The Year of the Flood (Review)

August 7, 2010

Book cover for "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood.Title: The Year of the Flood

Author: Margaret Atwood

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 448

Genre: Fiction, Dystopia

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

From the cover:

The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood is a brilliant visionary imagining of the future that calls to mind her classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

Adam One, the kindly leader of God’s Gardeners — a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion — 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 been spared: Ren, a young trapeze-dancer, locked inside a high-end sex club; and one of God’s Gardeners, Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived?

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and witty, The Year of the Flood unfolds Toby’s and Ren’s stories during the years prior to their meeting again. The novel not only brilliantly reflects to us a world we recognize but poignantly reminds us of our enduring humanity.

(This is the second book in the Oryx & Crake trilogy, after Oryx and Crake.)

Now, this was the pick for my offline book club this month. It’s not exactly a sequel to Oryx and Crake – rather, the story told in The Year of the Flood takes place at the same time, but is told from the perspective of different characters.

While Oryx and Crake was told from the point of view of Jimmy and focused largely on the events that took place, especially what led up to the pandemic, The Year of the Flood focuses more on the lives of other characters, especially the God’s Gardeners, and is told from the alternating perspectives of Toby and Ren. The story is more about how the characters lived before the pandemic, why they survived it, and how they are continuing to live and trying to figure out what to do in a world where they’re not sure if there is anyone else alive.

Given that the human population has been wiped out by a disease that was created by Crake, the title of this novel might seem a bit odd, but it does have a fairly simple explanation. The book gives us a lot of background on the lives of the God’s Gardeners – largely through the words of Adam One and the hymns that the Gardeners sing – including an event they have been predicting called the “Waterless Flood”. The Gardeners are an extremely left-wing vegetarian religious group that believed that one day, the human population would be wiped off the earth so that animals and vegetation could exist without facing extinction at the hands of people. They likened this to the flood from the Noah’s Ark story, but without the actual water.

I liked this book, but not as much as Oryx and Crake. I don’t think this is the fault of the book, though – it’s partly because I read the books immediately back-to-back. This meant that I had just read an entire book explaining what had happened that brought about the current state of affairs in the world, so for the first little bit of The Year of the Flood, I felt sort of like I had already heard all of this. Once the book got more into the backstories of the characters, though, I definitely got sucked right into the book and along with the people in it, wanting to know more about them and how they had come to be where and what they were.

Also, the cliffhanger ending of Oryx and Crake was resolved, which was nice, because I really wanted to know what happened. It’s still not really all tied up, though, since The Year of the Flood ends without explaining what is going to happen to the remaining survivors. I’ve heard that this is meant to become a trilogy eventually, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Honestly, this book was the fear-inducing dystopia that I really love to read from Atwood. It’s scary because of just how possible it is – even more now than in Oryx and Crake, since there are now more details on how other characters were affected and managed to survive.

Rating:

3 Comments

  • Amy August 8, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Sounds great! I need to read both of these 🙂

  • zibilee August 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I can’t wait to read this book! I am glad you liked it, and think that it sounds like just the type of read I am ready for right now. Thanks for the great review on this one!!

    • Carina August 13, 2010 at 12:28 am

      Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!