73 pages 2 hours read

Margaret Atwood


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2013

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


Margaret Atwood’s novel MaddAddam, published in 2013, completes her post-apocalyptic MaddAddam trilogy that begins with Oryx and Crake (2003) and continues with The Year of the Flood (2009). The trilogy takes place in the aftermath of a destroyed technological dystopia, a world in which corporations have totalitarian control. Atwood, an award-winning Canadian author, has been a prolific writer of poetry, short stories, novels, and many other forms since the early 1960s. She is known for broaching social issues such as feminism, animal rights, and environmentalism. Atwood’s most famous novel is The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), which is, like the MaddAddam trilogy, a work of dystopian speculative fiction.

Content Warning: The source text depicts rape and sexual assault as well as violence against both humans and animals.

Plot Summary

MaddAddam begins right after the ending of the simultaneous narratives of the first two novels. Toby and Ren have saved Amanda, but the two violent Painballers are at large, untied by perplexed Crakers who want to help. They’ve also rescued Jimmy, who is now unconscious from an infection that originated in a cut foot. Toby herds them all, including the Crakers, back to the cobb-house, where the other survivors have set up camp. The group includes an overlapping mix of MaddAddamites, the scientific geniuses who were forced to help Crake bioengineer the Crakers, and the God’s Gardeners, a doomsday-prepping eco-cult that taught its members to get ready for an apocalyptic event. Most of the survivors are reluctant to keep the Crakers around, especially with their odd, unsettling singing, but Toby is concerned for their safety. The Crakers, who mate based on ovulation cycles, forcefully mate with Ren and Amanda out of confusion. Toby waits for Zeb, who she has secretly loved for years, to return from a supplies mission. When he does, their romantic relationship is finally kindled. With Jimmy comatose, the Crakers enlist Toby to fill in for him. As the person left by Crake to take care of the Crakers, Jimmy had become their unwilling prophet and storyteller. With their prompting, she tells stories about Crake, who they praise as their creator, and Oryx, who made the animals. They believe the world was in chaos, and Crake cleared it away for them.

The survivors live in caution of the sadistic Painballers, who they expect to take revenge. They also work to feed themselves and protect the camp against the genetically manufactured predators in the wild around them, especially the pigoons, which are enormous pigs spliced with human DNA to grow transplant organs. They even have human brain tissue, which makes them dangerously smart, although they often end up as bacon and pork chops. Toby expands Craker lore because they are curious about Zeb, and she coaxes Zeb to tell her the story of his life so she can relay it to the Crakers. Zeb’s story complements the first two novels, explaining how MaddAddam was an illicit online gathering of scientists stuck in labs owned by an all-powerful Corp, participating in the destruction of the environment. Zeb is a talented hacker, who escaped an abusive home with his older brother Adam. Zeb skipped from identity to identity, and Adam started the God’s Gardeners, which became a refuge for escaping MaddAddamites. Adam discovered that the Corporations were injecting viruses into vitamins, allowing them to profit on treatment. Their evidence, pills full of unknown bioforms, was eventually passed to a boy genius named Glenn, also known as Crake. Later, Crake would use them as a basis for his plague. Zeb is searching for Adam, who might have been captured by the Painballers but Zeb hopes is still alive.

One of the Craker children, Blackbeard, befriends Toby, and when he notices her working on her journal, she teaches him how to write. She learns from Blackbeard that the strange Craker singing is their communication with animals. Jimmy wakes up and improves, but he passes the storytelling torch to Toby permanently, unable to keep praising Crake. Meanwhile, Amanda, who has trauma from being raped and brutalized by the Painballers, discovers that she’s pregnant. Ren is also pregnant, and so is Swift Fox, whose open sexuality makes Toby afraid of losing Zeb. All three babies might be from Crakers. Then, a horde of pigoons approaches the camp, and, using Blackbeard as a translator, negotiates peace with the humans along with a plan to join forces and kill the Painballers, who have killed two piglets. The pigs sniff out their location—there are three men now. They have Adam, but he sacrifices himself for the group. Jimmy sacrifices himself to save Toby. They return to the cobb-house with their dead and the Painballers, and they execute the Painballers after a short trial. Their lives go on, and Blackbeard shares in some of the narration and storytelling. The three women give birth to Craker babies and become part of Craker lore. Then, Blackbeard tells the Story of Toby, which he has written in a Book. Zeb went out one day to investigate a campfire and never came back. Toby was devastated. One day, she got terminally sick, and she went into the woods to eat poisonous mushrooms. Blackbeard is passing the skill of writing down to the three hybrid children so their story can live on.