Books Read in 2014 – 65. Maddaddam – Margaret Atwood

Genre: Dystopia

Narrative style: Third PersonUnknown

Rating 5/5

Published: 2013

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: This picks up the story at the end of both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood with the earth decimated by a man-made plague. Toby and Ren have found Amanda, currently being held by two Painballers and are contemplating their next move when Jimmy appears. The action continues from this point. 

My expectations were high for this book. I had enjoyed the first two and really, I meant to read this one much earlier. I was half expecting to be disappointed. Could it possibly live up to my hopes?

Of course, this is Atwood we’re talking about. If anything this was better than The Year of the Flood. This was largely due to the Crakers being back on centre stage and Jimmy also. Although Jimmy wasn’t always an active participant, his character was inseparable from the mythology that he gives to the Crakers who treat his hat and watch as sacred objects. There is a lot of humour and also a lot of affection in Atwood’s creation of a religion for the Crakers. I particularly liked the way that they mistook the curse ‘Oh fuck’ for a cry to a deity who would come to help.

Zeb’s backstory added colour to the story of Crake and helped to explain events of the other two novels. It was enjoyable watching him switch identities and jobs, always managing to just get out of trouble. The love story between Toby and Zeb was also enjoyable. There was a refreshing lack of sentiment in their relationship. Toby was easy to identify with as she learned to put her insecurities to one side as the future of their group was much more important than any personal issues she may have.

I was a little troubled about the alliance between the humans and the pigoons at first. I wasn’t convinced that it wouldn’t just seem ridiculous but Atwood even managed to pull that off and they became more human than pig in the end.

The idea of teaching the Crakers to write and so be able to pass on their creation story to other generations was inspired. Atwood gives them childlike voices but never belittles them and their lack of guile. Perhaps this is what we would have to be like in order to actually save the current world.

The end of the novel is both sad and full of hope. There are deaths and battles but also births – babies that are half human and half Craker. The hope lies in the Crakers, their new mythology and the potential of the new species. It seems that the future is at least a little rosy.

Anger is an Energy

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger since I finished I Can Make You Hate by Charlie Brooker. Specifically my own anger. I do believe that if you are intelligent, you should be angry. At the state of the world today. So many things make me angry that if I started to list them, this post would go on for days.

I have also been thinking about how this fuels my writing. Or at least, it is fuelling what I am writing now. That is the advantage of writing speculative fiction. I can take my annoyances and take them to the logical extreme. The only problem is where to stop. At the minute, I have more ideas than I could possibly use. Which is good I suppose, as it could mean a series rather than just one book or maybe a different book set in a different future.

The main thing that is making me angry at the moment is education and this is definitely going to be included in Choose Yr Future. It was with a sense of dismay that I listened to the news that children could be ranked at age eleven. Apparently this will raise standards. All I can see that it will do is pressurize children and make some of them give up at the tender age of eleven. And of course, inevitably, the posher schools will come out of this at the top of the pile.

It seems to me that children – particularly working class children – are being failed by our current system with its emphasis on exams and testing. All they learn is how to pass tests.  Often you don’t remember what you have learned for a test afterwards as the test was the point, not the learning. The creation of academies, the ridiculous standards that Ofsted uses to judge teachers and schools, the lack of money and Gove’s depressing new curriculum, all of these things are destroying the education system in this country.

In my future, there will be a huge gap between the richest and poorest schools with only those who able to afford it progressing through the system to university. (With the huge amounts needed to pay tuition fees, I can see a return to further education for the rich only. I’m not sure I’d have made it to university under current conditions.) The result of this will be the poorer schools having less money, less equipment, only the newest teachers and therefore, a poorer education. The result of this would be that pupils from these schools would only have the opportunity for jobs such as working in a shop, serving the rich families, clearing rubbish, jobs that other people do not want to do. They wouldn’t be educated for as long because why bother. Jobs that require further education would only be available for the rich with their better schools and more experienced teachers. It wouldn’t take long for this self-fulfilling prophecy to take hold. You don’t have to spend all that long telling people they are worthless before they start to believe it. It would be a return to a nineteenth century style of education. Before the idea of education for all. I do not think it is melodramatic to suggest that it is in this direction that the current education system is heading.