Why I Wrote MaddAddam

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Why did you write MaddAddam, I’m sometimes asked? I’m tempted to quote alpine climber George Mallory, who, when asked in 1924 why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, said, “Because it is there.” MaddAddam had to be there, because the two books that came before it – Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009) –  both end on unfinished business. So MaddAddam had to come along and close those open endings, didn’t it? Or close them at least in part.

The first two books follow different groups of people, but they both end at the same point in time, and in the same place, as those groups come together. MaddAddam carries on from that moment, and tells us what happens next. It also fills us in on the past of a character who isn’t  explored thoroughly in the first two books: Zeb, authority on Urban Bloodshed Limitation and on the skinning and broiling of small animals, and, as we discover, an accomplished thief and hacker.

When it appears in Germany, this book will be called “The Story of Zeb,” – since “MaddAddam” is impossible to translate into German – and it does indeed contain the story of Zeb; but it also contains, as they say on promotional flyers, “and more.” We discover, for instance, whether the rumours about Zeb floating around in The Year of the Flood are true. Did he indeed once eat both a bear and his co-pilot? What was he doing with Lucerne, an obviously unsuitable women? And what exactly is his relationship to Adam One, pacifist, theologian, and wearer of odd caftan-like garments that look as if they’re sewn by gnomes?

I began writing the story of Adam and Zeb as part of The Year of the Flood, but there wasn’t room for it in that book. So it had to be in the next one. At the end of In the Wake of the Flood, the documentary film made by Ron Mann of sphinxproductions.com about the unconventional book tour I did for The Year of the Flood – a tour that combined a musical and dramatic presentation with bird conservation awareness – the camera catches me typing away at MaddAddam.  Zeb was lost, I type. He sat down under a tree.  And he does get lost, and he does sit down under a tree. And right after that, he eats the…. But no spoilers!

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