In Atwood's post-apocalyptic world, a small group of humans have survived the viral Flood that has ended humanity, such as it was. In this group are members of the God's Gardeners, and the MaddAddamites, plus a loner named Jimmy (aka Snowman). All in some way or another are connected the orchestrator of the Flood: Crake. With them are Crake's creation, a better (in his opinion) kind of human, they call Crakers. The Crakers follow the humans around demanding, in their childlike way, to hear stories of Crake, as well as stories of the leader of the humans, Zeb. They've chosen Toby as their storyteller and as she tells them of Zeb's adventures, she learns more about the events that lead Crake to unleash the virus that ended the human race.
When not spinning stories for the Crakers, Toby and the others try to cope with this new world full of dangers. Besides the crumbling buildings, fires, and animals like the pigoons, there are a group of murderous Pain Ballers. These men are the Gladiators of pre-Flood times, criminals who are without humanity or compassion. Zeb is anxious to find his brother, the founder of the God Gardeners, Adam One, before the Pain Ballers do.
If you've gotten this far, you probably already read Oryx and Crake* and Year of the Flood, or you are completely lost. Atwood has created a strange and sinister world for her three novels. It's familiar but foreign. It's a world that could possibly be. A world that is dystopian where big corporations run things and people literally worship oil. The reader learns more about that place through the eyes of Zeb.
Zeb's story weaves in and out the the lives of the main characters of the two other novels. His brother created the God's Garderners, to most people a uber-hippie commune but actually a hideout for people opposed to the work of corporations like HealthWyzer. Zeb came into contact with Glen (aka Crake) and may have inadvertently helped him get his hands on the deadly virus he used to murder the population of the earth. MaddAddam attempts to tie up any loose ends in the series. There are a number of coincidences. However, since the survivors have had some contact with Crake, are these coincidences or destiny? Hmm?
The survivors attitude toward the Crakers is important. They could chase them away, or ignore them, but because they know what they are and where they came from there is an attachment. These beautiful, gentle beings are both endearing and annoying. They've made up a mythology around Crake ("kind, gentle Crake") where he is the god of their universe. The others are unwilling to explain to them that he was really a sociopathic genius with a God Complex. What would happen if they knew this (if they were able to understand it)? So instead the survivors treat the Crakers like special children.
I'm not sure if this third instalment is necessary. There is a lot of Zeb in MaddAddam and I wasn't as enamoured with him as Toby was. I've read a few of Margaret Atwood books and there is often this Alpha Male that the female protagonist follows around like a puppy. He has some things to say but not much that we haven't heard before. By the end, we know that the human race will carry on somehow. It's a hopeful ending, though a hopeful ending where just about everyone and everything in the world has to be destroyed for order to be returned to our planet. Is this a warning? A wish? Is it a happy ending? As Marge Simpson once said, "It's an ending, that's enough." It was entertaining to listen to but not my favorite.
About the Audio: MaddAddam has three narrators: Bernadette Dunne, Bob Walter, and Robbie Daymond. The majority of the narration done by two characters: Toby and Zeb. I found the jumping between the two of them confusing at times. It's as if they are having a conversation and interrupting each other. Just Toby would have been fine. The third character I'll keep secret.
*Note: I read Oryx and Crake in 2007 (apparently) and I remember liking it more than I seemed to at the time. Maybe I should read it again. Also, that was not my best review.