The Madd Addam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood
I read Oryx and Crake quite a while ago, since it was one of Alex’s favorite books. At the time he also had never read the entire trilogy either, only the first book, so I too, only read the first book. Recently, he decided that it was finally time and read the second and third book, bemoaning that he didn’t re-read the first book before diving into the series again. Once he finished the series he more or less shoved them upon me, since he wanted to know what I thought about it, and he wanted to talk about the ending and everything else. I, after listening to him, decided that if I was going to read the series as a whole, I should re-read the first book again to refresh my memory, and by golly I’m glad I did, or else I think I would have missed a lot of things in the second book.
Let’s do a quick overview: This series is about a dystopian future, in a very adult way. This very much is NOT a YA book series. The first book looks back to the past from one narrators POV. The second book explores multiple narrators in the present and past. Then the third book is the present, more past character stories, and into the future. Characters carry on through the books, so it’s a good series to read all at once so you don’t forget about characters that might seem like background characters in book 1, but are actually quite important in later books. Now, let’s talk a little more in depth about the series!
Oryx and Crake follows the story of a man called Jimmy. He lived a high life inside what is called a compound, which is basically a companies campus, but a lot more involved. Imagine all pharmaceutical companies are basically super powers, they control nearly everything, and if you work for the big companies, you have a condo/house/apartment paid for within the walls of the compound and you never have to leave for anything really, unless you want some debauchery outside in the slums. You meet Jimmy in the present and follow him back into his past as he talks about how the world came to an end, and the part he unwittingly played in it all.
This book gives you a glimpse of the world from the perspective of the rich and mighty. Jimmy is a bit of an asshole (actually quite the giant asshole) and Crake is also an asshole. They have a strange friendship, which is strained in a way when Oryx is introduced. Oryx is an interesting character, whose past is tragic. The fall of civilization is actually something I could, in a way, see happening, just with how powerful pharmaceutical companies are. The companies are horribly shady, just thinking about it again makes me shudder a bit. In any case, it made me want to avoid taking multivitamins. (Which I don’t really take anyways, oops! Or maybe it’s actually a good thing…)
The second book is from multiple points of view, and takes place outside the walls of the compounds and in the slums, where the average folk live. It’s almost like a jungle. Gangs run wild and vices are easily obtained. It’s obvious here how people are destroying the world and it’s here in the pleblands (what the area is called) where the green religious “cults” have grown. I call them cults if only because that’s how they are viewed in the book, and they basically are. These religions popping up are basically worshipping nature and rejecting all the vices, technology, and everything the compounds stand for. The dark side of the compounds are again explored in this book, but from the outside inside of the inside. You also learn more about Jimmy and Crake through the eyes of those close to them. I really loved the characters in this book, they were a lot more likable than Jimmy, in my opinion.
Finally we reach the third book. Here we move on from the present and into the future. How will people survive after the fall? How has everything that has happened, and everything that has been created live in harmony? In this book you learn more about the back story of a character that is introduced in the first book, expounded upon in the second, and fleshed out in the last book. You learn about the start of one of religious cults that is important in the second book, and it’s interesting to see yet another person’s place in the end of the world. So many people were involved that didn’t even realize quite what was going on, until it finally happened.
I will say though, the last book bugged me a bit because it really made a character that I enjoyed, into a jealous love-addled dimwit. It was annoying to constantly read about how obsessed she was over this man, when she was such a strong character during the second book. So that was a little annoying. Alex found a lot of faults with the book as well, and wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. I did enjoy some of the parallels between the remaining species that are left. When I started reading the last book, I made a connection between the various ego stages of humans: the ID, ego, and superego that Freud defined. That connection didn’t really work as I thought it would once I finished the book though. (I kind of had to switch who I connected to which version of the ego.)
If you are queasy about certain subjects like brutality towards women, child slavery, violence, and the like…then this probably isn’t a really good series to read. It’s a book that could probably land itself on a banned book list honestly. I still loved the series, it’s interesting, thought provoking, and it left an impact on me after reading it. It made me think differently about a lot of things. I’d suggest giving it a read if it sounds like something you’d be into! Let me know if you’ve read it before or if you’re interested in it!