starting in the middle
When I was first recommended to read this book, I didn’t know it was a part of a trilogy, but luckily this did not matter so much. The chaotic world of Toby and Ren and other Gardeners was completely legible without the context of Oryx and Crake. In my opinion, this only adds to the brilliance of Margaret Atwood, who, after I read The Handmaid’s Tale last year, became one of my favourite authors. The novel felt almost like a first in the series and from the point of view of characters like Ren, it is. The careful layering of flasbacks and points of view make it hard but rewarding to get to the heart of this mutilated world. The reader is dropped in the middle of one of my worst nightmares: into the mind of a secluded survivor. The terror that invades me when I think about having to survive on my own and always, always check my back means I would propably pop a few Death Angels into my mouth and be done with it. However, I could experience this with someone like Toby (who I completely admire for her inner strength) and still be able to put the book down and enjoy a full meal (meat optional) and see my friends. Cheapest way to travel is to read books.
Not until I came across the code word MaddAddam did I realise that it was the final book of the trilogy (and possibly next week’s book since I have to know what happens!). What I would like to see is hope. Starting in the middle means no conclusion, no relief from the pain and agony especially Ren and Amanda have to go through. At least Blanco is dead (if I were Toby, he would not have gone so peacefully). The promised land never appears and the seeds of hope go without watering. This is what I struggle with in the middle parts of anything; however important they are for the structure of the series and character development, they always seem to end with more unsolved questions that the first one finished with. Then again, there might not have been so many of them had I read Oryx and Crake first.
I don’t exactly why dystopias fascinate me so much, but I have read a few like The Hunger Games and Divergent and the above-mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale. There is something in the extreme nature of them and the contrast they make with the world we live in now. How the society is run and by whom? Where does the real power lie? Why do certain issues never lose their importance? These are all valid questions but most importantly I cannot stop thinking about how close our world is to the one depicted in the dystopian novels.
Religion never seems to lose its importance, at least in Atwood’s novels (okay, the two that I have managed to read so far…). I have to admit, I quicly become extremely pious when there is even the slightest amount of turbulence when I’m on an airplane. The sort of calm assurance that someone else is in charge and that you are not alone and that you have a purpose are issues that bring security and stability at times of crisis. The Garderers offer an inviting lifestyle for someone looking for peace and quiet but I have to admit, I’m with Zeb on that what they offer is not enough. Then again, especially for a woman, it seems, the options outside are limited to the all too familiar prostitution. Another feature that never seems to go away is men and their predatory nature towards women. Even within the Gardeners, not everyone survives. This makes me unconfortable in more ways than one. First, it does nothing to ease my opinion on the current lad culture and where we are headed with the oversexualised media lunging at you around every corner. Second, it makes me feel sorry for the men to be seen as such monsters. Luckily, there are good guys as well: Zeb, Adam One, Shackie, Croze and Oates all offer an alternative for the beasts gorging on female flesh. Women just seem to always get the shorter end of the stick (same as in The Handmaid’s Tale) which might be exactly what Atwood is trying to convey. Luckily there is still time…or is there?
the whole puzzle
One of the biggest things I envy Atwood’s writing for is the attention to detail. The abbreviations of the names, the different languages, the attitudes, the surroundings, the ideals, the society as a whole, there is no end to the list. Every piece of the puzzle fits in perfectly, leaving no gaps. The religious group’s hymns and speeches are completely different from the language the teenagers use among themselves and this language is again completely different from the language inside the HealtWyzer Compunds (“Meath-breath” is one of the most offensive words among the Gardeners, yet it means nothing to the Compound kids). Everything has a place, everything is represented. The subcultures of different nationalities like AsianFusion and Blackened Redfish and the justice system of Painball. Universities and their differences. It is impossible to imagine how this all fits into a person’s head on the side of the actual reality. Maybe that’s why you have to put it on paper, to save brainspace. J.K. Rowling is the other person who I cannot understand in this aspect. How can they find the smallest pieces to make the puzzle complete? I get lost in the process, combining two of three pieces that fit together nicely and then move to another duo and trio and the end product resembles a small cluster of islands more than an actual full, readable image. I guess this is one of the aims of this blog, to absorb greatness in the hopes that maybe some of it will rub of on me. Until then, I can always just slip into the worlds already there, waiting to be discovered.
– Jatta –