MaddAddam, Part 2
In MaddAddam Toby begins to find other people, mostly Gardeners and another group, the MaddAddams, which broke away from them. (I have to say I don't understand why these particular people survived, and Atwood doesn't really explain it. A plague isn't going to spare anyone, even if you eat right and don't kill animals for food.) Luckily, the Gardeners have enough knowledge to grow crops and make herbal medicine, and maybe even to start human civilization up again -- though Atwood makes it clear that anyone who thinks this last is probably some kind of wild-eyed idealist.
Atwood also seems to step up her science fictional game, maybe as a result of coming into contact with more sf readers. In places her description of hacking verges on cyberpunk: "Rio was another story. Its nickname then was The Hackery; that was before the mini-drone raids and the electrical-grid sabotage events that sent the truly serious operators -- those who survived -- into the Cambodian jungles to set up shop anew… It was said to be the Wild West of the web, filled with youthful bristle-faced blackhat cyberhustlers of every possible nationality." One character even says he did something "for the lulz" -- points for internet slang, points taken away because will people still be saying this in the future?
But the best part of MaddAddam, for me, are the Crakers, the genetically engineered people. Crake made them to be without jealousy, without greed, with the ability to graze on leaves so that they wouldn't ever go hungry. The most famous part of these books, the one every reviewer seems to mention, is the Crakers' reproductive cycle -- their sexual organs turn blue when they go into heat, and Atwood seems to have a good deal of fun describing the men's bobbing blue penises as they court the women. (Four men court one woman, so there is no certainly as to the fatherhood of the child, and no dynasties or inheritances. Well, I guess they could inherit from the mother, but Atwood doesn't seem to think of that.)
In the first two books the Crakers seemed sort of weird and creepy, but now, as we get to know them one at a time, they become endearing. They're childlike, they're delighted with little things, they heal wounds and unhappiness by purring, they sing. When Toby tells them they shouldn't assume that every woman wants to mate with them, even if the woman is fertile (or "smells blue," as the Crakers put it), they discuss this endlessly: "If she is blue, the Lotis one, should we mate with her? No, we should not. Do not sing to them, do not pick flowers for them, do not wag your penis at them. These women scream with fright, they do not choose us even if we give them a flower, they do not like a wagging penis. We do not make them happy, we do not know why they scream."
Atwood's world, then, ends not with a bang or a whimper, but with an exhausted sigh as the humans prepare to turn the planet over to a species that might take better care of it. And by this time, you begin to think that that's the best you could hope for.