Earth's human population had been almost wiped out by a man-made plague. The few survivors, the remnants of a nature cult called God's Gardeners, find themselves threatened by a pair of "Pain Ballers", brutal criminals bent on rape and murder. To survive, the Gardeners must band together with the genetically engineered humanoid Crakers and some eerily intelligent feral pigs.
In the conclusion of the MaddAddam trilogy, which began with Oryx and Crake, Atwood finally gives an insight into the minds of the Crakers and what they think of the surviving "normal" humans, with their confusingly different views on mating and violence. Much of the narrative is in the form of stories told to them by Tobey, one of the Gardeners. Tobey takes the myths that Snowman, or "Snowman-the-Jimmy" as the Crakers now call him, established, and builds on them. In addition to kind, gentle, mother Oryx and Father Crake their pantheon now includes Pilar, Tobey's deceased former mentor whom they believe she can speak to via the conduit of a swarm of bees, and F***, on whom people may call in times of trouble by exclaiming "oh, F***!"
Tobey tells these tales to keep the Crakers interested so they will remain close to the Gardener's compound and thus hopefully safe from the Pain Ballers. She juggles this with her tenuous relationship with Zeb, her attempts to chronicle their journey so far, and the day to day struggle to survive in a world without electricity or clean running water.
Besides the Crakers and the Gardeners other sentient creatures have survived the plague. The Pigoons, giant pigs bred for organ donation who have human brain tissue, are alarmingly cunning at hunting and getting into gardens. They even seem to have started to develop a rudimentary culture. With the help of the Crakers the Gardeners are able to communicate with the Pigoons and find out what they want from them. This proves invaluable as the Gardeners move towards the inevitable confrontation with the Pain Ballers.
This volume also goes into Zeb's past, his connection with Adam One, and explains more of the background of how the plague got started. The plot is convoluted and this book will make very little sense if you haven't read the first two books in the trilogy, and ideally read them recently. You don't really read Margaret Atwood novels for the plot in any case. It's the atmosphere she builds and the way she creates a mirror for our present day world that make the book interesting. In the Maddaddam trilogy she has a lot to say about genetic engineering and conservation. It's not subtle, but it is at times thought provoking and other times darkly funny.
The first book, Oryx and Crake, felt to me like a complete story in itself, so I was surprised when the second book, The Year of The Flood was announced. Reading The Year of the Flood made me want to go back and re-read Oryx and Crake and admire how all the little pieces fit together so beautifully. In the third book all the loose ends were finally tied up in a satisfying overall package.
If you read one of these books you should read them all. If you can, I recommend getting them in audio book format because the audio books are wonderfully put together. In The Year of the Flood segments of the story are interspersed with the hymns and music of the God's Gardeners. MaddAddam is read by three different narrators who each perform their parts beautifully. In particular, Bob Walter's performance as Zeb, with his deep, manly voice, helped me understand what Tobey saw in him.
MaddAddam is a satisfying conclusion to a strange and wonderful trilogy. I would recommend the whole trilogy to Atwood fans and fans of future dystopian stories.