The Peripheral takes effort from the reader, but the payoff is a highly enjoyable science fiction novel with action and mystery, set in a dystopian future. ∞
John Scalzi‘s Redshirts is a clever satire with the lasting power of cotton candy. It’s to be consumed, quickly, then melts away from consciousness. ∞
Lexicon by Max Barry is a plot-dependent novel based on the idea that there are hidden words which let some people manipulate other people. ∞
If you think the post-apocalyptic novel is a tired medium, then you haven’t read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The novel is complex, doesn’t focus on the action-packed, survival porn like The Walking Dead, and threads a dreaminess between one character’s science fiction comic-book creation and the travels of The Symphony, a group of performers who trek the wilds of Michigan and Ontario, performing in small settlements like New Petoskey, Traverse City, and New Sarnia. ∞
I have put on the red hat. I have eaten the fish. I have listened to the shiny thing. Now I will tell of Atwood’s book. Now I will tell of MaddAddam. The novel is the final one of the series. A novel is a work of fiction. It is a book. A book of stories. This story is about Zeb, Snowman, Toby, and the Children of Crake. This story is science fiction. Science fiction is not important anymore, since after the waterless flood Science no longer exists. Science was part of the chaos when people used Science to try make order out of the chaos. Science was a friend of Crake’s and with the help of Science he created you, the Children of Crake.
Atwood wrote these stories. They are very good. Yes, you should read them. Yes, good, kind Crake and good, kind Atwood. Thank you for writing these stories. You don’t need to sing. You don’t need to comment. Not everyone will enjoy these stories, but that’s OK. I don’t know why. Sometimes, people like different things. Please do not sing. I have a headache. Thank you. Yes, that is very nice. The story of MaddAddam is mostly the story of Zeb. Many things happen in Zeb’s past. The past is what happened yesterday and the day before. Yes, we all have pasts.
While the story continues from The Year of the Flood, not that much happens right away. Toby, the Crakers, the God’s Gardeners and MaddAddamites regroup, that means get together, and prepare for Pigoons and the painballers. Yes, the bad men. The bad men of the chaos. At the end of the story, some parts feel forced, especially with Zeb. To force is to make something fit that is too large. To force is to eat too much when there is no more room in your belly. Overall though, the story leaves you satisfied. That would be like the right amount of food, so you are not hungry, but do not feel bad. Yes, that is a good feeling. No, I will not tell you more. It’s time for sleep. Yes, you should read the book. Now I will take off the red hat. Now I will say good night.
Being back home for Christmas usually means I have plenty of time to read. So far I’ve read two and a half books. The latest book was the continuation of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam Trilogy, The Year of the Flood. While this book struggled as well with pace it was more interesting than the first book, Oryx and Crake.
In The Year of the Flood Atwood follows the same timeline. The novel begins when one of the main characters is a child and jumps back and forth to when she’s an adult. What we see is the same world but from a different perspective: the God’s Gardeners. The Gardeners are a cult who tie Christian theology with the environmental movement. Imagine a Saint Jane Goodall or the doctrine of Aldo Leopold. The Gardeners believe in evolution, but they believe all animals have souls and God established them to be companions to Man. For the most part, the Gardeners are dismissed as harmless, but as time moves forward others take up the Gardener’s views. The cult is a refuge for those who are sickened by the corporations. Under the leadership of Adam One, the Gardeners have been pacifists, but a schism takes place and the more radical activists leave. These people are the ones who Crake dupes into helping him.
Another interesting aspect of this novel is how minor characters from the first book become major characters in this book and vice versa. It offers insights that readers won’t often find and is something I think about often in fiction.
The Year of the Flood ends around the same place as Oryx and Crake, but carries the action out another two beats. We know what happens when Jimmy/Snowman comes into the clearing now, but we’re still left wondering what will happen next. My guess is the third book will follow all of the characters as they move through the present, instead of spending so much time in flashbacks. If you are unsure after reading the first novel, check this one out. It’s better and more intriguing.
Just when you thought there could be no more post-apocalypse novels worth reading along comes Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam Trilogy. What Atwood does effectively is imagine a complete world that is a few skips past our own timeline. In this world everything is bio-engineered. Private corporations have all the power. The smart and well-off live in private company compounds where life more or less is stable. The next group of people (think professionals who may not be that bright) live in modules: less secure gated communities. The rest of humanity lives in petri-dish like cities called the pleeblands where crime and violence are rampant. A Haliburton like security force controls everything and resources are scarce. What is not done so effectively the narrative arc.
I found myself asking, what’s the story here? Is it about the post-apocalypse world where Jimmy/Snowman acts as a prophet and teacher for a new species of people that have been genetically engineered, or is the story about the build up to the apocalypse and Crake and Jimmy’s relationship? For me, the post-apocalypse world was the most interesting, but nothing really happens in that storyline. Jimmy/Snowman goes to his former compound to get some food and interacts with the Crakers (the genetically engineered people). It covers three to four days.
The rest of the novel is all flashback and starts when Jimmy is a little boy. He’s smart, but not a “number’s person” and compared to the kids in compounds, he’s not that smart. Things putter along, and Crake enters: a genius level teenager who is dark and silent. He and Jimmy become friends. Things continue to putter along and under the weight of so much backstory the novel becomes frustrating. A subpar love story is introduced that is built solely on Jimmy’s fantasy. Crake rescues Jimmy from his dead end existence as a marketing guy for a lesser compound. However, Crake is using Jimmy, and when a pandemic floods across the world Jimmy is left alone to survive and watch over the Crakers.
Overall, there are great ideas, some interesting characters and a rich world. These strongpoints carry the novel as it suffers from a plodding pace, too much backstory and a disappointing ending. Still, I’ve already started the second book and will probably read the third when it comes out.