MaddAddam is the final installment in what has come to be known as the MaddAddam Trilogy. Margaret Atwood refers to it as a piece of speculative fiction because "...it does not include any technologies or biobeings that do not already exist, are under construction, or are not possible in theory." It can be read and admired on its own terms, but a reader unfamiliar with her earlier works, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, would be wise to at least read their Wikipedia entries before reading this. I'm not a big fan of dystopian or speculative fiction, but whenever Atwood speaks, I listen. Her imagination is persuasively perverse and her prose is laced with dynamic lyricism.
The MaddAddamites are survivors, in a not-so-brave new world, after Crake, a new-age Dr. Frankenstein, devised and deployed a virus that led to a pandemic which destroyed much of the human race. He thoughtfully created Crakers, a genetically-engineered species of leaf-eaters, who reminded me of Sesame Street's Big Bird, to replace humans, and inoculated his childhood friend to look after them. Crake first met Jimmy in one the fascistic corporate compounds, where the "chosen" worked and lived before the purge, while the rest of society was relegated to a chaotic and toxic wasteland. Led by Toby and Zeb, the survivalists drape themselves in bed sheets, glean essential supplies from nearby urban wreckage and live in fear of a couple of sadistic, barely-human painballers, who crave their supplies and covet the women.
Ms. Atwood's imagined world echoes are own in ways that are unsettling, yet reassuringly hopeful. She is deadly serious about the impact and potential consequences of unchecked environmental pillage, unregulated corporate malfeasance and destructive religious hypocrisy. She expresses this outrage evocatively through the thoughts and actions of her memorable, relatable characters: they are humanly fallible, yet adaptable and, occasionally, even heroic in their struggle to create a new social order. I laughed a lot, shed more than a few tears, and gave thanks repeatedly for a writer as gifted as Margaret Atwood.