Camping and Margaret Atwood’s MADDADDAM Series

Camping. Real camping. Well, real camping in a tent with electricity and running water nearby.

Yep, we went camping. We went with 11 families, all with kids. There were 52 of us all together. 52 people in one camping “cul de sac.” It’s an annual tradition  although this is only our second year. We camp about 15 minutes outside of town, at a state park. There is a lake and all the necessary amenities — well, actually unnecessary, but necessary to get Hubs out of the house for a weekend in the woods. Electricity, communal bathrooms nearby, running water. Easy access to home when the weather turns. Yes, as a family we are fair weather campers.

We got the tent set up just before the rain hit. Yes rain. No, not little rain. Heavy duty, torrential downpour rain. Not what I was hoping for when your beginning your camping weekend.

And it’s your birthday.

Yes, I chose to go camping on my birthday. I LOVE camping; it takes me back to my Colorado roots. I even got a new tent for my birthday, and I was so happy. The downpour was not what I wanted on my birthday.

This is what I think I look like camping on my birthday:

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AAAAND, this is what I actually look like camping on my birthday.

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Eventually, the downpour ended. And we camped. We got wet, we got hot (the next day was REALLY hot and humid). We swam in questionable water. Two people in our family wear glasses, and two people broke glasses beyond repair. Katy ran away (not very far) in the rain.

But, guess what? It was the BEST time ever. We laughed. The kids rode bikes, played games, danced, and giggled. The parents talked, and cooked, and sipped wine classily and had sophisticated cocktails (or so we wanted to believe). We laughed. We had fun in the middle of nature.

If I could, I would spend my birthday this way EVERY year.

These are the weekends upon which friendships are built.



                     

So, a few years ago (probably not long after it came out) I read The Year of the Flood.  Or, I may have listened to it. I’m not positive. I have always loved Margaret Atwood, and I was very excited for this one.

Anyway, I didn’t love it. I couldn’t get a grasp on it, and the characters were vague. Or so I thought. And then I realized it was the second book in a trilogy, and it made more sense.

This August, I decided to give it another chance. From the beginning, and knowing that the last book was written and published.

And I’m glad I did.

I started at the beginning this time, with Oryx and Crake. The story is told by Jimmy, or Snowman, as he is known in this post-apocalyptic world. He lives in a tree near the shore, and watches over a group of ‘Crakers,’ a new species of humans bio-designed to be perfect. His days are spent remembering, and trying to figure out what happened.

Jimmy’s memory takes him back to before; before a plague wiped out the world, before it was just he and the Crakers. He remembers his life with his parents, and meeting Crake, his mad genius best friend who created the Crakers, and Oryx, the love of Jimmy’s (and Crake’s) life. He’s trying to figure out where it all went wrong, all the while trying to figure out how to keep the Crakers safe and innocent.

Then I went back to The Year of the Flood. By itself it made little sense, but reading it after Oryx and Crake it made a lot more sense. Many of the characters from Jimmy’s life appear in The Year of the Flood, and all the characters weave in and out of Jimmy, and Crake’s, life, which makes it more interesting.

The Year of the Flood also takes place after the plague has cleared out the world, centering on a green religion that didn’t believe in the bio-technology that ruled the world. The group, God’s Gardeners, melded the Bible and Christianity with naturalist teachings that shied away from anything non-natural. Their teachings talk about “The Waterless Flood” that is coming, and the prophecy comes true with the plague.

In it, we meet Ren, a young trapeze artist/exotic dancer/prostitute who grew up split between the bio-tech ‘compounds’ and God’s Gardeners. Ren survives at the high-end sex club where she works (Scales and Tails), wondering who survived. Adam, the leader of God’s Gardeners? Her best friend, Amanda? Her high school boyfriend and first love, Jimmy? Her stepdad, Zeb?

We also meet Toby, a teacher with God’s Gardeners who was managing a high end spa when “The Waterless Flood” hit. She holed up, living a very controlled, very lonely life, wondering who survived. Her secret love, Zeb? Adam? Others from God’s Gardeners?

Eventually the two women’s lives cross, along with some bad guys from their past and Amanda. And, at the very end of the book, Jimmy.

And then MaddAddam. In this one, Jimmy and the Crakers become part of the group with Ren and Toby. And Zeb shows up with some of God’s Gardeners, along with some of the smart bio-tech wonders that were working with Crake, and against the unnatural, before the end of the world. Together the group learns to live together and to survive, teaching the Crakers about the world, and Crake (their creator) and Oryx (the creator of animals), setting up a religion without really realizing what they are doing.

Between them all they piece together what went wrong, and what the can make better. They survive, and fight, and become the first people in a new world.

The series is interesting, and good. A very interesting take on how bio-technology and genetics can go totally wrong, and how one guy with a God complex can take a solution way too far. Atwood does a good, not great, job. It was perfect for listening. All-in-all, worth your time. I would give the series three and a half stars.

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