"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
- Anna Quindlen
I've put off reviewing this one, because to talk about it feels like betrayal. I've invested a lot in this series, and I love Atwood fiercely, but this book was... fluffy.
There. I've said it. This book is fluff, and not even very good fluff. It's astonishing that something so breezy and shallow was written by the author of Bodily Harm. Or Surfacing. Or hell, Oryx and Crake! This series deserved a far better conclusion.
The story opens where The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake simultaneously ended: On a beach, with a small group of humans and the uncanny Crakers. After the villains who had been following them escape into the night, the group decides to stick together and return to their camp.
And there, the plot stops.
Oh, we get a lot of backstory for Zeb, who was never a very interesting character to begin with, and whose childhood hardly merits the attention - there is nothing here even half as intriguing as Jimmy and Crake's story (the first book), or Ren and Toby's stories (the second).
Meanwhile, the interesting characters are either out of commission (Jimmy, Amanda), totally ignored (Ren), annoyingly starry-eyed over Zeb (what the hell, Toby?), or, you know, dead (everybody else). Which left only one character I actually became invested in: Blackbeard, the Craker boy. This was a nice change, particularly because the Crakers are so alien and childlike and (let's be honest) annoying. Always singing or purring or yapping about catching fish and their blue penises. Ugh. So I was surprised at how tenderly - and maturely - Blackbeard was written. I basically checked out on all the other characters, so their ultimate fates didn't phase me much. But Blackbeard... him, I loved.
Here's the thing, though: this book gets very, very stupid about 2/3rds the way through. I'm going to put this behind a spoilercut, so take heed, but(show spoiler)
I went to see Atwood a couple of weeks ago at a reading, and during the Q&A someone asked what the deal was with her refusal to classify her novels as science fiction. She gave the old rigmarole about how her books only include science that already exists, or is close to existing. So it's not SF, because in her mind, SF is all about space stations and laser guns, or something. Instead, her work is speculative fiction.
So do tell, Ms. Atwood, what is the real science behind(show spoiler)
?? Because that is some Star Trek shit right there. And not even good Star Trek shit. That is, like, one of those Star Trek episodes that is so embarrassingly dumb that even the hardcore nerdz pretend it doesn't exist. Like any episode where the crew got trapped in the Holodeck in ridiculous old-timey outfits. Or that one where Deana Troi did... anything.
And I really can't believe it's come to this - comparing an Atwood novel to a Troi-centric TNG ep. That's low. But this novel! It's just so subpar!
Which isn't to say it's all bad. The prose is crystalline, and the story moved quickly despite having very little going on in the plot department. A lot of little things did work. But overall, it just didn't take me anywhere new or tie up the ends that needed tying. I wanted this book to be so much more than it was.