- Genre: science fiction/post-apoocalypse/satire
- Series: MaddAddam, book 2
- Pages: 448
- My rating: 7.5/10
The Year of the Flood is situated in the world that Margaret Atwood established previously in Oryx and Crake. It’s a sequel of sorts, even though it features different people. But it is sort of set in the same time and place and has the same lampoonish ideas about the future.
The Year of the Flood, as the title already hints at, is even more obviously about biblical stories than its predecessor. Oryx and Crake did the same thing. In broad strokes, Oryx and Crake painted a world for us in which a viral apocalypse wipes out humanity, and the only creatures to survive are genetically engineered animals, such as fluorescent rabbits. A new community of genetically engineered humans survived as well, the Children of Crake, and they lived as innocent creatures in a new paradise. The only human left was Jimmy; and his stories became the new origin myths for the Children.
But the Children of Crake were not the only group of people to establish a new society in a post-apocalyptic world. At the same time, a sect named God’s Gardeners inherited the world. They were a little cult of religious vegetarians while the rest of the world ate engineered meat and they had a little rooftop garden. Now, their little garden has become a new Eden and the viral apocalypse is interpreted as the “flood” and their garden is the “ark”. Their new-age ecocentric ideas are communicated as song and gospel, and all the Gardeners are named Adam and Eve. Should we take it seriously? Not if you don’t want to.
I should be talking about the characters now, such as Toby and Ren, who are both girls who end up with the Gardeners, and they are either prostituting themselves and/or assaulted and raped, which was also the case for the main female character in Oryx and Crake. I get the sense that Atwood just adds this for shock effect. But the characters aren’t really that interesting, despite their dramatic lives. Half of the time, I couldn’t keep Toby and Ren apart. Their storylines mixed together in my mind.
Anyway, the main point of the book is the religion of God’s Gardeners. Atwood created a weird, comedic but compelling fusion between Christianity and evolutionary biology. It’s her grand literary idea for her book and it’s meant to tease and poke people mentally. The Gardeners sing gospel songs that praise our Australopithecus ancestors and that such ancestry should make us feel humble. I thought this angle was quite hilarious, but it is obvious how artificially it is put together by the author.
It’s an ideas book, not a characters book. Toby and Ren mostly stay put. They don’t end up on a quest or some other exiting adventure. They just narrate to us how they ended up with the God’s Gardeners while the world was breaking down, and their daily lives among these odd people. I suspect that one of Atwood’s objectives was to show how shitty the world would be towards women if civilization would collapse, because Toby and Ren have to deal with a lot of horrible shit.
I felt bogged down after 100 or so pages. It’s very cerebral and slow-moving. So, it is really a matter of whether the ideas interest you or not. The strange thing is that this book is written as dark comedy, and is meant to be taken seriously only up to a point. Near the end, it starts to devolve in my opinion into a lot of talk about food and relationships.
The story ties in very nicely with Oryx and Crake. Some of the characters from the previous book show up in this one as well, at unexpected times. This makes The Year of the Flood more like a companion novel that deepens the story of first one, instead of a sequel. And it means that it makes no sense to read this book without having read its predecessor, and that we go through the apocalypse a second time. Atwood has plotted this book very well to make it fit with her previous novel, but the story is still a bit slow. There is little tension in the story and I think it would have benefited from a shorter page count.