Things in Print Thursday :: adventures in the apocalypse with Margaret Atwood

13 Aug

So it’s sort of a funny story.  I picked up The Year of the Flood for about $5 and read it in January, then halfway through that book (the cover gave no indication) realized it was actually a sequel to Oryx and Crake.  Some time passed before my drift partner was able to track that one down for me, and then a bit more time passed before I got around to reading it, then I reread The Year of the Flood to brush up.  I was all buzzed to write about the pair a few weeks ago, then I did a bit of Googling and learned… it was actually a trilogy. Luckily I was able to find MaddAddam fairly quickly and devour it.

And now I’m done with all three and I’m kind of blinking into the proverbial void.

In a good way.  Like with all the rest of the Margaret Atwood I’ve read I found it fascinating.  Margaret Atwood in general can get away with a lot of things that I don’t let most authors get away with, the prime example being that goddamn there is almost certainly going to be rape in the stories.  Because with Margaret Atwood it’s at least going to be rape for the sake of deconstructing aspects of rape culture (from pointing out its tragic absurdity in The Blind Assassin, which I realize now is in part a novel about an outrageous case of gaslighting, to exaggerating it to the point of near-ridiculousness in The Handmaid’s Tale) and/or the characters continuing to exist without being destroyed by their tragedy.  Being shaped by it, certainly, but it is an aspect of them, not just them.

The interesting thing about this trilogy is that all three novels have a different tone to them.  They’re all apocalyptic science fiction told non-linearly, sure, but there’s more to it than that, perhaps because of the difference in narrators.  Oryx and Crake’s Jimmy turned Snowman is mentally frayed alternating between a survivalist adventure story and a reflection of a mediocre growing-up threaded with danger and a fair helping of manic pixie dream girl syndrome.  (On one hand, at least Oryx isn’t the quirky white girl so often manic pixie’d, but on the other hand there’s an undertone of cautionary tale about objectification.)  The Year of the Flood alternates between that same sort of growing-up story with Ren and a more adult narrative with Toby, cut with their current apocalyptic plights, and comes off more about the drama of being a person, a woman, in the world as it changes.  And MaddAddam is part that with Toby and part grudgingly-given deified children’s story.

This series is also formed on the very important principle just because you can doesn’t mean you should with a thread of dangerous meliorism.  Apocalypses caused by dangerous meliorism, meliorism that edges into the psychopathic, are sometimes more interesting.  It’s the Miranda thing in Serenity, it’s things going to shit because someone got it in their head that they could improve upon people. Don’t get me wrong I think people can be better if they try, but seeing that carried out to its extreme conclusion is always interesting.

I don’t know where I’m going with this.  One of these days I want to comprehensively timeline out the events of this series (difficult considering there aren’t proper dates used) but that is not tonight.  Suffice to say, if you feel like being a little freaked out and you can handle human darkness, go for it.

–your fangirl heroine.

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