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Margaret Atwood

(1939- )
Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College. Learn more at Margaret Atwood’s website.

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MaddAddam

Maddaddam — (2003-2013) Publisher: A stunning and provocative new novel by the internationally celebrated author of The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize. Margaret Atwood’s new novel is so utterly compelling, so prescient, so relevant, so terrifyingly-all-too-likely-to-be-true, that readers may find their view of the world forever changed after reading it. This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers. For readers of Oryx and Crake, nothing will ever look the same again. The narrator of Atwood’s riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes — into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief. With breathtaking command of her shocking material, and with her customary sharp wit and dark humour, Atwood projects us into an outlandish yet wholly believable realm populated by characters who will continue to inhabit our dreams long after the last chapter. This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviews

Oryx and Crake: A scathing condemnation of the world we are creating

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood details an apocalyptic plague, introduces a new species of creatures that have been genetically designed to replace humanity, and the villain is a mad scientist in love. What could be more “SFF” than Oryx and Crake?

Quite a lot, according to Margaret Atwood, who prefers to describe her novel as “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction.” In interviews promoting Oryx and Crake, Atwood explained that everything that takes place in Oryx and Crake is based on trends that we can see today, as opposed to distant planets that have an allegorical connection to our lives. Atwood is “speculating” about where ou... Read More

Year of the Flood: On the Edge

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The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

[In our “The Edge of the Universe” column we review authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

It is well documented that SFF readers love trilogies, prequel trilogies, tetralogies, and “cycles.” Some authors describe settings, but SFF authors “build” worlds and universes. For many SFF readers, the standard of a well-built world is whether or not it warrants a series.

In Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood tells the story of Crake, a brilliant scientist who decides to save Earth by wiping out humanity, including himself, and replacing it with ... Read More

MaddAddam: Concludes one of the smartest trilogies out there

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MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam
is the concluding volume of Margaret Atwood’s post human-apocalypse trilogy, which began with Oryx and Crake and continued with Year of the Flood. I say “Post-human-apocalypse” rather than post-apocalyptic because more so than most novels in this sub-genre, I’d say Atwood makes it pretty clear that our apocalypse is not the world’s, that in fact, this little blue ball of water and rock will spin on quite nicely without us, as will whatever life inhabits it at the time. So sorry humanity, contrary to what you might think, once you’re gone, Earth isn’t going to curl up into the fetal position with a pint of ice cream and an old tee-shirt. It’s seeing other species.

Like the prior two novels, and you really should read those before reading MaddAddam, the third book goes back and ... Read More

The Handmaid’s Tale: Just as chilling as 1984, Brave New World, and We

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

In Our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.

Margaret Atwood was once, via a review of her work, once taken a bit publicly to task by Ursula K. LeGuin for not wanting her books (specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake Read More

The Blind Assassin: Stories within stories within stories

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The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

A provincial Canadian town in the 1920s doesn’t automatically scream sci-fi to most readers. But that is the beauty of Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel, The Blind Assassin (2000). She weaves a sprawling, post-war tale with pulp science-fiction stories that have readers leaping between Port Ticonderoga and Planet Zycron. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but the story is only made richer by these contrasting worlds.

The novel opens with Iris Chase recalling that her sister drove a car off a bridge. Iris is now eighty-three, and so begins the first of three story threads in The Blind Assassin: her tale of her present-day life as an old woman haunted by her past, and the need she feels to record her h... Read More

The Penelopiad: Turns The Odyssey on its head

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The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

It is Alicia Ostriker, in her wonderful collection of essays Dancing at the Devil’s Party, who writes “the true poet is necessarily the partisan of energy, rebellion, and desire, and is opposed to passivity, obedience, and the authority of reasons, laws and institutions.” Daring to deconstruct one of the most dearly held myths of the Western world, Margaret Atwood’s 2005 The Penelopiad is certainly a tango step or two with the one with the pitchfork tail. Taking The Odyssey and turning it on its head, from comedy to tragedy, Atwood gives readers Penelope’s side of the story.

Narrated from Hades, The Penelopiad is a recounting of Penelope’s life from beyond the gra... Read More

In Other Worlds: Not what I was expecting

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In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood

I confess to being somewhat disappointed by In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, Margaret Atwood’s collection of essays (along with a handful of fiction shorts) dealing with science fiction. She has long been a favorite author of mine, and her science fiction (or speculative fiction as she’d prefer) works are my favorites among her books: The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, the science fiction elements of The Blind Assassin. She’s also an insightful critic and a sharp non-fiction writer. So I was looking forward to seeing her thoughts on the field I’ve been reading in for so long.
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Stone Mattress: Nine new tales from Margaret Atwood

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Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is hardly an unappreciated author. Booker winner, seemingly constant nominee for the Orange and Booker prizes, Harvard Arts Medal, Orion Book Award, and the list goes on. But one thing I’d say she doesn’t get enough credit for is her humorous touch, which can be scathingly, bitingly funny, and which is on frequent display in her newest collection of short stories, Stone Mattress: Nine Tales.

The anthology is comprised of nine “tales” (in the afterword, Atwood explains why she prefers that descriptor), the first three of which — “Alphinland”, “Revenant”, and “Dark Lady” are tightly linked by character and events. The others are independent, though they do share some similar themes and characters — vengeance, the travails (and pleasures) of aging, a deliciously macabre tone. Lik... Read More

The Heart Goes Last: Has its moments

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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

I consider Margaret Atwood to be a literary treasure. The Handmaid’s Tale. Alias Grace. The Blind Assassin. The MADDADDAM trilogy. Any author would be thrilled to have written a single work evincing such craft and depth. Atwood churns them out on a regular basis. That context is important here, because her most recent work, The Heart Goes Last, is in my mind definitely a “lesser” Atwood and is in several ways a disappointing work. But th... Read More

Hag-Seed: A mostly magical updating of The Tempest

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

In the Vintage Hogarth Series, contemporary authors put their individual novelistic spin on a Shakespeare play. So far the series has seen the release of Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (The Winter’s Tale), Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name (The Merchant of Venice), Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew), and now Margaret Atwood’s Hag-seed (2016), which for most of its 300+ pages is a wonderfully charming, witty, and at times moving update of The Tempest, set not on a mysterious island but instead in a medium-security prison in Canada.
... Read More

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

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Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas & Tamra Bonvillain

For a literary giant who is approached with a seriousness that borders on reverence, Margaret Atwood is perfectly willing to have fun and write whatever she wants. Sometimes that is clearly genre-tinged; sometimes it is darkly humorous, and sometimes it’s a graphic novel for children about a superhero who is part human, part cat and part owl. And that’s the premise of Angel Catbird, Volume 1.

Atwood’s story and words are illustrated by Johnnie Christmas and colored by Tamra Bonvillain. (I do wonder whether at least one of those surnames is a pseudonym.) Christmas’s images have a simple, comic-strip look to them. With a few exceptions, they reminded me of Kid Beowulf by Alexis Farjado. They’re at least in that style. Bonvillain nicely mixes color palettes... Read More

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury: Four great stories make it easy to recommend

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Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle

Thanks to our recent book chats here, I’ve reread a bit of Ray Bradbury lately, so I was well primed to pick up the 2012 tribute anthology edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, entitled Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, which collects 26 contemporary authors who were asked to write a story inspired or informed by Bradbury. The task was sufficiently non-restrictive that the stories run a gamut of style and type: horror, fantasy, dystopia, science fiction, as well as several with no fantastical element whatsoever, which may surprise those who know Bradbury only through classic novels like Fahrenheit 451 or Something Wicked T... Read More