As nohrt4me2 pointed out, the entire trilogy can be seen as Atwood's parable about genetic engineering, evolution, and the role of storytelling. So there are parables within a parable.

17nohrt4me2
nov 27, 2014, 9:22am

My sense is that Atwood would be disappointed if we were not delving into the themes of her book, whatever we perceive them to be.

Since story is such an important part of the last book in the trilogy, it might be interesting to think about how the loss of story in the future Atwood envisions has led to the social, ecological, and economic tragedies ... and how Crake, however awful he is, is trying not only to make a better race, but sees the importance of story to their survival.

18overlycriticalelisa
nov 27, 2014, 10:27am

definitely, but also how story is used as power. he put (i'm sorry, i can't remember the woman's name) her in the dome week after week for the purpose of teaching the crakers their origin story, the one he wanted them to internalize. even jimmy would alter his storytelling to manipulate the crakers for small effect, or for convenience sake - need a meaning for this hat, here's one. lost my magic watch, make it mythology.

(sorry, many details are lost for me...)

19nohrt4me2
nov 27, 2014, 11:54am

>18 overlycriticalelisa: You are correct. Crake put Oryx in the dome to teach the Crakers, and Jimmy does manipulate the mythos so he can survive. That's a good observation.

What strikes me after reading your post is that the Crakers are the products of Crake's imagination. Oryx, the eternal maternal in Craker theology, is merely a conduit for the stories. Shades of the BVM.

In the end, she is killed by Crake, her throat cut. But the Crakers don't know about that. Nobody knows but Jimmy. I forgot whether he tells anyone that story in Maddadam.

Are women less likely to invent or re-engineer a new breed of humans? If so, is that something hard-wired into women or something that's socialized? I don't know, but that seems to be something Atwood is looking at.

20sweetiegherkin
nov 27, 2014, 1:45pm

>16 vwinsloe: I think we're arguing the same thing :)

21vwinsloe
Redigerat: nov 28, 2014, 4:41pm

>20 sweetiegherkin: You may be right.

>19 nohrt4me2:. Jimmy did not tell anyone that Crake killed Oryx.

I think that women did participate in the new breed of humans created by Crake because he brought in the Maddaddamites to help with the genetic engineering and some of them were women. But it was Crake alone, I think, who conceived of and executed the clearing away, by starting the plague that killed almost everyone. The history that we knew of him from Zeb, that he was a young genius whose idealistic father was murdered by the corporation because he found out about their unethical biological weapons, explained why he was so bitter. So to answer your question, as I pointed out in post #5 above, I think that the entire scheme would be most likely to be carried out by a young man, in much the same way as a mass shooting.

And that is something that I think that the world needs to be increasingly cautious about. Only biological weapons can affect the entire world without needing a sophisticated delivery system, like a nuclear or chemical weapon would.

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