*WARNING: As this is a review for the third installment of a trilogy, spoilers for the first two books in the series should be expected. Also if you have not read any of the MaddAddam trilogy nothing in this review will make any sense to you, because I ain’t got time for context.*
There’s something that has always bothered me about the Bible’s version of the Adam and Eve story, and of the fall of Eve. It bothered me when I first read the story in Sunday school, it bothered me when my AP English class in high school studied Genesis, and it continues to bother me to this day: God tells Adam not to eat from the tree of life, because if he does he’ll die. Then the serpent comes to Eve and tells her that if she eats from the tree of life, her eyes will be opened. Adam and Eve eat the fruit, realize they’re naked, and God expels them from the garden. They don’t die from eating the fruit like God told them they would. So, what can we take from this?
God lied, and the devil told the truth.
What are we supposed to make of this? The god who created us also lied to us, and the devil who damned us opened our eyes to the truth.
This all a long-winded way of saying that the Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy is a futuristic version of the story of Adam and Eve, and it’s fucking brilliant. She’s not just reimagining the creation myth in a science fiction (sorry, Ms. Atwood, speculative fiction), she’s reconciling religion and science, and showing us a world where they not only coexist, but one cannot exist without the other.
Look at the God’s Gardeners, who have made conservation of Earth’s resources gospel, and whose saints are scientists and environmental activists. And the “waterless flood” that the Gardeners predict is caused by Crake, unleashing a pill-induced plague on the world to cleanse it. The miracles here are purely scientific, and no less miraculous because of it.
And then there are the Crakers. They’re created by Crake in a controlled, safe environment (literally “Paradice”), intended to be the new, perfect breed of humans to replace the messed-up beta version. Once Crake’s waterless flood devastates the human population (although not nearly as effectively as he wanted it to – even God screws things up), the Crakers are expelled into the real world, which is supposed to serve as a new Eden for them. Jimmy, the prophet chosen by Crake to guide his creations, keeps the Crakers happy with lies and omissions, creating gospel about their benevolent gods, Oryx and Crake. He tells them that Crake communicates only with him (and commands that the Crakers provide Jimmy with food) and tells them only the simplest stories, with the fewest opportunities for questions.
It’s only when the surviving humans, the remnants of the God’s Gardeners, mix with the Crakers that things get messy. With Jimmy too sick to tell stories to the Crakers, Toby takes over the job. Remember in Oryx and Crake, when Jimmy decided that he shouldn’t give the Crakers a detailed origin story for Crake because it would result in too many questions? Toby tells the Crakers how their god was born, and now they have conflicting creation stories. Which version is gospel? Even more dangerous, Toby teaches one of the Crakers how to read and write. So the Crakers, who had previously been kept in happy ignorance, now possess knowledge. Their eyes have been opened. Their faith is still unshaken, but the reader has seen what Crake does behind the scenes. Even if the Crakers haven’t figured it out yet, the reader knows that, like in the story of Adam and Eve, God is a liar.
The difference, of course, is that the Crakers’ gods – Crake and Oryx – were physical people. There are worse things than discovering that your creator was psychotic. What would have happened if Adam and Eve had done as the Crakers do in this book, and returned to Eden to find God’s rotting corpse on the ground? MaddAddam answers this question, and shows us how the Adam and Eve story would pan out in the brave new world that Margaret Atwood has created.
Sure, there are things that I wish would have been explored in further detail – those who, like me, were hoping for some concrete answers about Oryx and her backstory will be disappointed, and there are still large gaps in Crake’s story. This can be frustrating, especially since the first book in the trilogy focused so heavily on the pair, and the mysteries surrounding them. But, I realize, the first book was something of a misdirect. This isn’t Crake’s story, it’s the story of his creations. It was always the Craker’s story.
Verdict: four out of five stars