Friday, September 13, 2013

MaddAddam: A Book Review

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood is the third installment of her apocalyptic series that started way back in 2003 with the phenomenal Oryx and Crake. The series explores a world of powerful corporations and biotech and the consequences that a single individual's actions can have on the world.

Let me start by saying that I loved the first two books. Oryx and Crake was exciting and fascinating and set the apocalyptic stage perfectly. The Year of the Flood, the second book, is my personal favorite. It follows an extreme sect of environmental/religious fundamentalists and two of the members' survival before and after a plague known as the waterless flood. Both of these books raised significant questions not only about their fictional world, but about our world and our belief systems. They made me question myself and the culture I live in. They gave me a new way to think about our world.

Then comes the much-anticipated end of the series: MaddAddam. I live in a small town with only one bookstore and I bought the only copy they had on release day. I went home, read it, and finished it within a couple of days. So why has it taken me nearly two weeks to write my review?

Throughout my reading of this final book, I had mixed feelings. I love Margaret Atwood's writing style. She is eloquent and thoughtful and her word use is superb. I love the world she created. I love the characters. Yet...I did not love this book.

It was okay. It wasn't bad. It was significantly better than a lot of other stuff that manages to get published. But it wasn't "Margaret Atwood" good. It wasn't what I had come to expect ever since I picked up The Handmaid's Tale when I was a sophomore in high school. I was disappointed.

It's hard to convey just what that disappointment meant to me. I even tried to convince myself that I wasn't disappointed. I was just having a couple of "off" days. Maybe something else was stressing me out so I couldn't enjoy the book properly. Then I finished it and realized that, no, it wasn't me. For the first time, I was disappointed with a Margaret Atwood book.

I think the main reason the book was lacking in comparison to its predecessors was that the first two books were full of powerful questions. MaddAddam was full of answers, and, honestly, they weren't as satisfying as the questions. It felt like the entire book was an attempt by Margaret Atwood to tie up the loose ends of the first two books. It lacked the inspiration, the spark that brought the others to life. It felt like literary checkbook balancing. I think I would have been just as satisfied if she'd never have written this book. In other words, it was very anticlimactic.

For an author that is known for writing powerful and relevant speculative fiction, MaddAddam falls far short of the bar she set for herself. The writing is technically good and the characters are the same ones that we fell in love with in the first place, but the book itself did not meet my expectations.

I haven't read any other reviews and, frankly, I'm not interested in them. I understand that many people will probably rave about the book and it is good. Just not in comparison to her other works. This experience has been much more to me than just a disappointing read. It was a fall from grace. Margaret Atwood has always been my inspiration. The paragon I aspired to be like.

And she still is.

But now I know even the best authors can write mediocre books.

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