Imagining a post-pandemic world. By - Jonathan BarnesThe end of the world has been and gone, and the characters in Margaret Atwood's novel Maddaddam are standing in the ruins. It is the near future and civilisation has been all but eradicated by the ravages of a man-made plague. The human survivors are few and badly damaged—Zeb, a former bouncer; Ren, a one-time stripper; Jimmy, a prophetic loner who knows many of the secrets of the old world. Gradually, the biosphere is being reclaimed, not by nature as we would understand it but by creatures that were genetically engineered in the last days of human dominance. They stalk the wilderness, this laboratory-born menagerie, these “pigoons” and “Mo'Hairs”, these “rakunks” and “liobams”, the creation of all of which, the author assures us, is “possible in theory”. Stranger still are the Children of Crake, “quasi-humans” designed by a Moreau-like scientist, to be our successors, “free from sexual jealousy, greed, clothing, and the need for insect repellent and animal protein”, factors which, in his opinion, “had caused not only the misery of the human race but also the degradation of the planet”.