This review (though not this rating) is for the trilogy as a whole.
I liked the first book best, and the third one least. A lot of this was because the third book was written from the point of view of the character I connected with the least: Toby. Compared to Jimmy/Snowman in the first book, and Ren in the second, I found Toby to be a tough nut to crack. I appreciate that this is true to her character, but I was disappointed to find that after half the second book was told from her perspective, nearly all of the third book was. If that same part of the story had been told by, say, Zeb, it would have grabbed me more.
Some of this is because Toby lacked personal insight into the events that created the crisis, the fall of mankind, that act as the catalyst for the whole series. The best part of MaddAddam was when Zeb was telling Toby stories of his earlier life, and I think the trilogy needed his voice to really anchor the ending. As it was, it felt lackluster at the end. There were still unanswered questions, ideas that seemed incomplete.
Overall, a pretty good read, but not as good as I expected from Atwood.Addendum
I posted my original review three days ago, and something has been nagging at me ever since and I feel like I have to add it.
I was highly disturbed at the end of the series with the handling of Amanda and Ren's children. Both women had been abducted, beaten, raped by the Painballers. Both were traumatized by it, Amanda to the point that she practically became catatonic. No sooner was her ordeal finally over, her salvation at hand, than both women were gang raped again
, this time by the Crakers.
But then, when their respective babies were born, there was this completely bizarre sense of relief that the fathers were Crakers rather than Painballers. Amanda suddenly snapped out of her depression. Everything was okay.
What the actual fuck?
"Good news! Those guys that gang raped you didn't impregnate you - it was these
guys that gang raped you! And we like these
guys, so it's okay."
Atwood creates this utterly grotesque justification for their casual dismissal of the Crakers' gang rape of Amanda and Ren - and make no mistake, that's what it was - by painting them as innocents who "don't know any better".
Okay, I can accept that there's a strong cultural divide - hell, they're not really even the same species - which would, to some degree, absolve them of responsibility for their actions (although I find it difficult to suggest that even Crake would design a being incapable of understanding the word "no"). But why does that matter to their victims? When a violent crime is committed against someone, the motivations of the perpetrator don't automatically erase the pain they cause.
Amanda and Ren were violated. Repeatedly. Amanda suffers a completely understandable mental breakdown after the incident. But the biggest concern seems to be whether their children had been sired by the Painballers, and the women would therefore reject them, or whether they had been sired by the Crakers, and the size of their heads might complicate childbirth. When it turned out they were Craker children, Amanda magically "got better" - as if it wasn't the rapes that had been unbearable, but the idea that she might be carrying a little Painballer inside. Even more disturbing, Ren's own forcible impregnation was brushed off simply because she didn't display the same outward signs of trauma that Amanda did.
In the end it felt like Atwood was excusing everything that had happened to both Amanda and Ren because, after all, they had babies, and babies make everything okay. Yes, they experienced something horrendous, but never mind, because they fulfilled their purpose in creating children, and that cancels out their suffering.
I think I found this conclusion particularly devastating because of how much I loved The Handmaid's Tale
, which was a scathing criticism of this very idea that women were only as valuable as their ability to propagate the species. It feels like a betrayal from Atwood, one that I'm struggling to let go of even days after I've put the book back on the shelf.
In the end, this doesn't change my rating of this book. My rather lengthy addendum is a criticism of only one small portion of the story, and everything I felt about the rest of the book stands.