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...
By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.
Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood's dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth in the Massey series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.
Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
Associations: Margaret Atwood was President of the Writers' Union of Canada from May 1981 to May 1982, and was President of International P.E.N., Canadian Centre (English Speaking) from 1984-1986. She and Graeme Gibson are the Joint Honourary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within BirdLife International. Ms. Atwood is also a current Vice-President of PEN International.
I’m really tempted to take a cheap shot at Margaret Atwood and call her the George Lucas of literature since I was very disappointed in this follow-up to Oryx & Crake.
She built an intriguing world in O&C where corporations ruled and profited through genetic engineering and gene splicing animals in a way that would give Dr. Moreau some ethical concerns. And she tied that to the devastating story of how it ended along with the tale of Jimmy (Snowman), his mad scientist friend Crake, and the woman they both loved, Oryx.
The Year of the Flood centers around two women, Ren and Toby, through the course of their lives before, during and after the disaster that occurs in O&C. Tobey has been victimized by bad luck and a vicious man to end up having to hide with the God’s Gardener’s. Ren’s mother fell for one of the Gardeners and left her husband, taking Ren from the cushy corporate compound they had been living.
God’s Gardeners are a green religious group led by Adam One. By taking animal rights to a peaceful extreme and tying it to Christianity, they’ve attracted a small following despite the consumerist culture around them. Adam One preaches about the Waterless Flood, a disaster that will pay back humankind for all the injustices done to the animal kingdom, and those who have read Oryx & Crake know that Reckonin’ Day is coming.
Ren is eventually returned to the corporate compound life, but never forgets her time with GG or her best friend, Amanda. Tobey is surprised to find herself becoming one of the respected senior members of the GG as time passes. Neither woman knows it, but they keep brushing up against the events and people who will eventually cause the Flood. Especially Ren who’s first real boyfriend, Jimmy from O&C, breaks her heart and leaves her pining for him for the rest of the book.
I was really looking forward to reading more about this culture that Atwood had described in Oryx and Crake, especially since the first book centered on the ‘elite’ types who work and live in the corporate compounds, and this was more about the rest of the people trying to live in a world turned into a biological and ecological madhouse. But after reading it, I really don’t see what the point was.
Oryx and Crake did just fine as a standalone book. Giving me another version of events from an outsider’s perspective really didn’t add anything to it. More, since I knew how it was going to end, I wasn’t nearly as involved in this story as I was O&C. Plus, while O&C ended on an ambiguous note, Year of the Flood gives us resolution to that book, only to introduce a new ambiguous ending. Also, there are far too many coincidences to be remotely plausible about survivors who knew each other before the Flood constantly running into each other after the big disaster. It’s less of an apocalypse and more like a class reunion.
I haven’t been this disappointed since Jar Jar Binks showed up. And I’m worried that Atwood will be releasing Special Digitally Enhanced Versions of Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood very soon.
I probably shouldn’t be this hard on a book that had some great writing, but I really liked Oryx and Crake so reading this one left me feeling like I got a plate of reheated leftovers and it’s making me bitter.
(I have no idea if Atwood plans to do any more books related to this story, so if she releases some kind of brilliant third book that ties all of this together and enhances the overall story, I reserve the right to change my mind about this one.)
And on a humorous side note, I listened to the audio book version of this, and the song lyrics included by Atwood as part of Adam One’s sermons have been turned into some horrible post-modern Christian rock tunes. It made Creed sound good.
**update** YOU DO NOT HAVE TO READ ORYX AND CRAKE FIRST. The Year of the Flood is not a sequel even though goodreads lists it as Maddadam trilogy #2. It's more like a completely different story about the same event. There is hardly any character crossover and absolutely zero information in Oryx and Crake that you need to love/enjoy/understand The Year of the Flood.
I love that this story just dumps me off in the future. Lots of things aren’t explained. It’s written as if I already know what a "violet biolet" is and have seen "Mo-Hairs" on people on the street all my life. I liked it. It made for a sort of culture shock that gave me a nice distance from this harsh new world.
I've grown fearful of reading Margaret Atwood over the past few years. I adore her writing but the characters can be so awful to each other and the stories can be painful and depressing. They can make me loathe the human race and that's not me. I actually like human beings and I truly believe we're made to be good. So I was beyond pleased that this book features sweet characters with faith and heart who care for each other and their world. And Bonus!! There was just a modicum of girl-on-girl betrayal. (And really, she did have it coming.)
This is one of the most important and necessary novels written in the twenty-first century so far. It’s relevant, it’s powerful and it really is needed. Go read it!
Margaret Atwood ended the world in Oryx and Crake. She presented a vision of the future that wasn’t too far removed from where the planet is heading. And, in a way, this book is an answer to such environmental catastrophe.
Firstly though, it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t really a sequel, it’s told alongside the events of the first book. Atwood presents another vision here: a vision of how we can (or how we would) work towards preventing environmental collapse. It’s the very best of speculative fiction because it plays with real world ideas and fears. There’s nothing in here that is implausible. It’s often marketed as a science fiction novel, but I would not quite call it science fiction because it adds nothing that couldn’t one day be real. And, unlike the harsh scientific solution to world’s problems she delivers in Oryx and Crake, the ideas she discusses here are more compassionate.
The Gardeners are humanity’s hope. They are a radical green group that advocate living in a way far removed from the customs of standard society. Recycling is their religion. Reusing is their faith. They work towards protecting mother earth in all her glory by minimising humanities impact on it. They are a reactionary group, reacting against environmental collapse and a lack of resources that dominated the narrative of Oryx and Crake. They are vegetarians and they live in their own private commune, boycotting consumerism and the pharmaceutical companies that control the population (without them ever being aware of it.)
“By covering such barren rooftops with greenery we are doing our small part in the redemption of God’s creation from the decay and sterility that lies all around us, and feeding ourselves with unpolluted food into the bargain, Some would term our efforts futile, but if all were to follow our example, what a change would be wrought on our beloved Planet!”
They believe “the flood” is coming, a symbolic collapse in which only the pure will survive in the new world after the old one has been destroyed by man’s selfish ways. They have extremely strong beliefs, but they are also practical and are willing to relinquish certain elements of their creed when faced with survivalist choices. They are not entirely bigoted, and their leaders are far cleverer than they initially appear. In such a group, Atwood presents a counterattack on man’s current ways. And when considering the state of the world today, the current environment protests by schools in Northern Europe, the surge in veganism and vegetarianism and an increased interest in maintaining what’s left of the environment, Atwood’s green cult feels very real and, in a way, a possible answer to the problems we are facing.
I feel like a group not unlike these could exist one day. And Atwood really sympathises with their plight and efforts here. It’s a fantastic piece of writing and I’m really intrigued to see exactly what the sequel does.
The Year of the Flood is a sequel to her 2003 book Oryx and Crake. (Those characters arrive here in the back quarter of the book) They are both set in a post-apocalyptic western nation, and explore the implications of many contemporary trends.
Margaret Atwood - image from The Scotsman
Although I share Atwood’s concern about most of the problem sources she identifies, the book did at times feel a bit like a laundry list of the sins of the 20th and 21st centuries. Of course, some of the dynamics she portrays are eternal, battles for power, desires for fulfillment, personal searches for meaning.
Atwood works multiple time lines, from year 1 to year 25 of the waterless flood, a never-fully-explained disaster that may be the result of viral infection caused by side-effects of genetic engineering. One can figure it out, but look to Oryx and Crake for further understanding. I felt that the amount of time dedicated to her characters’ youth made it feel at times like a YA novel.
Her focus is on a group known as the Gardeners a green organization dedicated to preparing for the coming “flood” by returning to as natural a state as possible, recycling wherever possible, growing their own food, minimizing their impact on the environment. But human dynamics being what they are, even the greens are not immune to the sins that are a part of human nature. And anyone who has been in a political or religious organization of any sort will recognize the sort of nit-picking discussions she portrays here.
I liked the book and would recommend it. Don’t expect a masterpiece like Handmaid's Tale, but Atwood's alarm signals are worth heeding.
I just can't get enough of this warped "business and science gone wild" reality, we get to see what happened in Oryx and Crake from the perspectives of other characters. This is astoundingly well written and just as outrageously well constructed as the first book! Atwood provides more detail and even more context; but how audacious to write the same book twice from different character viewpoints - and DAMN, it works so fine. 9 out of 12.
I absolutely loved this book, one of the best I ever read. Amazing how a writer can make up such a story, of an apocalyptic world caused by 'the waterless flood' (an man-made plague)..and what this self-destruction does to the world of ours. I remember loving 'Oryx and Crake' for the weirdness and confronting character of the story, but I actually liked this one a bit better, contrary to other reviewers. This because I was intrigued by and really liked the stories of the female main players in this story, Toby and Ren, and the Gardeners. I also loved the going to and fro in time. One thing I did not like, as others also, were the Gardener chapters and the singing texts. But I see that the connection was needed to bring the story together. Just read through it quickly to continue with either an episode of Tony or Ren. 'Out of this world', this story is. Loved it from start to end. This type of book is what reading makes worthwhile. I can't wait to explore more work of Margaret Atwood, have read three so far. What I also really like in her style: she writes short chapters, mini stories. Because I had little time to read lately, I did manage one chapter every day before sleep and looking forward to the next chapter the day after already. So this book made me read every day, albeit short pieces. Also despite that this story is really gloomy in character, there is a positive undertow throughout the whole book, as I felt it. I highly recommend this one.
'The sun brightens in the east, reddening the blue-grey haze that marks the distant ocean. The vultures roosting on the hydro poles fan out their wings to dry them. The air smells faintly of burning. The Waterless Flood, a man-made plague, has ended the world... But two young women have survived: Ren, a young dancer traped where she worked, in an upmarket sex club (the cleanest dirty girls in town); and Toby, who watches and waits from her rooftop garden. Is there anyone else out there? '
“What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.”
The Year of the Flood is a fabulous and thought provoking novel from Margaret Atwood! And yet another novel from Atwood that I will need to read multiple times! Though the second book in the trilogy, The Year of the Flood, is more a companion novel to Oryx and Crake (Book 1) than a continuation of it. The lives of the main characters, Ren and Toby, intersect with Jimmy (Snowman) and Glenn (Crake) from Oryx and Crake, but the emphasis in this near-future is definitely on Ren and Toby and their differing perspective on events leading up to and after the global pandemic unleashed on humanity. This book also highlights a green or eco-religious/mystical sect known as God's Gardeners that was mentioned in the first book, but never explored at any length.
One commonality, though, are the ubiquitous gene-spliced creatures that have been engineered and turned loose into the wild. Jimmy's pet rakunk, Killer, like other raccoon skunk hybrids, had been created to be a pet.
Also like Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is a cautionary tale of science that has gone off the rails. This is further emphasized by the creation of the Blysspluss pill (advertised as the greatest sexual experience of your life). In Oryx and Crake, Jimmy promotes this pill that triggers the near extinction of mankind. Again, though, this is a completely different take on events both before and after the plague. Very engaging and thought-provoking read! 4.5 stars
"Glenn (Crake) used to say the reason you can't really imagine yourself being dead was that as soon as you say, "I'll be dead," you've said the word I, and so you're still alive inside the sentence. And that's how people got the idea of the immortality of the soul--it was a consequence of grammar. And so was God, because as soon as there's a past tense, there has to be a past before the past, and you keep going back in time until you get to I don't know; and that's what God is."
Animals have evaporated from the planet crushed under the dominance of the human race. Scientists have unraveled the DNA of life and are populating the world with creatures that are blends of several species. The future is about gene splitting and synthetic drugs and powerful corporations with names like CorpSeCorps have been formed around the creation of a flood of genetically mutated products. There is an addictive form of coffee called Happicuppas and an equally addictive form of a mysterious meat source burger called, with no deception, Secretburgers. There are Liobams (cross between a lion and a lamb), pigoons (creatures engineered for organ harvest), Mo'hair (sheeps with human hair),pigs with human brain tissue, rakunks (animals bred to be good pets), green haired glow in the dark rabbits, and snats (an experimental hybrid of a snake and rat). There are a genetically engineered blob-like chicken that produces only breast meat. This creature, if you can call it a creature, is the source for the popular take out food outlet ChickieNob Nubbins.
The story revolves around two women/girls named Toby and Ren who at bisecting points spend time under the protective wing of The God's Gardners. A group of naturalists that are vehemently vegetarian. They are lead by Adams and Eves, differentiated by numerals, who see themselves as the beginning of the rebuilding of the Earth. Neither woman is a firm believer, but stay because the alternatives in this chaotic world are rather grim. Toby escaped from the drudgery work of a Secretburger outlet where the manager, Blanco, demands degrading acts of sexual gratification for her continued employment. Even after she escapes his clutches he continues to be a menacing presence in her life. Blanco is like the Terminator... he just won't die. He is punished for his many criminal acts by being sent into a game called Painballer where instead of paint pellets participant's weapons are loaded with an acidic compound. He survives not only one, but several campaigns into the arena and when not creating mayhem for other people he continues to hunt for Toby.
Ren's mother falls in lust with one of the Gardeners and leaves her cushy position as the wife of a corporate executive to join The God's Gardeners. She takes Ren with her and when the relationship sours she takes Ren back to her father with a dramatic story of her abduction and degradation by the Gardeners. Ren later becomes a trapeze artist at a high end sex club called The Scales and Tails.
The world unravels when Crake releases the Blysspluss pill that is advertised as the greatest sexual experience of your life. It activates a plague that effectively wipes a large percentage of the population off the planet. Through luck, more than skill, both Toby and Ren survive the outbreak.
This book weaves around the book Oryx and Crake and is the second book in a proposed trilogy. It isn't even really a continuation of the story, but tracks over the same ground from a different perspective. We learn more background about Jimmy (the Snowman)and Glenn (Crake). I loved Oryx and Crake and this book is a shadow of O&C mainly because even though I am exposed to more elements not covered in the first book...the plot does not advance. If you liked O&C you probably should read this one. It reads fast and you will appreciate having your view of this world expanded. I believe the third book will determine how highly elevated this trilogy will be regarded. I highly recommend reading O&C before embarking on The Year of the Flood.
The thing of it is Margaret Atwood is brilliant, and I have a feeling she has a wonderful surprise in store for us with the much anticipated conclusion. You will only be slightly disappointed in this book, maybe my expectations were too high for a middle book, but it is well worth the few hours of your time.
I deleted my review from 6 years ago because I don't think I understood half of what was being spoken about and just got washed away by the public consensus on the book. I still think it is great, but I am sure I understand it better now and notice some glaring faults with it. As a sequel to Oryx and Crake, I remember subtle references tying it to the earlier story. Now I feel like there is nothing subtle about these references, they are so glaringly obvious, for example not only Ren but Amanda too dates Jimmy at some point in her life. One still doesn't get a clearer picture of what led Glen to his apocalyptic conclusions, was there an influence of gardener ideology or just individual agenda, and what was Jimmy's designated role in all of this. If we look at the plethora of new characters as cameras giving us a different angle view of an event from the last book, then I wonder why the book chooses to show us the same scenes instead of delving into all the aspects Jimmy's pov ignored.
This minor qualm aside, the book is brilliant, it takes you out of the compound and shows you different parts of the world created by Atwood. The world building is astounding, and Toby's story is a profoundly moving narrative of grit and survival. The gardeners are an interesting bunch to explore. The layering of the two perspectives, especially when the two characters are around each other create compelling storytelling. This is such a well fleshed out world and Atwood is such a deft writer; the reader can rest assured in competent hands taking them on a guided tour through the chaos and dwell on the implications of this waterless flood.
Waking up in a world that is clearly dystopian, but unfortunately all too familiar!
That is what Margaret Atwood is so good at - seeing where we are heading and turning it into a science fiction story which sometimes hits closer to home than most news reports we are inundated with each day, our daily flood.
The Year Of The Flood - the day of the flood, the hour of the flood - catastrophe is accelerating like everything else. When your head spins and your fever rises and your hope skydives, there is something strangely comforting in reading about a catastrophe that is different from the one outside your window, in your home, in your room.
Whatever is different, is good! While living a Groundhog Day of Apocalyptic proportions, reading Margaret Atwood again and again makes me feel better. How? Why?
Because there is intelligent life on our planet still, she shows that in her crystal clear prose and humorous invention.
Because humanity is made of survivors. She shows that in the unforgettable characters that fight for their existence long after existence as they knew it had left them.
Because fiction remains when reality fails us.
And also, most importantly, because the year of the flood has a SEQUEL. It is nice to know that the world keeps going, even if our origin story will sound slightly off-biblical in the era of MaddAddam.
I read Oryx & Crake this past March, which means I'd let roughly six months pass before picking up The Year of the Flood, and within the first 1/3 or so I thought it may have been a mistake to let so much time go by. The same crazily inventive world spread before me on the pages, with disaster looming just as it had before, but it was coming from a different point of view (two separate but related views actually). I was engrossed, yet I wondered where the Snowman had gone. Atwood had left him in the middle of a scene at the end of book one. And then she provides the barest of glimpses of him in the distance, simply walking by. Not much, but I've always liked those sort of story moments. Just like that, the two books had been linked by more than this world, and sometimes that's all it takes. The rest would link the characters and events with increasing clarity and depth. I found that it's necessary to see a relationship (friend, foe, lover) from both sides, otherwise what are you left with except a two-dimensional photo. Atwood is a master in this element. Same world falling apart. Same intelligent pink pigs, CorpSeCorps, bimplants, Happicuppa... Yet all the more fully realized when seen through a different angle, and different set of eyes.
This was my first experience of Margaret Atwood and I’m afraid I don’t really get what all the fuss is about. Perhaps this is her worst novel? The first two hundred pages, relentless exposition bereft of dramatic tension, bored me. It’s one of those novels that plays catch up – starts at year twenty-five, then goes back to year zero and works its way forward. The two narrators, a kind of everygirl and everywoman, are members of a new age travellers cult, but essentially struck me as hackneyed soap opera characters. They experience a typical concatenation of female experience, most notably disappointment in love and abuse at the hands of male vanity and privilege. But Atwood had no revelations to pass on, nothing interesting to tell me about these experiences. Not once, until the final hundred pages, did I find myself looking forward to what might happen next. Not once was I able to empathise with her characters except in the most superficial way. As storytelling it just never got my interest until perhaps the last hundred pages when we finally arrive back at the beginning and move forward. The satire seemed to me suffocating so that everything else in the novel, especially the characters, had to play second fiddle to the fusillade of very predictable jibes at contemporary culture. Compared to masters of satire like Nabokov and Amis this struck me often as childish and indulgently self-pleasuring. The writing itself was okay but again largely uninspired. Yes, there were some nice touches (most of which have since been stolen by other writers of dystopian fiction and better employed). But too often it read to me like the literary equivalent of those sci-fi films before special effects existed and ultimately failed to tick any of my boxes. I’m afraid I won’t be in any great hurry to read another Margaret Atwood novel.
I'd been meaning to read this novel – book two in Atwood's dystopian MaddAddam trilogy – for a while. Who knew that it would take a pandemic to get me to finally pick it up?
The setting turned out to be very fitting. As readers of Oryx And Crake, the first book in the trilogy, know, a man-made biological disease (called "the Waterless Flood") has wiped out much of the population, and along with a handful of ragged survivors, genetically-modified creatures now roam the earth, as well as strange, herbivorous creatures called Crakers.
The Year Of The Flood tells the parallel story of Ren and Toby, two women from God's Gardeners, a religious sect that respects all living things. Using lots of flashbacks, punctuated by sermons and hymns from Adam One, the leader of the Gardeners, Atwood fills in Ren and Toby's histories, which gradually intersect with those from some characters from the earlier book.
Despite the serious themes about ecological destruction and mankind's penchant for greed and vengeance, the tone of this book feels a lot lighter than that of Atwood's Handmaid's Tale novels. The author shows off her wit and imagination in creating products and businesses that are extensions of things we already know. (For instance, a popular coffee chain is called Happicuppa, breast implants are called "bimplants" – a mix of "bimbo" and "implants"? – and the secret in the fast-food chain called SecretBurgers is that "no one knew what sort of animal protein was actually in them").
While all this detail and background means there's a lack of momentum in the book's first half, you'll be curious to see if and how Ren and Toby will survive the apocalypse with little food and vicious hybrid animals prowling around outside. (A new kind of pig has been bred with human brain tissue, making them especially scary.)
You'll also be curious about who else survives. We only see Adam One through Ren and Toby's eyes, and from transcripts from his sermons and hymns in the God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook, featuring a witty pastiche of quasi-religious language, but he's an enigmatic figure. Also around is Zeb, a resourceful, burly, biker-like member of the Gardeners, and Amanda, a savvy young woman who befriends Ren and seems to know how to fit into any group. And then there's Blanco, a brutal thug determined to kill Toby.
Some of the details seem eerily familiar; while outside, people wear "nose cones" (masks) and avoid those who are coughing and have fevers. But the book also provided enough entertainment to make me forget my current state of anxiety and uncertainty.
I especially liked the sequences involving nature, whether it's Toby talking to hives of bees (Atwood's concern for the world's bee populations is famous) or the use of maggots to cure infection.
I'm curious to see what happens to this dystopia, especially now that I know a few more of the survivors. And I'm looking forward to seeing the planned miniseries; I think this material should work well in that format.
Profoundly brilliant. Had I not read this directly after reading Oryx and Crake, I would have missed so many things - little nuances, passing comments made by the characters... it just enriched the earlier story and brought so much depth, context, and elegance. Like looking at the Rubin's vase optical illusion and only seeing it one way for so long, and then someone points out the other image right before your eyes. Of course, it was Ms. Atwood herself who constructed the image and slowly sheds light on it with each chapter in her books - alas, I think she has one (possibly two!) more story to tell here.
Year of the Flood has two narrators - both survivors of an apocalyptic event (a "waterless flood"), and both linked from their associations with "God's Gardeners", a religious sect. The two women are of different generations but share the foundations of the Gardeners' beliefs long after they have left the group's compound. The story moves back and forth in time (before and after "The Flood"), describing the lives of the women as they move about, and how they eventually come back together after "The Flood" mentioned in the title of the book.
Atwood's creation of the "Gardeners" is so fascinating - she has gathered the cult's doctrine and principles from 19th-century transcendentalism, Jain and Hindu philosophies, post-modern environmental thought, the zeal of 1970's "born-again" Christianity with a tad of Hare Krishna devotion, the apocalyptic asceticism of the Essenes, as well as the homesteading, return-to-the-land movement of post-Industrial North America. The hierarchy is based around a group of senior leaders, called the Adams and Eves. "Adam One" is the group's leader and "pastor" of sorts, because he teaches the group and is featured in several chapters in the book with some of his sermons, followed by songs that are sung by the Gardeners. (The audiobook version had all of the composed songs with accompaniment, and the songs are also available on Atwood's website.) The group canonizes scientists like Dian Fossey and Jacques Cousteau, and has feast days for St. Rachel Carson and so many other well-known luminaries in the fields of ecology, zoology, and life sciences. They also celebrate days like "Mole Day" and "Predator Day", noting the importance of food chain, the smallest creatures and their contributions, etc.
I will admit, there were a few times that I just had to take a pause, Atwood "blew my mind" more than once.
A brilliant satire! The Year of the Flood explores the touchy feely side of the end of the world. How did the free love hippy, earth, organic crowd see the coming quake. How did they prepare. Who were they? It was a fascinating journey. Also the points of view in this book were primarily women. One was a life weary intelligent person who learned to adapt and the other a vacuous, naïve young girl and how she saw the world she grew up in. In this one, we get to see an adult view of how this happened that was not primarily responsible for the end of the world as we know it. The story is told in shifting time frames but it isn't too confusing except at first. This story was had a softer edge. Not quite the venomous nightmare of it's predecessor. Good for the soul (by Atwood standards) but I liked the absolutely toxic stew of Oryx a little more. The world built here was still quite grim. This is an assault on the patriarchy after all. Atwood is becoming one of my favorite authors. She is darkly funny and mischievous and searing and subtle and obvious simultaneously.
Listened to the Audio book. The narration was a cast but primarily it was performed by Bernadette Dunne. The audio book was great! The Adam One narration by Mark Bramhall especially the hymns was genius!!
This story is parallel to "Oryx and Crake" (reviewed here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), and has several characters in common, though the writing style and overall format is quite different.
Having read both, I can't decide whether it is better to read them in publication order (O&C first) or not, but it's certainly good to read them in quick succession. As with O&C, it is about the characters; many aspects are only ever partially explained, part way through, leaving the reader suitably disoriented in this distopian world.
It tells of the run up to and aftermath of "the waterless flood" in the near future: a man-made plague, which has wiped out most of the population and damaged the climate. It focus on an eco-religious community (cult?) called God's Gardeners. They foresee the flood and prepare for it, and in the interim, they are self-sufficient vegetarians, who scrounge scraps to reuse and recycle, and avoid the corrupt CorpSeCorp (police) and corporations that run society: "They view us as twisted fanatics who combine food extremism with bad fashion sense and a puritanical attitude to shopping. But we own nothing they want."
Every third or fourth chapter is a sermon by Adam One, followed by the words of a hymn. The result is a curious combination of anti-capitalist eco treatise and satire, Biblical-style liturgy, and end-of-the-world fight for survival, with dashes of bathetic humour - but overall, Atwood makes it work.
The story focuses on resilient, loyal female characters: Toby, who escapes various abuses to join the Gardeners as an adult, and Ren, who is taken from the safe luxury of a corporate compound when her mother runs away with a gardener. The male characters are flat and in the background (even the leader, Adam One) or bad (Blanco), though somehow it doesn't feel like a feminist rant. Ren's sections are mostly recounted in the first person and Toby's in the first.
Eco Survival etc
Although it jumps around timewise, the first part of the book has plenty of positive aspects (and some vague angst), whereas the later sections are unrelenting accounts of the lengths (and depths) people will go to in order to survive, even when they are unsure if it is worth it: "This thing I'm doing can hardly be called living, Instead I'm lying dormant, like a bacterium in a glacier. Getting time over with."
The eco theme is obvious, but actually, the exploration of cult mentality is more fundamental and interesting, and it raises far more questions than it answers, exploring the many reasons why people join - and remain in - cults: no where/one else, fear, idealism, escape, drifting, actual belief, loneliness, wanting to be taken care of and not have to make decisions, even just by accident. And of course, power tends to corrupt. The senior Gardeners (Adams and Eves) break and adjust their own rules. For example, they have (and use) a laptop ("It's like the Vatican porn collection... safe in our hands") and they make surprisingly pragmatic changes to their belief system, looking for reasons to justify them afterwards.
Light in the Darkness
It avoids being depressing by having plenty of gentle humour and irony: a genetically-modified caterpillar has a cute babyish face, making it hard to kill, and at the end of an earnest sermon, Adam One ends "I'm glad we have all remembered our sunhats". For all their ideals, the Gardeners are eminently practical. Another comment of Adam One's is painfully ironic, "'Nothing bad will be done to you.' But since Adam One thought even the most terrible things happened for ultimately excellent though unfathomable reasons, X didn't find this reassuring." Atwood even points out in the acknowledgement that readers are free to use the hymns for "amateur devotional or environmental purposes"! It is also full of punning portmanteaus: the exfernal world, rakunk (rat-skunk), SeksMart, AnooYoo Spa, garboil (oil from garbage), liobamb (lion-lamb).
The ending is very abrupt (very slight ) and after more than 500 pages, I was still unsure whether Atwood wants me to agree with the Gardeners or to laugh at them. Although I tend to like ambiguous endings, I was taken aback and slightly disappointed. However, a few hours later, when I'd really thought about it, I think it was the right way to end.
Edit: After first writing this review, I discovered this wasn't really the end and that there was going to be a third book. Having read that third book, I reiterate the line above, "I think it [Year of the Flood] was the right way to end."
I think it would have benefited from a little pruning - the level of detail about Gardener lifestyle and some of Adam One's sermons, but that's a small quibble about an excellent and original novel.
"Nature full strength is more than we can take... It is a potent hallucinogen, a soporific for the untrained Soul. We're no longer at home in it. We need to dilute it... And God is the same. Too much God and you overdose. God needs to be filtered."
Less reverently, and from a non-Gardener: "As soon as you say 'I'll be dead,' you've said the word I, so you're still alive inside the sentence. And that's how people got the idea of the immortality of the soul - it was a consequence of grammar. And so was God, because as soon as there's a past tense, there has to be a past before the past, and you keep going back in time until you get to 'I don't know', and that's what God is."
Would have been such a sin if the setting for Oryx & Crake had been wasted! So much imagination went into that particular novel that all stories parallel to Snowman’s should have the equal right to be told.
In "O & C," the two strands of plot which interweave involve Jimmy/ Snowman. There was an obvious difference between the Snowman put in charge of Crake’s children & Jimmy from the past, the naïve friend of Crake, lover of Oryx. In the second helping of the MaddAddam trilogy the same two-plot braid is undertaken by its creator, the inexhaustibly amazing Margaret Atwood. Two parallel stories, one of Ren in first person, the other of Toby in third, are interchanged like the Jimmy and Snowman story lines, no doubt to keep the reader’s spark lit. It's somewhat more confusing to keep track of both similar lives than it is to concentrate on solely one. The scope widens in part two of this trilogy of "speculative fiction."
There is an addition to the story told in O and C here: it talks further about the MaddAddam network, of the players involved in the creation of the plague, brilliantly referred to as the “Waterless Flood.” The panorama is complex and very original. I will venture to say, however, that the endless appeal to these both, other than pertaining to an amazing trilogy which continues what began in Oryx and Crake and is further explored in The Year of the Flood, is the embedded wit inside the horror story. (Could our Cormac McCarthy endeavor to do such a thing?)
So what is there to say about consciousness in the novel? So many brains are at work here, neurons still conducive, while entire organisms are becoming extinguished. There is obviously consciousness in the survivors (although: Why do they all meet up so neatly in the last sections, converging plot lines, when devastation has assured us that chaos, not order, will reign supreme?), and life still goes on. After the end of the world, people still love and hate, suffer and forgive. Chapter 55 is the chapter on Consciousness, God: “Glenn [Crake] used to say the reason you can’t really imagine yourself being dead was that as soon as you say, “I’ll be dead,” you’ve said the word I, and so you’re still alive inside the sentence… That’s how people got the idea of the immortality of the soul--it was the consequence of grammar… Grammar would be impossible without the FoxP2 gene; so God is a brain mutation.” (316) Atwood litters upon her futuristic landscape teensy kernels of (poetic) wisdom, as hers is a world populated not only by new creatures, but by brainiac scientists and average-Joes alike. There is so much authenticity in this modern writer; the confidence she exudes in making up so SO MUCH fiction is almost... tangible. Literally fantastic!
Descriptions and odd/silly classifications--this is what to look for inside Atwood’s impressive menagerie.
Ans as advice to the writer/reader, and as further thoughts on consciousness and the brain, Atwood tells us to simply do the following: "Use your meat computer!" (316)
I'm pretty sure that the entire concept of reading was invented so that I could consume Margaret Atwood. She is my first and always most favorite of all time ever and I love her so much I don't even know.
I seriously could not read this book fast enough. I don't even like her fantasy books as much as the realist ones but I felt like I was a starving person just shoving this book into my face by the fistful. And now I want to read MaddAddam so so so so badly I might burst, but the entire internet only has one proof for sale, and it's like $40 and in goddamn Australia or something so I don't know what to do. Weep maybe? Wail and flail and gnash my teeth? Yes and yes and yes.
Maybe I'll just re-read Oryx and Crake. And everything else she's ever written. Again and again, forever, amen.
Nowhere near as good as Oryx & Crake, sadly. But the women characters! Toby! Ren! Amanda! Pilar! I really don't think this is as much a retelling of O&C as everyone says it is; it's more a shadow cast, a mirror, a reflection in water. Female heroes instead of men; the people on the ground, in the street, instead of locked up safe in Paradice; childhood as home, sex as trade. The back of the tapestry. Loved loved loved all the details about the Gardeners, Adam One after a while, and even the sermons and hymns in the end. It didn't knock me on my ass the way O&C did, tho. But maybe I should be happy about that. Heh.
Later. Further notes (no no this is not a review, not even a sketch of one) - I wasn't sure the people saying that having the big reveal in O&C took suspense away from Flood were right, but....maybe? Caring more about the people in the story and watching the waterless waves roll in (it makes sense in the book) was even more grinding, though. I really hope we don't revisit it in Book Three, it's horrifying every time. I can't help but think this is in some sense an answer to all the disaster porn/zombie love stuff out there -- and not in a toughass "are you MAN enough to carry your own boomstick?" way.
What I really liked about O&C was how the narrative and story fit seamlessly together - yeah, Jimmy was a blitzed post-apoc wanderer, but it was clear there was something really wrong with him, he'd been smashed before that, and his dual narrative -- how this happened along with how could I have let this happen? -- was really moving. That was a lot easier for me to follow than Flood's shifting chronologies and structures, even though they were more clearly outlined -- datelined, actually. You had Ren and Toby's alternate narratives both shifting without break into the past and back again, which for me made it hard to keep the timeline straight, even tho Adam One's sermons are basically the spine of the book -- for a while I kept thinking Toby was a lot younger than she was, which threw the interactions out of whack. (This makes me think the narrative might be clearer in a physical book, with actual page breaks, and I could've flipped back to check on what was happening in previous Years, &c. On the Kindle it's just sort of forge ahead.)
I did love how in this book, the men are seen mostly as romantic interludes from the POV of the women, the women characters are truly kickass (TOBY), everyone was a lot more keen and clear-eyed than poor Jimmy (a low bar, there) -- altho the constant sort of low-pitched humming (that's how it affected me, like a weird sonic frequency) of sexual assault buzzing through the storyline made me uncomfortable, it was hard to relax into the story. (Just like REAL LIFE, haha.) Oryx's story in O&C was harrowing, but it was just one story told by one person, to a man; Atwood depicts the constant not-so-low-level atmosphere of threat women move in all the time, like an element in addition to air, that weighs us down, and that was even more harrowing. And trust Atwood to blow up the dual 'rape as background grit/rape as motivation for Kickass Heroines' tropes in one book.
I didn't realize til I started reading MaddAddam how much I missed the Crakers -- their place in the story, the stories they want, the stories told about and to them. I think they're one of Atwood's best creations -- limited, quasi-angelic, maddening, childlike, innocent, unspoiled, Other without being ruined by the pressure of alienation - hah, I guess that makes them actual aliens (I'm punchy, I went unwillingly to bed at like quarter to five in the morning, what do you want from me). (They're like something from a Tiptree story! But not nightmarish and/or doomed.) The Gardeners were a little bit like that -- they started off as a wheezy yet unsettling low-level cult, and then (mostly through Pilar and Adam One) turned into real people, and Peggy got me with the hymns to moles and weeds. (I know I keep harping on those, but really. A HYMN to WEEDS. An actual one, that you can sing. That encapsulates Atwood, right there.)
Things I loved: TOBY. Pilar. Toby as Persephone! Ren and Amanda's friendship. Ren and Amanda RESCUING EACH OTHER. Jimmy's love life seen through the rather disenchanted eyes of his girlfriends, heh. Crake ditto. HAMMERHEAD. (Trust me, it is hilarious when you get there.) The non-condemning non-patronizing portrayal of sex work (and how a lot of work, for women, by men, turns into sex work anyway, often unpaid). Did I say Toby? I even loved Adam One after a while, all preachy and annoying at first, but sort of pragmatic yet ethical later, like an actual saint must have been (you know Hildegard of Bingen, say, was a canny lady). TOBY. Toby being a badass in a hot pink caftan with a shotgun was, again, like the flip shot of Snowman being a poor bumbling fool wrapped in his filthy sheet waving his dick empty weapon around.
Finally, the non-lulzy presentation of Amanda's actual work -- the words aren't written, but they're written in matter which decays, and then predators are made into a pattern, and the words are themselves eaten and changed -- made me think: these books aren't really about genetic splicing or social satire or climate change, but storytelling, the role of mythology, how we narrate ourselves. Crake can eradicate violence from his engineered children, but not stories. They understood about dreaming. He knew that: they dreamed themselves. Crake hadn't been able to eliminate dreams. We're hard-wired for dreams, he'd said. He couldn't get rid of the singing either. We're hard-wired for singing. Singing and dreams were intertwined. Songs that are dreams: has there ever been a better description of art?
Περπατούσα σ’ ένα μονοπάτι με δυο φίλους – ο ήλιος έπεφτε – ξαφνικά ο ουρανός έγινε κόκκινος σαν αίμα – σταμάτησα, νιώθοντας εξαντλημένος, και στηρίχτηκα στο φράχτη – αίμα και γλώσσες φωτιάς πάνω από το μαύρο-μπλε φιόρδ και την πόλη – οι φίλοι μου προχώρησαν, κι εγώ έμεινα εκεί τρέμοντας από την αγωνία – κι ένιωσα ένα ατέλειωτο ουρλιαχτό να διαπερνά τη φύση.» Κραυγή. Μ.
Η άνυδρη πλημμύρα είναι ένα βραδείας καύσεως δυστοπικό βιβλίο μυθοπλασίας που τείνει να αγγίζει τρομακτικά την σημερινή πραγματικότητα. Όπως όλα τα δυστοπικά συγγραφικά δημιουργήματα και γενικώς όταν η τέχνη ασχοληθεί με δυστοπική λογοτεχνία, χρώματα, μελωδίες, και κάθε είδους αραβούργημα καλλιτεχνικής φύσης εγκολπώνει αντιθέσεις και αντιφάσεις γοητευτικές και σαγηνευτικά ευαίσθητες σαν χάδια που αναδύονται απο το ουτοπικό παρελθόν. Αυτό που δεν αγαπήσαμε, δεν προστατέψαμε, δεν σεβαστήκαμε και τώρα μια σαρωτική και απεγνωσμένη απελπισία, μια τρομακτική μοναξιά, μια εγκατάλειψη και μια μη αναστρέψιμη έλευση σκοταδιού και παντελούς έκλειψης του ανθρώπινου - πρωτίστως- είδους. Μεταλλάξεις, καταστροφές, κλιματολογικές αλλαγές ανάλγητες και ανεξήγητες πλέον, ωθούν τα εναπομείναντα αδελφά πλάσματα σε διάφορες ανερμάτιστες συμπεριφορές, σε επιστημονικές ανακαλύψεις υπερφυσικών χημικών σχάσεων, για όντα και προιόντα, για υποείδη ή σούπερ αλλοιωμένα ανθρώπινα σαρκία σαν εξαμβλώματα των προτύπων τους, αλλά με υπερφυσικές ανατομικές λειτουργείες, ανθρωποειδή εγκεφαλικά κύτταρα και διάφορα ζωντανά εκφυλισμένα είδη γονιδιακών συσχετισμών. Η επιστήμη διατείνεται πως ανακάλυψε απο τους φυσικούς του 20ου αιώνα ένα χαοτικό κενό που υπάρχει όχι μόνο μέσα στο άτομο αλλά και μέσα στα δισεκατομμύρια των άστρων. Ο Κόσμος μας, οι υπόλοιποι κόσμοι είναι σαν μια νιφάδα χιονιού. Μια χειροποίητη, καλοπλεγμένη δαντέλα γεμάτη τρύπες. Ένα Λιγοστό, ένα Ελάχιστο, μια υπερτέλεια μαγική μπαλίτσα, αυτό είναι το Όλο. Και μπορεί να επιβιώνει και είναι αξιοθαύμαστο ίσως διότι μπορεί ξάφνου να γίνει ένα Τίποτα για το Τίποτε. Ένα νόημα μια ψυχή μια αναπνοή ένα πνεύμα που διαρκεί και θα διαρκεί για πάντα απλώς και μόνο επειδή στηρίζεται στην αγάπη του δημιουργού.
Φυσικά ο πλανήτης που με την αγάπη θα διατηρήσει τον κόσμο μας είναι πλέον ρημαγμένος απο τα ανθρώπινα εγκλήματα πάσης φύσεως. Επομένως δεν είναι η γη αυτή που πρέπει να αφανιστεί αλλά το δικό μας ανθρώπινο είδος. Και ίσως ίσως να εμφανιστεί ένας άλλος Θεός λιγότερο τιμωρός και αλαζόνας, πιο υποχωρητικός με την αιώνια πτώση απο τους κήπους της επαγγελίας και να σκαρώσει κάποιο αλλο είδος ανθρώπινης φυλής. Πιο σεβαστιμό,πιο συμπονετικό, πιο αλληλέγγυο που θα πάρει στην γη και στο επέκεινα τη θέση μας.
Η άνυδρη πλημμύρα είναι μέσα μας, δίπλα μας, κοντά μας. Δεν είναι μετεωρολογικό φαινόμενο, μοιάζει περισσότερο με ιό, με πανούκλα, με κατάρα που χτυπάει μονάχα το δικό μας Είδος, αφήνοντας κάθε άλλο πλάσμα σώο και απρόσβλητο. Ίσως να χρειάζεται αυτή η αναχώρηση των ανθρωπίνων ψυχών, να είναι μάλλον αναγκαία, μέχρι να αισθανθούμε στο μυοκάρδιο μας πως δεν υπάρχει φόβος, άγχος, πανικός, τρομάρα, διότι απλά δεν υπάρχει κάτι να φοβηθούμε. Οι άσπονδοι εχθροί και οι επικίνδυνοι συνάνθρωποι δεν αντιδρούν πια, τώρα νιώθουν τρέμοντας να λιώνουν τα σώματα τους, να κόβεται η αναπνοή τους, να πονούν, να υποφέρουν, να πεθαίνουν αν δεν έχουν ήδη πεθάνει.
Σε αυτήν τη δυστοπία την κοβιντιανή ( τυχαία μου ήρθε το όνομα). Τώρα όλα αργά η γρήγορα μεταμορφώνονται. Οι αυταπάτες δικαιώνονται. Οι περιορισμοί γιορτάζουν, οι νόμοι χάνονται, η καραντίνα σκότωσε την εκδίκηση για τους ψεύτικους θεσμούς περί δικαίων και αδίκων, και τα νομικά δικαιώματα όπου μπορούσες να σκοτώνεις, να σακατεύεις, να λιώνεις πλάσματα. Φυσικά και υπάρχουν ακόμη οι κυνηγοί του κέρδους, οι έχοντες που θέλουν χρήματα απο τις ιδιοκτησίες τους και αγνοούν ο,τι δεν συγκαταλέγεται στο υλιστικό πλαίσιο της ματαιοδοξίας τους και της παντοτινής και δυστυχισμένης μεμψιμοιρία τους. Είναι, ήταν και θα είναι παραδόπιστοι μέχρι να τους γλεντήσουν τα σκουλήκια της γης που πατούσαν ανενδοίαστα. Τώρα το αίμα έγινε κρασί και η σάρκα τροφή.
«Δυστυχώς, είναι φανερό πως η «δυστοπία» έχει πολύ περισσότερες πιθανότητες να πραγματωθεί απ' ό,τι η ουτοπία. Το Κακό που σκιαγραφεί η πρώτη μάς περιμένει στην επόμενη γωνία, ενώ η δεύτερη, δυστυχώς, δεν είναι παρά ένας ευσεβής πόθος. Η ειρήνη, η ισότητα, η γαλήνη και η δικαιοσύνη παραμένουν τα ζητούμενα στις ανθρώπινες κοινωνίες διαχρονικά, όταν η δυστοπία είναι αυτή που γράφει την παγκόσμια Ιστορία».
I was quite annoyed in the beginning to learn that the characters were completely new and foreign to me, but I did come to like learning about them and seeing how everyone came together in the end. Overall so far, I could have gone without reading this series, but I'll finish at this point.
You know, I've never poured hot melted candle wax into my ear drums before, but this week that didn't sound like such a bad idea. Many books translate well into audio versions, others so-so. Despite being over the moon for the first book in this series - which I only finished last week - this sucker was like scraping a rusty hammer's edge across an old-school chalk board. Agony.
Save yourselves! Don't go audio.
Okay, now that my initial rant has had its cork popped (I'll pour a touch more, later), here's my take on the plot, characters, structure, etc. First of all, I was already up to speed on the time period (the future) and the setting (post-plague and pre-plague city near the coast with freaky bio-engineered creatures on the loose). This second in the series drops us in the arms of the cult called God's Gardeners, and this is where we spend most of our time.
God's Gardeners were introduced in the first book, and here we get to know the various Adams and Eves (Adam One is the leader, Adam Two and Three are his seconds, etc... ditto for the Eves, although there are not as many of them). The regular members of the cult are random disenfranchised kids or teens or adults who oppose eating meat, recycle everything, hate chemicals (including deodorant), and are basically tree-huggers on steroids. That said, some people join God's Gardeners to escape trouble at home and have different paths in getting adjusted to cult life. We get to know several of the women pretty well, and I enjoyed their individual story lines.
Plot-wise, after the plague hits, some of the females survive because they have coincidentally been in isolation for one reason or another... one in a sick-bay of sorts, another out doing field work in the wilds, etc. When they each believe themselves all alone, we see them try to manage their resources and reflect on their lives until they can break out and seek other survivors. This was done well, but the structure of different females narrating and each popping back and forth in time made for a choppy reading/listening experience. But this is Margaret Atwood writing, so the little stacatto breaks were tolerable.
Atwood, writing various sermons for Adam One to preach, obviously had a good time scripting his lines. She morphed standard fare gospel with God being in charge of the Big Bang, showing that seven days of creation was merely a metaphor for human evolution, etc. She also wrote about various Saints Days (see if you can recognize some of the activists who were canonized by her!). All of this is pretty witty, and at the base level, she did a great job of marrying faith and science. One could believe this cult was real. No complaints there.
BUT OH MY GOD, THE SERMONS IN AUDIO FORMAT! They were written in, Im guessing maybe 15 times, and while it could've been fun to read them, visually, the character actor was grating. After a couple of these, I started to just half-tune out and tolerate them, but then the SINGING began.
Look, I grew up singing in youth choirs. No stink on hyms whatsoever. The Hallelujah Chorus at Christmas time (which it is right now, as I jot this down) gives me shivers. But then again, those melodies were mostly written by masters. The guy who wrote the musical score for the hymns in this book is no Handel, believe me. Go ahead and google the video for "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."I double-dog dare ya. The quality of that melody is ten times better than the God's Gardeners Hymns.
When I read that Margaret Atwood wrote these hymns herself, my respect level for her initially plummeted. THEN I ran into an interview where she said that she composed the tongue-in-cheek lyrics to go along with the tune of regular hymns most everybody knows. Think of Onward Christian Soldiers or Amazing Grace. Unfortunately (for me at least) Atwood's agent is married to a guy who, hold on to your harmonica, WRITES MUSIC! She convinced Atwood to let hubby Orville Stoeber (I triple dog dare you to go find his YouTube channel - gah!) write original music for the hymns. This is one instance where old Nancy Reagan could've taught Atwood a lesson: just say no. Look at this guy! Sunglasses, bandana head, sleeves pulled up like Miami Vice, and sneakers with his sport coat, trying to upstage THE Margaret Atwood. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=...
In sum, there were probably 15 hymns sung with pretty cheesy musical accompaniment. Between the sermons and these hideous melodies/singing, I was lighting every Christmas candle in the damn house and thinking about sticking that wax my ear canals.
In total transparency, there could have been more than 15 each of these (its possible that I repressed them). There may have been fewer - but they seemed like a lot more
The story gets a 3.5. The audio-version sermons and singing get a 1.5. Yes, I'll indulge in the third piece of the series (HBO is supposed to be making it into a series, though who knows if it'll ever gel), but you can bet your blue bottom I'll be lighting candles ahead of time.
The year 25 is referred to as The Year of the Flood. We are not told when or why the years have been reset. The flood is metaphorically used to describe the pandemic that is set in motion by Crake in the first novel that ends up, for all intents and purposes, wiping out the human species. The Year of the Flood uses the same structure as Oryx and Crake. The narrators at the beginning of the book are living in their present, the year 25, and the narrative will shift back and forth in time between the present and the past. The time frame is the same for both books. The events in The Year of the Flood take place at the same time as Oryx and Crake. With the second book in the trilogy we are introduced to the Gardeners. If the Corporations are one side of the coin, then the Gardeners are the other. The Gardeners worship God, nature and the environment, trying religiously to not damage an ecosystem that is already damaged beyond repair. They hold all life to be sacred and are loath to kill or harm any living thing. Conservation and Recycling are not just doctrines, they are their very way of life. Atwood turns to satire here with the both the Gardeners and the Corporations actions being exaggerated, especially the Gardeners, to the point of the absurd. Removing slugs carefully off plants so as not to harm them, only to have them squashed to a pulp on the freeway where they are thrown after removal. The army is now privatised and controlled by the Corporations, not the government, effectively giving the Corporations control of the country if the need arises. Anybody or group that opposes the Corporations either disappears, or their bodies are found in the street with vital organs missing. Satirical it may be, but as with The Handmaid’s Tale, it is easy for the reader to see that Atwood believes that the dystopian future she has presented could very well take place. While writing this, I am listening to a news story where scientists say they can remove fear from our lives by changing a few genes. Obviously, I am simplifying the whole process here, I’m not a scientist, but I believe we have reached, or are very close to reaching, a level of technology regarding genes and DNA, where we should be very careful indeed. I am all for the curing of diseases. Who would not love to see the removal of such malignant and soul-destroying diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Cancer? However, as Atwood says, this technology is a tool, and a tool can be used for the wrong purpose in the wrong hands. I found this second book to be more character oriented, and the two major characters, Toby and Ren, are both great characters. Toby is an Eve. A member of the higher order of the Gardeners. One of its leaders. Ren is younger and one of the regular Gardeners. Toby is determined and has an inner strength, while Ren, seems at times to be frail and, although not lacking courage, lacks Toby’s strength and resilience. Both characters have obstacles to overcome. Toby questions her beliefs and wonders if she truly believes in the Gardeners way of life. Ren is pursued by a homicidal maniac who was once her boss and captor, using her for sex whenever he felt like it. We experience the book mainly from their perspective. I felt a much greater connection with these characters than Jimmy and Crake in the first book. There is poetry in the form of hymns that are Interspersed throughout the chapters of the novel. These hymns come from the God’s Gardeners Oral Handbook and give the reader an insight into the Gardeners’ beliefs and way of life. While all of them are enjoyable, some are quite profound, especially the last one. There are many dystopian future novels out there, but for me, this one is at the very top of the list. I can’t wait to read the final book. 5 Stars.
I kept wondering if what Margaret Atwood writes is SF or rather speculative fiction. The boundaries between these genres seem quite difficult to draw, for me - as a reader - it has no relevance what kind of Atwood's writing falls into. Another issue related to the Canadian author would be the feminism proclaimed in a fairly high percentage. This novel, however, in my opinion, destroys this myth, in the context in which the pattern created by Atwood would be that none of the women of his characters are able to manage their lives. You have the feeling that everyone is waiting in the shadow, defending themselves, but with the only weapon they seem to have : their own sexuality. All are, in one way or another - abused, but none revolt, moreover, possesses an admirable ability to adapt. Is this a form of feminism ? I would say it suggests just the opposite : the fact that the woman would not be able to be a formidable opponent, who would fight openly for her own survival, but he is only a being with remarkable endurance. It is one thing to agree that a woman possesses a redutable weapon in her own sexuality, and it is another to insinuate that it's her Only weapon, unless you consider a kind of stoicism, a persistence in choosing the path of least résistance. I have a great admiration for Atwood as an author, he is in many ways a visionary, if you ignore the moralistic accents, but her women are frightened characters, not only by the other characters, but even by their own creator.
The Year of the Flood is a companion novel (or, as I've seen it sometimes called sidequel) to Oryx and Crake. While the book is inferior to its predecessor IMO, it is still a remarkable work of speculative fiction.
Set at approximately the same time as Oryx and Crake,The Year of the Flood follows the fates of two female survivors of the Waterless Flood - an epidemic orchestrated by Crake. Ren is a trapeze dancer at a sex club locked in its quarantine room and Toby is barricaded in a spa stocked with many edible treatments. Both women have once belonged to the cult of the God's Gardeners - a religion, organic vegetarian in nature, which is devoted to the preservation of all plant and animal life. In many ways thanks to this affiliation Ren and Toby are able to survive the Flood.
Just like in Oryx and Crake, Atwood takes us through the life stories of her characters, constantly switching from one perspective to another, from past to present, gradually revealing the events that have led to the Flood. This time not from the perspective of Snowman/Jimmy, a close friend of Crake's, but from the POV of ordinary people living in pleeblands. What is memorable about this sidequel is the skill with which Atwood brings the characters familiar to us from Oryx and Crake into the story. We get a glimpse at them from a different angle and learn how the God's Gardeners' teachings might have affected Crake's final idea of perfect humans, how the epidemic was spread, etc. The characters' live stories are intertwined in a very intricate way.
What makes this companion inferior to its predecessor is probably the familiarity of the world and the events. The ideas of chaotic gene-splicing, creation of supreme beings, and annihilation of humanity are no longer new or shocking. Instead, Atwood concentrates on exploring the possible avenues religious thought can take under the circumstances, relationships between women (as usual, Atwood's view of men is very unflattering), vegetarianism (some disturbing meat imagery here). Somehow it all makes the book a little duller, less intense than Oryx and Crake.
The ending in Atwood's signature way is very open. What is the fate of humanity? What is in store for the Crakers? Did Crake's plan to establish a new better civilization even work?
This work isn't perfect, there are the odd little details here and there which don't ring true, etc etc. I noted such things once and awhile as I read, but they didn't bother me much. The story is such a page-turner, that it's easy to overlook the minor flaws I thought were present. (Heck, maybe they were only present in my skull.)
The book enlarges the vision begun in Oryx and Crake. I don't think one would need to read that first, but why wouldn't you? True, I did think this book was better than the first - there are more characters in Flood than in Oryx, and this leads, in my opinion, to a greater depth to the story. But some of this depth wouldn't be as deep, without the first book.
Anyway, the biggest problem with the so-called MaddAddam trilogy is that the third book has not yet been written by Ms. Atwood! (No longer a problem!) That iswas a real bummer! What amwas I supposed to do, read some other book by her? Is this a plot by Ms. Atwood and her publisher(s)? (If so, it might work, in my case.)
Well, by now the last book in the trilogy, Maddaddam, has been published, and read by me. It was great.
I have finally finished this book, which I have been reading largely concurrently with maddaddam, it is however sometime since I read the first book in the trilogy Oryx and Crake; so this review will be a bit confused and will blur over all three books, possibly in a blurry way. Reading it as Russia's war in Ukraine is going on was a sharp reminder that the energy transition is going too slowly and our lives are unsustainable and will be increasingly severely affected by crises. No doubt those who have made a lot of money out of denial and delay will thoroughly enjoy their wealth once they are dead.
My general comment is that this is in no way a standalone, Oryx and Crake you could read on it's own and then leave the series, but the last two books are intertwined and build on the first. My negative comment is that when you read the handmaid's tale, there is a lot of background and many back stories that are unexplored, the reader can made assumptions or not as they please, ok this fits with the book as ostensibly a found text, but here Atwood takes the opposite approach and the two books are fleshing out background characters and the world that Atwood invents in her original story. It's fun - in so far as a story about the end of the world and the death of almost everyone can be, and Atwood plainly had a lot of fun too, the text is rich in jokes and gags, word play and social commentary.
Taken altogether as a series I would characterise it as a contemporary the Day of the triffids. In both cases the world, ahem actually human civilisation, is destroyed though it's relentless and unreflective pursuit of it's self interest. But a few hardy souls survive and begin to find each other and to construct a new world.
What is remarkable to my mind is that there is virtually no story, in that we see the same story as we read in Oryx and crake except from a variety of different perspectives and depths - one review I read elsewhere n the internet linked that to Atwood's post modernism and goes on to highlight the issue of narration in the trilogy generally. We then see some of the survivors of the 'waterless flood' gathering together. The destruction of the physical infrastructure is explained but I remain puzzled by what happened to all the dead bodies - presumably the genetically enhanced pigs ate them.
The saints of the God's gardeners are particularly delightful, scientists and environmentalists mostly. though I admit I skipped much of their singing (though that features more in Maddaddam) As with The handmaid's tale the trilogy can be read as another unlove letter to the USA, showing a potential world in which the businessmen are in complete control rather than one in which the bible bashers have taken over, though those latter have there part to play here too.
I actually liked this better than its counterpart, Oryx and Crake (but you must read both, no matter what), and I think it's because this book focuses on two female protagonists this time, instead of Jimmy - Atwood is a genius, but she just doesn't write male characters well.
This book is hard to explain, especially to someone who hasn't read Oryx and Crake. So I'm going to disregard those people completely and just pretend you all know exactly what I'm talking about.
Basically, the events in this book occur at the exact same time most of the stuff in Oryx and Crake does. The two stories occasionally blend together, but for the most part the two time lines run parallel to each other. Our narrators are Toby and Ren, two women who both spent time as members of the religious/environmental group the God's Gardeners. This group holds the belief that there will be a "waterless flood" unleashed on the earth to purge mankind, and they prepare for this flood by storing supplies and learning how to live off the land. Because of this, they are the only ones who are prepared when Crake's virus wipes out the majority of the human population. This is the story of the disaster, the events leading up to it, and the people who survived it, told from the outside - we finally get to see what it's really like to live in the pleeblands.
That was probably the best part about the book for me - questions that didn't get answered in Oryx and Crake (like just how long Crake was working on his whole wipe-out-humanity plan) get answered, and characters who were merely background get full stories here. Remember Amanda Payne, Jimmy's artist girlfriend? She's a major character here, and is given so much more meaning and depth than she was allowed to have in the first book. That's another good thing - Jimmy is no longer telling the story, but he's still in the book. We get to see him and judge his actions through someone else's eyes, and the result was so fascinating it made me want to read the two books side by side to get the full effect.
That's the best advice I can give if you're considering reading this, by the way: read Oryx and Crake, and then immediately after, read The Year of the Flood. The smallest details and most minor characters from the first book become very important in the second, and you don't want to forget anything.
I said it in my Oryx and Crake review and I'll say it here again: nobody writes dystopia like Margaret Atwood. Kneel at her feet, lowly mortals.
O Ano do Dilúvio ficou muito abaixo das minhas expectativas. Adoro Atwood e estava à espera de muito mais. A história é interessante, mas torna-se confusa, com demasiados nomes de santos estranhos e coincidências pouco realistas, sobretudo depois do dilúvio seco. A História de uma Serva e Olho de Gato continuam a ser os meus preferidos de Atwood.
3.5 stars I read this book for my English class this quarter and wow... this book is a brutally honest look at an apocalypse that feels very real and not so far into the future. It's of the water-less flood and it follows a group of people who call themselves the Gardner's. It mainly follows two women: Toby and Ren in alternating POV's. This book also contains some genetically engineered creatures that sound so fascinating like: liobams (a lion and a lamb), Mo'hair (sheeps with human hair), rakunks (hybrid of a racoon and a skunk), green haired glow in the dark rabbits, and snats (hybrid of a snake and rat).
This book was sad and depressing and scary because it shows some of the darkest parts of humanity and how with the way we treat the planet and it's creatures now - we are downward spiraling into a situation not too far off from this one in this book. It was written so well and I grew very fond of these characters. There were so many thought-provoking topics and passages in this book regarding society, humanity, our future, religion, veganism, and so much more. This book just truly reminds us how much we take the world for granted and this book shows us the scary potential outcome from our careless behaviors.
(Also, just a side note I think vegans/vegetarians would especially love this book because this book had me considering becoming a vegetarian so....!)