Characters And Summary Of MaddAddam, Book #3 Of The MaddAddam Trilogy: Speculative Fiction At Its Best?

The basic premise of the MaddAddam trilogy is simple. A mad scientist called Crake, backed by a financially powerful corporation, creates and unleashes a lethal virus that drives the human species to the brink of extinction. The scientist also designs genetically modified humanoids to repopulate the world. As soon as the scientist dies, the few remaining human survivors—apparently immune to the virus—must now live in a chaotic wasteland and try to rebuild society with the bioengineered creatures. The story of survival in the aftermath of the waterless flood continues in MaddAddam.

It starts with Toby and Ren (both introduced in The Year of the Flood) in their attempt to rescue Amanda from Painballers/criminals. Jimmy (the Snowman from Oryx and Crake) comes back to the main storyline and bumps into Toby, Ren, and Amanda. Four human characters are now together and returning to a camp in which the Crakers—humanoids bioengineered by mad scientist Crake—reside. Toby’s lover, Zeb, enters the camp as she shares some stories with the Crakers. The novel moves back and forth between Toby’s life among the Gardeners and tales of life adventures narrated by Zeb. As the plot moves along, the camp will welcome more survivors.

God’s Gardeners organization was founded by Zeb’s brother, Adam One. Both used to support Crake’s idea of triggering an apocalypse so great that it would erase the notion of humanity. The brothers’ background as victims of abuse and former supporters of Crake adds another layer of complexity to the storyline, since now they are also hunted by the Corporations.

Toby is the main narrator. She tells stories to the Crakers at the camp about past environmental disasters and the collapse of society. Being the narrator and storyteller, Toby practically takes the role of Snowman in the first novel; she is a teacher to the Crakers. Like all the previous books in the series, MaddAddam delivers stories both from the present and the past points of view. Every tale revolves around the same topics of Crake: overpopulation, the dry flood, apocalypse, and survival. The present-day perspective mostly delves into setting up defenses around the perimeter of the camp to keep the Painballers at bay. In the flashbacks, Zeb is the dominant figure as his tales spread across continents. Meanwhile, Snowman is still recovering from a foot injury.

A confrontation against the Painballers hardly feels like the climax. The Crakers, along with genetically modified pigs (called pigoons), side with the MaddAddams. Such an alliance is shockingly good and strange at the same time. For normal humans, one of the first thoughts about surviving is to get rid of competition and menaces from the world. People might even eliminate Crakers due to resource scarcity, and pigoons are not exactly friendly pets either. The three conflicting parties can find common ground when dealing with the same enemy.

In the end, the Painballers are defeated. At least for a little while, everyone can sit down and plan for the future without having to worry about an impending attack. Jimmy died in the battle, sacrificing himself to help Toby and Zeb capture some Painballers. Amanda, Ren, and a woman named Swift Fox find themselves pregnant with half-Craker half-human children. To everybody’s surprise, the women give birth to healthy babies, carrying a big promise of a new young society.

We think the most intriguing part of the MaddAddam trilogy is the decision to accept the Crakers and other genetically modified creatures as parts of the new society. In the first and second novels, the bioengineered creatures are often seen as representations of the far-reaching arm of the Corporations. They are not natural and unable to replace humans. In the concluding novel, human characters learn to appreciate the Crakers for what they are and consider them inseparable from the new ecosystem. MaddAddam reads almost like a fairytale, where despised villains at the beginning of the story morph into respectable and celebrated heroes.

Have you finished the trilogy? Do you think MaddAddam gives a proper conclusion to the series? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.  

Other things you might want to know.

Do you need to read the previous novels to understand the MaddAddam trilogy?

It might be a surprise, but you don’t really need to. Traditionally with a trilogy of any sort, the reader has to follow the story right from the beginning to see the big picture. In the MaddAddam series, however, the third and final novel includes a section titled “The Story So Far,” filled with quick summaries of the previous two books. Any reader can learn enough information from the short section.

Is It Speculative Fiction at Its Best?

MaddAddam is an interesting novel on its own, but it is not award-winning material in the speculative fiction category. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin or even Atwood’s own The Penelopiad are recommended.

Some other popular novels by Margaret Atwood:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • The Blind Assassin (2000)
  • Alias Grace (1996)
  • The Penelopiad (2005)
  • The Heart Goes Last (2015)
  • Hag-Seed (2016)
  • The Edible Woman (1969)

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