The Year Of The Flood Paperback – 29 Aug 2013
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Prescient and inventive (Tracy-Ann Oberman)
* A major paperback from one of our great writers:following the first of her speculative fiction, ORYX AND CRAKESee all Product description
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I do have the final story of the trilogy downloaded but I'm going to leave it a while before I return to this world.
Like the first book, this has dual timelines, moving back and forth between the time before the "Waterless Flood" that wiped out most of humanity and the months that follow. It is told from the alternating point of view of two survivors, Toby and Ren, both of whom are interesting characters who you can't help but feel a good deal of sympathy for.
Oryx and Crake focussed on the elite, and as such, although the unpleasantness of the world was easy to read between the lines, for much of the time, the centrals characters were having a broadly pleasant time. Here, the focus shifts to the underbelly (which seems to include a large proportion of society) and the true horrors of the world become clear. Above all, the story focuses on an environmentalist cult, the God's Gardeners, who were mentioned briefly in the first book. The author undoubtedly deserves admiration for imagining an entire religion, including huge amounts of detail on their holy days and liturgy. I found them intriguing to read about, but was never quite sure whether we were meant to be rooting for them or laughing at them. They were clearly presented as a better alternative to the rest of the world, but they had some deeply odd qualities. Clearly, an author shouldn't make characters or organisations too black and white, but the extent of the ambiguity here was oddly disconcerting. Furthermore, while I admire the fact that the author had created such a fully fleshed out world that she'd imagined lots of hymns the Gardeners might sing, I wished that most of them had stayed inside her imagination. Reading through services and hymns every few chapters quickly became trying, but that's my only real complaint with the book.
I did, however, have one little niggle. Having had my imagination thoroughly captured by the way Jimmy was portrayed as the last man on earth in Book Two, I found it slightly underwhelming that this book gradually revealed quite a few survivors. Jimmy had been specifically given an antidote, so that's fair enough, but Crake's grand plan to create a new and better race of humans and wipe out humanity seems pretty feeble if people could survive because they were in a deserted spa or even an isolation room. Worse, all the survivors so far seem to know each other, which seems a rather far-fetched coincidence. I was able to put aside this niggle and enjoy the book on its own terms, but it slightly weakened the overall impact of the series for me. Besides, even if it was a little odd, trying to work out how everyone knew each other and matching the fully-fledged characters of this book with passing references in the earlier one (and vice versa) was lots of fun. Taken together, the books also give a fuller view of the world, and help to explain some of the mysteries of the plot.
Finally, the book was very well-written and plotted, but that almost goes without saying with Atwood. Definitely worth a read if you're a fan of either good literature or dystopia.
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