The police have been replaced by HelthWyzer’s private security force, the CorpSeCorps, and its storm troopers keep the peace by simply doing away with undesirables and anyone who opposes the corporation’s activities. More often than not, the victims’ bodies, usually minus some important organs, are ground up with sundry other ingredients to make the addictive SecretBurgers. Other suspicious franchises include the beverage chain Happicuppaand the beauty salon AnooYoo.
In this frightening, but not wholly unfamiliar world, Atwood focuses on the interactions of a small group of rebels: the brilliant but unstable genetic scientist Crake; his sidekick, Jimmy, and Oryx, the woman they both love; a bioterrorist group known as MaddAddam, which communicates through a computer game called Extinctathon; and a pacifist religious cult called God’s Gardeners.
The Gardeners are led by the saintly Adam One, who has long foretold the coming of a Waterless Flood that will cleanse the sordid and polluted Earth. Until that day, the Gardeners are protected by Zeb, an eco-terrorist who teaches Urban Bloodshed Limitation, “which was street fighting viewed from a loftier perspective.” Such survival techniques come in handy when young women in the group — Toby, Ren and Amanda — are hunted by the Painballers, the brutal winners of a “reality” television program that pits vicious murderers against each other until only one is left alive.
But all this is in the past. Early on in both “Oryx and Crake” and “The Year of the Flood,” we know that the foretold pandemic has wiped out most of humanity. Genetically altered animals, such as the preternaturally intelligent pigoons, now roam wild. Painballers prey on the few survivors from MaddAddam and God’s Gardeners. Not least, in the Paradice dome — sometimes referred to as the Egg — Crake has developed and released a lab-grown and childlike humanoid species called the Crakers. Think of H.G. Wells’s Eloi from “The Time Machine.”
In her trilogy’s first volume, Atwood concentrated on Crake, Oryx and Jimmy, and in the second, on Ren, Toby and Amanda. This last one presents — through lengthy flashbacks — the earlier lives of Adam One and Zeb while also depicting the struggle for human survival in a now-devastated world.