vicIn a world obsessed with dystopias, one accomplished author put her name in the rink with a trilogy of her own. Margaret Atwood released the first in the series, Oryx & Crake, in 2003, the second, The Year of the Flood, in 2009, and the finale, MaddAddam this month. And while parts are intriguing — exceptional, even — the unevenMaddAddam provides an unsatisfactory end.

But, first, some background: Atwood is responsible for one of the best dystopian novels of all time, The Handmaid’s Tale. It imagines a future where the extreme Christian right has created a theocratic America where women have no rights. She’s also written a prolific amount of novels, short stories and essays  and is an avid Twitter user.

The MaddAddam series goes in a different direction. In that world, everything is controlled by a worldwide corporation that uses science to control the masses. People are consumed by materialism, spending more time looking at new hair extensions or plastic surgery than doing anything else. Nature is non-existent; scientists have genetically engineered animals to fulfill the things they need. The Internet is omnipresent, and people are, for the most part, incapable of deep engagement with each other.

Oryx & Crake follows the story of Jimmy, who was raised inside that structure. Until his best friend Crake uses a pill that promised blissful sex to kill most of the people on the planet, leaving Jimmy with the Crakers, humans genetically controlled to be “perfect.” The novel reflects on Jimmy’s present life, taking care of the Crakers, while flashing back to his sordid past.

The Year of the Flood also takes place in this dystopian society, as it runs in the same time frame as the original novel but focuses on members of a religious, pro-nature cult called God’s Gardners. The book follows Toby, Amanda and Ren, three women who found the cult in the midst of some terrible experiences. All three have miraculously survived the aforementioned horrible disease that plagued the planet.

And that’s where MaddAddam picks up — after the end of the world. Some parts of it are really wonderful. Atwood is a beautiful writer, and her powers really shine in this book. I laughed a lot, I cried a little and I worried about our planet’s future, which I imagine is at least partially what she wanted. Toby’s interactions with the endlessly naive and inquisitive Crakers are some of the books highlights — sometimes hysterical and other times, depressing.

But nothing really happens. I kept reading the book hoping that something would, but nothing ever did. A lot of the book is spent on flashbacks to characters I didn’t really care about. Toby, who was always portrayed as strong, confident and intelligent, does a lot of pining after the man she loves.

Jimmy’s plot is also essentially non-existent. For most of the book, he’s in a coma. There’s finally some action at the end — though, for the record, a book doesn’t need an “action scene” to be interesting — but it’s short, fleeting and kind of wedged in.

And then the book is over. Atwood describes what happens to them, in brief, and that’s it. Maybe the point is that even in the face of the end of the world, what’s left will adapt and change, and the world itself will carry on, even if most humans have been left behind.

But as a reader, it felt that Atwood didn’t have a plan. She’d created this exciting world and these interesting characters but was at a loss for what exactly she wanted to do with them. The story had no drive, no gusto — it’s as if Atwood just didn’t want to let the story go.

I get that. I’m the type of person who will spend a few days after a novel is over wondering just what the characters will do next. If I ever wrote a novel, I’d be the one who keeps writing sequels because I can’t let it go. But there has to be a point to it all. Reading a 416-page book where nothing really happens becomes too much.

Read the series. It will give you a lot to think about with respect to where the world is going and where our ethics should lie (and it’s also just a good story). It’s not only thoughtful, but a compelling story about extremely flawed humans. But don’t expect a satisfying ending.

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