Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

Maddaddam is Margaret Atwood's wittiest book so far. It's set in a bleak near-future when ecological and scientific disasters have wiped out most of the human population on Earth. The story is surprisingly upbeat, for all that, and ends on a hopeful note.

This is the culmination of a trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood. You don't need to have read the first two because there is a summary of the earlier books at the beginning of this one. Reading Maddaddam before the others would take away the pleasure in discovering the unfolding narrative in the first books, so if you don't want to miss that, read them first. The first two books have parallel stories centering around different groups of people who meet up at the very end of Year of the Flood. In Maddaddam, the two storylines are entwined and the puzzle pieces of the backstory fall into place.

Atwood's thought-provoking narrative moves along quickly, laced as it is with dark humour.

"She has been making some effort over the past few days: pulling out a weed or two, culling the odd slug or snail. In the old Edencliff Rooftop Garden days, they'd have relocated Our Fellow Vegetable Eaters by throwing them down onto the street -- slugs, too, had a right to live, went the mantra, though not in inappropriate locations such as salad bowls, where they might be harmed by chewing."

"The Rev [leader of the Church of PetrOleum] had nailed together a theology to help him rake in the cash. Naturally he had a scriptural foundation for it. Matthew, Chapter 16, Verse 18: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. It didn't take a rocket-science genius, the Rev would say, to figure out that Peter is the Latin word for rock, and therefore the real, true meaning of 'Peter' refers to petroleum, or oil that comes from rock. 'So this verse, dear friends, is not only about Saint Peter: it is a prophecy, a vision of the Age of Oil, and the proof, dear friends, is right before your eyes, because look! What is more valued by us today than oil?'"

"The cover story for his Seth persona was that he was making a service call at a local branch of a beauty-and-mood-enhancing Corp called AnooYoo, which was a dubious affiliate of HelthWyzer. Health and Beauty, the two seductive twins joined at the navel, singing their eternal siren songs. A lot of people would pay through their nose jobs for either one."

"Kiss-in-the-Dark Chromatic Sparkle Enhancer" toothpaste "claims to make your entire mouth glow in the dark. Toby never tried it out, but some women swore by it. She wonders how Zeb would react if he were to be confronted with a disembodied glowing mouth. Tonight will not be the night to find out, however: she'll be on sentry duty, up on the rooftop, and a light-up mouth would make an excellent target for a sniper."

Pure Atwood brilliance.

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