My book group is coming over tomorrow. We are not discussing the book, MaddAddam, the final novel in a dystopian trilogy by Margaret Atwood, because in November we decided to reread The Year of the Flood (Book 2 in the trilogy), since we had read it several years before and wanted to be fresh for MaddAddam. I was the only one who got through The Year of the Flood. Not only did I get through it, I loved it all over again and couldn’t wait to read MaddAddam.
It is fine that the rest of the group is done with dystopia for now. We’ve read several. Several series, even. However, now I have nobody to discuss MaddAddam with…there are just a few things I keep thinking about. One, it’s fiction. Liking the story does not mean I like depressing future scenarios in which almost everyone on the planet dies. I find them fascinating, horrible, possible. But as a story, this novel works like any other. There are good guys and bad guys. Who will win? What’s at stake? How will it end?
To say that Atwood’s novel is “like any other” in a conventional story way is not to say it is ordinary. It’s told with great skill and humanity and cunning humor and honest reckoning. I loved it all, the characters, the world, the premise. Isn’t every dystopian novel at its core a cautionary tale? Yet it can be read on several levels. How deep do you want to go? She’ll take you there.
This is a woman who has written over 40 works. A lifetime of words. I went back to my collection and looked at her first photos in the earliest books and there is Atwood, fair-skinned and red corkscrewed hippie hair. Young and beautiful. And now her cover photo shows the passage of time. Her hair is silvery white and while her skin has aged, it is still soft and she is still beautiful. For some, aging is a thing to be disguised, perhaps because aging brings death closer. For Atwood, aging is a triumph. I’m still here, she seems to say, and I’m still writing. Still inventing new ways to tell the human story.
I like it that she is not afraid to show her age. I like it that she is not afraid to face what might be a possible future for feckless humanity. After the book ends, she writes this note “Although MaddAddam is a work of fiction, it does not include any technologies or biobeings that already do not exist, are not under construction, or are not possible in theory.” Atwood calls this genre not science fiction but speculative fiction. What if… I won’t spoil the end of the book. It is too good, and comes around wonderfully in a way I would not have imagined when I started on this journey with Oryx & Crake (first in the trilogy).