Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New humanoids in Margaret Atwood's dystopian future

by Salman Hameed

I haven't had a chance to read any of the books in dystopian trilogy by Margaret Atwood, but after reading this recent review in Nature, I'm itching to read them. Here is the review of MaddAddam - the final book in the trilogy - in this week's Nature:

A decade after Margaret Atwood began her great dystopian tale, we have at last reached the end of that road. The Canadian novelist has taken us from Oryx and Crake (2003) and
The Year of the Flood (2009) to this final instalment, MaddAddam
A global pandemic dominates the trilogy. In Oryx and Crake, a disillusioned bioengineer (Crake) unleashes a 'hot bioform' that kills most humans. The Year of the Flood revisits the pandemic through the lens of a religious cult called God's Gardeners, whose followers try to survive the ravages of the pathogen. MaddAddam completes the saga with the story of two members of the cult, Toby and Zeb, as they live through the aftermath of the plague. In the dystopian tradition, the trilogy is a window on our possible near future — in this case, one driven to disaster by human ingenuity gone wrong. 
As MaddAddam opens, with almost all of humanity having perished in Crake's “Waterless Flood”, it turns out that the bioengineer had good reason to reboot the human race. 
Atwood paints a picture of a pre-flood nightmare, class-divided, corporate and hegemonic. This was a world of Hunger Games-like death sports, rampant sexual enslavement and increasingly macabre genetically engineered hybrids. It begged to be wiped out. 
The surviving humans must cope with a number of relics of pre-flood genetic tinkering. These include Pigoons — large, ferocious pigs with near-human intelligence, originally created for organ transplants — and domesticated goats with human hair known as Mo'Hairs. Also surviving is a small group of humanoids called Crakers, so-named for their creator and genetically modified to be polyamorous innocents with a predilection for eating kudzu (an invasive plant). These are the meek whom Crake would have had inherit the Earth, but they face many dangers. The remaining humans, especially Toby and Zeb, protect them from the Pigoons and a pair of murderous death-game survivors who have already raped and killed some of their clan. 
As time passes, the Crakers begin to show signs of culture. They sing songs, beatify their now-dead creator, and hunger for more myths and stories about their origins. Toby, the book's main protagonist, provides these as best she can, and we watch with hope and dread as she spins child-like tales for the Crakers out of the unseemly facts of the Flood.
Read the full review here.

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