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Book review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

The last title in Atwood’s trilogy simultaneously stimulates and unnerves.


By Margaret Atwood. Nan A. Talese, $28.

The third installment in Atwood’s postapocalyptic speculative-fiction trilogy, which takes place after Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, surveys the aftermath of a lethal man-made plague through the eyes of two survivors, Ren and Toby. Simultaneously, it tells the backstory of renegade hacker Zeb and traces the development of an ecoterrorist hacking collective called MaddAddam, which was coerced into helping unleash the killer disease.

Atwood’s plot is full of chronological shifts. From the scarred landscapes of decayed urban centers to the confines of genetic labs, this dangerous and shattered realm is replete with violence and suffering, all expertly detailed. The motley crew of characters is tenderly portrayed, even when victims of vile behavior turn into instigators of the same. And despite the bleak landscape, Atwood does not forgo wit or humor.

Though this final book satisfactorily closes the series, it leaves the reader with an unstable vision of the future. Because the author is keenly interested in grounding her fiction in real possibility, there’s a chilling implication that Atwood’s violent, abusive world—one brought about by corporate greed—might be closer than we think.

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