Monday, October 5, 2009

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Hardcover, 448 pages
Nan A. Talese, September 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385528771
dystopian science fiction
very highly recommended

Synopsis from Cover:
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 . . .

My Thoughts:

Margaret Atwood is a skilled gifted writer with the ability to use her incredible gift in the creation of stories that leave a lasting impression. The Year of the Flood occupies the same world as Atwood's 2003 novel Oryx and Crake. Both are speculative fiction about a dystopian future. Although you can't say this is a world you want to see, you can see the roots of it around us today. While both are stand alone novels and you need not read Oryx and Crake before The Year of the Flood, I think it might be a good idea to do so. They are definitely companion novels and show two sides of the same time period. The Year of the Flood does end on a more hopeful note, however.

I think Margaret Atwood is brilliant and would very likely be predisposed to love anything she's written. The Year of the Flood is no exception. (It is possible that The Historian suffered because of Atwood. While trying to finish it I had The Year of the Flood sitting there, waiting for me.) There is an environmental message in the novel, so if that is going to bother you, be forewarned.
The Year of the Flood is very highly recommended - one of the best.

See the websites for The Year of the Flood and Margaret Atwood.
(The hymns in the book have had music composed for them by Orville Stoeber.)


In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. She uses a mop handle for balance: the elevator stopped working some time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, so if she slips and topples there won’t be anyone to pick her up. pg. 3

The wide lawns have grown up, tall weeds. There are low irregular mounds beneath the milkweed and fleabane and sorrel, with here and there a swatch of fabric, a glint of bone. That’s where the people fell, the ones who’d been running or staggering across the lawn. Toby had watched from the roof, crouched behind one of the planters, but she hadn’t watched for long. Some of those people had called for help, as if they’d known she was there. But how could she have helped? pg. 4

And Zeb. If any one of them is still alive, it must be Zeb: any day now he’ll come walking along the roadway or appear from among the trees.
But he must be dead by now. It’s better to think so. Not to waste hope.
There must be someone else left, though; she can’t be the only one on the planet. There must be others. But friends or foes? If she sees one, how to tell? pg. 5

Beware of words. Be careful what you write. Leave no trails.
This is what the Gardeners taught us, when I was a child among them. They told us to depend on memory, because nothing written down could be relied on. The Spirit travels from mouth to mouth, not from thing to thing: books could be burnt, paper crumble away, computers could be destroyed. Only the Spirit lives forever, and the Spirit isn’t a thing. pg. 6

That night when the Waterless Flood began, I was waiting for my test results: they kept you locked in the Sticky Zone for weeks, in case you had something contagious. The food came in through the safety-sealed hatchway, plus there was the minifridge with snacks, and the water was filtered, coming in and out both. pg. 7-8

She's counting on this garden: her supplies in the storeroom are getting low. Over the years she stashed what she thought would be enough for an emergency like this, but she'd underestimated, and now she's running out of soybits and soydines. pg. 15-16

Then all of them had left, once the trouble hit. They'd gone home to be with their families, believing love could save them. "You go ahead, I'll lock up," Toby had told them. And she had locked up, but with herself inside. pg. 17

This was not an ordinary pandemic: it wouldn't be contained after a few hundred thousand deaths, the obliterated with biotools and bleach. This was the Waterless Flood the Gardeners so often had warned about. It had all the signs: it travelled through the air as if on wings, it burned through the cities like fire, spreading germ-ridden mobs, terror, and butchery. pg. 20

Then the CorpSeCorps had outlawed firearms in the interests of public security, reserving the newly invented sprayguns for themselves, and suddenly people were officially weaponless. pg. 24

"They view us as twisted fanatics who combine food extremism with bad fashion sense and a puritanical attitude towards shopping. But we own nothing they want, so we don't qualify as terrorists..." pg. 48


Wendy said...

Thanks for this great review, Lori. I had intended to read this book in September...but then September turned into the month from there is still sits on my nightstand. Your review has made me DETERMINED to fit it into October's reading! I love Atwood...and you're right, she is BRILLIANT!

Lori L said...

Atwood is the total package - brilliant writer and gifted story teller. You needn't sacrifice one part over another. The very first book of hers I read was Cats Eye - it's still one of my favorites. After that I read everything she had written and have continued that to this day.

Wendy said...

I'm in total agreement, Lori! I also loved Cat's Eye (and The Robber Bride is right up there with my favorite Atwood novels). I still have quite a few of her novels to read...I am spacing them out *laughs*