"The Year of the Flood" is an enjoyable and imaginative accompaniment to "Oryx and Crake" with the main focus on the pleeblands and an eco-religious cult known as "God's Gardeners" complete with hymns, sermons and saints' days. The story is told from two perspectives: Toby, a adult female, and Ren, a younger girl.
I read Oryx and Crake some time ago and couldn't remember all the detail so it was nice to revisit the same world. I enjoyed the opportunity to read more of another aspect of the world that Atwood had created and read more about what came before the waterless flood. It was really good fun to read and the only downside for me was the convenience of the latter events of the story.
If you have not already read Oryx and Crake, then I would recommend that you read it before reading The Year of the Flood. There are some cross-overs which would be spoilers if you read Oryx and Crake after reading The Year of the Flood. The Year of the Flood can be read as a standalone book though, you don't have to had read Oryx and Crake first.
As the book is a futuristic dystopia, it may be categorised as 'science fiction' but this is not really sci-fi as the future science is more incidental, it's better categorised as 'speculative fiction'. The book examines more of how life could be in the future and it's often frightening in the sense of the world that Atwood paints is a difficult place full of struggle. I'm going to start building up my ararat (read the book to find out what it is) as soon as possible!
Nobody can write postapocalyptic future fiction like Margaret Atwood. This latest novel covers the same time period as 'Oryx and Crake', and extends beyond it. The setting is an unnamed city - presumably in Canada - in a future dominated by powerful corporations and genetically engineered animals. A plague has wiped out most of humanity, leaving only a few survivors - most of whom were members of the Christain-ecological cult, God's Gardeners. The novel tells the story of two survivors; their histories with the Gardeners, and the trials and tribulations of their existence post-plague.
Some of the characters in the novel, particularly its latter part, also feature in 'Oryx and Crake', and there are some spoilers for that novel. Nevertheless, it would be quite possible to enjoy 'The Year of the Flood' without having read the earlier book, as I can't really remember 'Oryx and Crake' and it didn't affect my understanding or enjoyment of this book.
Atwood has created a frightening plausible vision of the future. She doesn't like the term 'science-fiction' used for her books as she argues all of the technologies and social trends featured in her novels are already in existence, she has just taken them further along their paths. Thus the future she portrays is bleak and morally bankrupt, with materialistic wealth valued above all else and the environment systematically destroyed. It's pessimistic, but it is worryingly realistic at the same time.
The religious cult of God's Gardeners is very thoroughly imagined, with hymns, sermons and a whole host of Saints' days. The interaction between the cult members is well written, believable and often very humourous. Be warned though - Atwood pulls no punches and never shies away from the unpleasant realities of the situations her characters find themselves in. As such it contains some pretty shocking scenes.
The overall effect is a novel which is gripping, compelling, horrifying, and a great read. The plot is better than in 'Oryx and Crake' and has a good narrative pace, and the writing is of the high standard you would expect from a writer of Atwood's calibre. I just hope that her skill as a prophet isn't as great as her talent for writing - or the future is very bleak for all of us...
on 3 February 2011
I think Margaret Atwood's view of a dystopian future is unfortunately all too plausible. I liked the scene she sets where the disparate parts of society are divided and all governed by a huge conglomerate (whether openly or secretly). The way she structures these sections made me think a little of the feminist novels of the 1970s; where they reflected on the progress for women from the 1950s onwards. In TYotF there are the pampered women in the compound where money and appearance reign (1950s) and then the Gardeners where they live in a communal setting where appearance is less important (the huge covering grey clothes) and everyone is equal (in a 1970 feminist kinda way) But she doesn¡¦t pull any punches when describing the Gardeners commune; warts and all. I also find the idea of the Pleeblands very believable; human burgers etc. Don't we have something a kin to that now in McD's blue meat burgers?
I know she was being ironic/humorous when writing the Adam speeches and hymns but to be honest after a while I found myself skipping over the hymns as just too boring. I felt the last quarter of the book was a bit rushed and scrambled; not so well thought out. I thoroughly disliked the ending. For me it was too tidied up and happy. Not as satisfying as Oryx and Crake.
on 24 August 2009
First of all, it should be said that this book is a follow up to Atwood's previous novel 'Oryx and Crake'. Howvever, this book could be enjoyed without reading 'Oryx and Crake' as it's focus is on other characters. Jimmy, Crake (here as Glenn)and a few other characters do feature in this book in lesser roles, but are not the focus. The revlelations at the end of 'Oryx and Crake' would be spoiled if you read this book first. Therefore I would suggest first reading 'Oryx and Crake'.
This is a very solid book that takes our focus to the pleeblands of Atwood's dystopian future world. The 'God's Gardener's' are a cult working against the pollution and over-use of the world's resources while awaiting the great 'waterless flood' that will engulf the world's human population.
Instead of following a single character, Atwood chooses to flip between two members of the cult, Toby and Ren. The story is always pushed forward, however, events are told from one character's perspective or the other. It's a strategy that works quite well and considering how 'Oryx and Crake' was written from a male character's perspective, it's quite welcome to have female perspectives. Atwood, as always, is able to deliver solid female characters that are believable and easy to relate to despite the bizare world she has created around them.
The story is written in parallel to the events of 'Oryx and Crake' and ends not too long after where that book left off. Since the characters are linked in quite strange and unexpected ways to the characters of 'Oryx and Crake', expect to see quite a few of your favourites from that book popping up here as well.
One aspect that I enjoyed less were the frequent sermons given by the 'God's Gardeners' leader, Adam One. These were given at the beginning of each new section of the book and explained the cult's festivals and many many saints giving Atwood the chance to throw in a few 'tongue-in-cheek' references and inject some humour. However, I found them a bit dull and found myself racing through them in order to get back to the story.
If you wanted to know just what happened to Jimmy in the closing paragraph of 'Oryx and Crake' you will be pleasantly surprised by this book. And since Jimmy pops in and out of this story as well, we get to see him from another perspective, that of Ren, the scorned ex-grilfriend!
The book gives the impression that this is not the end of Atwood's dystopia. Atwood has extended the number of characters at her disposal and another book would be quite welcome. I would certainly love to read some more!
While this book is not as far reaching as 'Oryx and Crake' had been, it is still a very good story and a very enjoyable novel. I certainly wasn't able to book the book down. If you didn't enjoy 'Oryx and Crake', perhaps you should give this one a miss, however, if you had an interest in it and want to read on this is a very welcome sequel (of sorts).
on 12 October 2009
Margaret Atwood combines her knowledge of biology, history and economics with her award winning story telling skills to produce this compelling narrative of a few lonely survivors in a world gone mad. The story is set in the time of the pandemic disaster told in her previous novel Oryx and Crake. Personal histories are told in the first person by the main characters in a convincing and endearing manner despite the alienness of a future culture where multi-national corporations run the world. The troubling fact underlying this fictional setting is that it's all too plausible. The story works on many levels, but the primary focus is the personal relations among the characters. They don't really think that they will save the world by being vegetarian gardeners, but it just seems like the other choices aren't working. The setting may be fictional, but there is a history lesson here none-the-less. And before you dismiss it, take note that Margaret Atwood was right in predicting bad consequences of toxic debt - before the financial crisis hit.
This book is set in the same world as Atwood's 'Oryx and Crake' a post-apocalyptic novel written afew years ago. Its focus is on Ren & Toby, Ren having appeared in O&C albeit in a minor role. The novel charts the lives of both women from their lives as members of the religious group the 'Gardeners' through to after the waterless flood. Atwood brilliantly renders a future whereby a handful of companies essentially run the world and profit is everything. Science has reached the point where we are able to splice animals together ('liobam' for example) and even alter a persons appearance to the point where they are unrecognizable. There's a tendency to call novels like this 'speculative fiction' in that its a possible future although i did find some of Atwood's ideas just plain bizarre. 'Scales and Tails' for example is a upmarket brothel of sorts where women wear head to toe outfits of startling colours and complete with scales. I just found this idea silly and there's no explanation as to how this fashion came about its kind of hinted at that the suits protect the women from STD's and the like but its still a strange idea that i don't think quite worked. Credit where its due, Atwood has created a new religion in the Gods Gardeners (though not without precedent) they are described in detail and it does seem plausible that such a group would form in that type of world. That said, i did find the hymns of the Gardeners to be quite unnecessary and irritating.
There are faults with the book, its not Atwood's best but nevertheless its a interesting work certainly a convincingly plausible future and well worth a read. It should be said that as it nears the end it carries on from where O&C left off i won't say anymore as i do not want to spoil it.
To start with, this book felt like I was at a party where I didn't know anyone. It was pretty disorientating and almost inaccessible in parts. However finally when I was getting to know people and on the point of getting lucky, the designated driver threw a strop and I had to leave...
I bought this book on face value, (naively) thinking it was actually about the survivors of a real flood but with Margaret Attwood things aren't always as they seem. Gallons of creative juices must have flowed in it's conception however that didn't necessarily make it a literary tour de force. She takes "scene setting" to the nth degree and the book is well over three quarters through before the flood (man made virus) actually strikes. Here it gets a bit lazy to be honest as the outbreak is glossed over and we have to assume what's happened using our knowledge gained from various films etc. Ren and Toby survive obviously but miraculously nearly all of their friends do too and then not much happens afterwards apart from some "friends re-united" and a bit of revenge served cold by the once down-trodden Toby.
That aside this is a ultimately quite a readable and provocative book, with Attwood cleverly creating a dysfunctional futuristic society overseen by the shady (they're always shady aren't they?) CorpSecorps Corporation with various groups like the eco-warrior Gardeners and hoodlum Pleebands on the "outside". Plenty of new religion and violence make it a quite heady mix but the two main characters are mostly interchangeable despite their different backgrounds and age I was quite a way through before I noticed the year headings at the start of each chapter which says quite a lot. It was left to the lively and resourceful Amanda to liven up proceedings several chapters in.
This is my first Attwood book and I found it clever, often witty but slow to start and often hit and miss at the same time. It includes the colourful characters Oryx and Crake from the same named book so I would advise picking that up beforehand and doing your research so you know what you're getting yourself into.
on 9 September 2010
I absolutely flew through this book: it went in a day or two, and it's 500 pages - that's double your standard modern novel. Granted, there are many 500 pagers out there, but none have made me eagerly sit for the next few chapters and made me think 'oh, I'll do that after this bit'.
Many reviews here, so there's no need to go on, but this book is not just post-apocalyptic, it's almost medieval..
I'm not sure if anyone else felt this, but due to the gardeners purity, their environment and the way they interact with themselves and the nature around them, it lends a feel of an earlier time. So, despite the odd reference to modern (and post) ways, it put me in mind of a small village in a medieval time...
then that was buttressed against her dystopian vision of the future, with escapes from the CorpSeCorps and so on, and being within pleebland.
There are so many levels here, levels that 'hold up a mirror to ourselves' but not only to our modern selves, but to a past people who relied on the land, and then also the type of people we could be, trying to play 'god' with genetic engineering..
..Anyway, I ramble because it's difficult to sum up such a multi-layered book with so much insight, foresight and ability to not only write cleverly, but not to be too clever neither. Like any good writer, she created a world that was intelligent and needed explaining, but didn't explain it straight away or patronise.
on 15 August 2010
`Oryx and Crake' is one of my all time favourite books, and I was over the moon when I heard there was a companion/follow-up novel. I was not disappointed upon reading, and enjoyed `The Year of the Flood' almost as much as the first book. I wasn't sure how well the God's Gardeners would work as integral characters, but that angle gives a really fresh perspective to the events we have already heard from Jimmy the first time around (like another reviewer though, I could have done without the hymn/sermon interludes every few chapters). Ren and Toby are also very strong lead characters, more than capable of carrying the events of such a wide-reaching fictional world. Again, Atwood strikes a balance that no-one else could, crafting a dramatic, apocalyptic tale intertwined with a winning combination of dry-wit and subtle emotion. I re-read `Oryx & Crake' just before I started this book and was pleased I had because having the previous characters and plotlines fresh in my mind made sure I got the full impact of all the passing references and explanations for things that were left hanging or hinted at. A fantastic book, and still leaves some headroom for other novels in the series. Here's hoping anyway...
'The Year of the Flood' is a companion novel to Atwood's booker shortlisted Oryx and Crake. It isn't quite a prequel, neither is it a sequel in the traditional sense of the word. The novels' time-frames overlap, and some characters appear in both novels, but the events of each book are almost entirely separate. That said, I think some of the revelations in 'O&C' would be spoiled if you read this novel first.
'O&C' is my favourite of Atwood's novels. I knew this to be the case when starting out on 'YOTF', yet I was frightened by how little of it I could remember. Is this a sign of old age? I knew I'd enjoyed 'O&C' immensely, but starting out on 'Flood' I realised I'd forgotten why. It's fair to say that this second volume didn't really remind me. I struggled to get into the novel, and I was at least 250 pages in, before reaching anything close to enjoyment.
The novel follows two survivors of a global cataclysmic event, 'The Waterless Flood'. Although these two characters know each other, their lives had diverged at some point in the past, and they are now trapped in their own safety zones unaware of each other's survival. The bulk of the novel is two alternating narratives, which through the use of flashbacks, fills in how 'Ren' and 'Toby' came to find themselves in the predicament they are in. It is only in the novel's closing stages, that time starts to roll forward, and we find out what, if anything, is left of the world.
Atwood bangs the environmental drum heartily in this book, and it does become wearing. 'Ren' and Toby are 'Gardeners'; a quasi-religious sect, that abhor the state of the world, in particular humanity's treatment of the environment. Everything is bad, whether it be 'Happicuppacinos', Secret Burgers or gene-splicing. Atwood's message is clear: Rampant capitalism, and the chasing of profit is bad, as is the unchecked application of science; particularly if it's for commercial gain. A laudable message, but Atwood pushes it relentlessly.
All that said, Atwood's future earth is a masterclass in world-building. She has taken any number of current-issues, such as genetic manipulation, and extrapolated them into horrific scenarios, that on reflection are only one or two poor decisions away from becoming reality. This lens is used across society to create a horrifying dystopia. At first it is easy to dismiss this vision as worse-case scaremongering - nobody would let that happen surely? History is littered with events that could never happen, because somebody would stop them. All too often, nobody does.
'After the Flood' surprised me. It is not a subtle book, reading it occasionally feels like being beaten with a house brick. If you like dystopian fiction than you will enjoy 'After the Flood', but without a strong narrative to pull the reader through, casual visitors to this sort of novel, will probably find it hard going. I would recommend starting with Oryx and Crake, and seeing what you make of that.