Title: The Year of the Flood
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: fiction, dystopic
Year Published: 2009
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: Canadian Author Challenge; loved Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tail
Book Description (from dust cover):
The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thing as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners–a 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, but they can’t stay locked away.
My Thoughts: I love this book! Aside from the fact that I usually enjoy dystopic novels, this one was one of the finest. And, as I usually like, there were chapters of this story in the present and then flashbacks. I like this technique because it leaves a sort of mystery to the story. How did the characters get to the point in the present from what we know of the past? In this way, we learn of how Toby and Ren come to the Gardeners in their own ways and then, again, how they leave the group. (I guess I should mention that Toby and Ren aren’t related and Toby is closer to the age of Ren’s mother than Ren.)
Interestingly enough, there is a sort of definition of what makes a dystopic novel in the praise for Oryx and Crake on the back of my copy of Year of the Flood from Lorrie Moore (New Yorker) that I really just want to quote here:
“A dystopian novel is intended as a literal forecast, or even necessarily as a logical extension of our current world. It is simply, and not so simply, a bad dream of our present time, an exquisitely designed horror show in which things are changed from what we do know to a dream version of what we don’t…”
This is one of the reasons that I like this novel so much. Atwood has, again, presented something so possible it is scary. Now, I didn’t read Oryx and Crake (it is now high on my TBR list though 🙂 ), but I have read The Handmaid’s Tale. And, while these two Atwoods I’ve read are very different, I can TOTALLY see them happening. In Year of the Flood, the United State and/or Canada–it’s never really defined, but it’s a big city, wherever it is–has fallen to the hands of major corporations. The world is “doomed” and many fanatical religious groups, such as the Gardeners, have sprouted to live a life they believe will save them from the Waterless Flood that is imminent.
I love this idea of a Waterless Flood. Essentially, it is another plague that harms only humans and is spread through contact, mostly. The Gardeners have nose-cones to sort of ward-off the germs, even before the Waterless Flood broke out. These “nose-cones” immediately make me think of the beak-y things worn by people, especially doctors, during the Bubonic Plague
There are some things I don’t understand about this novel though. Such as, in the present chapters of Ren’s, the story is first-person. But, when in Toby’s present chapters, the story is in third-person. I can’t figure out if there is a reason for this. And, what exactly are pleebs? They aren’t the same as a city, so are they like townships or burroughs?
Random Quotes I Like:
“How easy it is, treachery. You just slide into it.” p217
“It occurs to Toby that she may never see this vista again. Amazing how the heart clutches at anything familiar, whimpering, Mine! Mine!” p365
My Thoughts on the Cover: I have to say that I honestly don’t really get the cover. The things I see on it are all in the novel, but I don’t feel there is any real importance of those things. The red flower is a poppy, used in Pilar’s and Toby’s medicines; the girl walking along the beach could be Ren or Toby towards the end of the novel, or even Amanda; the buildings do look decrepit, which is what we’re supposed to imagine when we read of the city. The strip of honeycomb on the back obviously is to represent the honey and bees so important to Toby and Pilar before her. But these are random things to include on the cover, I feel. So. the cover makes sense, but it still could have been many other things.