The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood By Margaret Atwood

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners–a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life–has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away . . .

I actually purchased this book prior to getting Oryx and Crake, even though Oryx and Crake is the first book in the series. I think it was because a lot of people say you don’t have to read Oryx and Crake to understand this novel. While that’s true, I think you would miss a lot if you did that and I’m glad I didn’t in retrospect.

The Year of the Flood is a novel that runs parallel to the events of Oryx and Crake rather than building upon it. It provides a different perspective on the world and expands it. Oryx and Crake is a little more enclosed and gives more explanation of things to the reader, but The Year of the Flood assumes you know the basics of the world-building. You could probably figure things out in context, but you could also just read Oryx and Crake first and not have to do that.

This series is definitely dark, violent, and gritty. There is nothing beautiful about Atwood’s dystopian vision, not even in that tragically beautiful way that some dystopian novels are. The MaddAddam world is lonely, cruel, and nasty and made that much more so by the apocalypse that rains down on it. It’s like the Game of Thrones of the dystopian genre.

I enjoyed seeing the female perspective on the world in this book after seeing the male side of things in Oryx and Crake. Both of the primary narrators are female and their story is told in alternating chapters along with the letters from Adam One to the God’s Gardeners and selections from the God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook. I saw in the acknowledgements that someone actually set the hymns to music. You can find information about that here.

I’m interested to see where the story goes in the third book, MaddAddam. Clearly, this is not a traditional trilogy so I don’t know really what to expect. I don’t know anyone who has actually read this series, so I have not had even a hint of how the series ends!

 

 

Oryx and Crake

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

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Only Margaret Atwood could get away with writing a book like this. While I found the book hard to put down, I have to say on an action level, not much happens. The story starts in an apocalyptic future before jumping back to Jimmy’s childhood and showing the unfolding of events that led to his present day situation. This will be a short review to avoid spoilers.

The future Atwood imagines that lead a to population-decimating plague are imaginative and well constructed. I know Oryx and Crake was published well before all of these, but if you liked Station ElevenMatched, Annihilation, and The Passage, you will enjoy this one. Atwood’s future is far from rosy, unflinchingly honest in its perversions, and terrifyingly within reach. Jimmy is (amazingly) an ordinary narrator. He is not special in any way, but survives based on being in the right place, at the right time, in the right circumstances. His own survival is as baffling to him as it is to us and we acutely feel his confusion and pain at being handed a future he probably would have wanted to opt out of.

I am looking forward to starting the second book in the trilogy, The Year of the Flood, after the holidays.