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The Year of the Flood: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 22, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Edition edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385528779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385528771
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (459 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com Review

Book Description
The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

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 on The Year of the Flood

I’ve never before gone back to a novel and written another novel related to it. Why this time? Partly because so many people asked me what happened right after the end of the 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake. I didn’t actually know, but the questions made me think about it. That was one reason. Another was that the core subject matter has continued to preoccupy me.

When Oryx and Crake came out, it seemed to many like science fiction--way out there, too weird to be possible--but in the three years that passed before I began writing The Year of the Flood, the perceived gap between that supposedly unreal future and the harsh one we might very well live through was narrowing fast. What is happening to our world? What can we do to reverse the damage? How long have we got? And, most importantly--what kind of "we"? In other words, what kind of people might undertake the challenge? Dedicated ones--they’d have to be. And unless you believe our planet is worth saving, why bother?

So the question of inspirational belief entered the picture, and once you have a set of beliefs--as distinct from a body of measurable knowledge--you have a religion. The God’s Gardeners appear briefly in Oryx and Crake, but in The Year of the Flood, they’re central. Like all religions, the Gardeners have their own leader, Adam One. They also have their own honoured saints and martyrs, their special days, their theology. They may look strange and obsessive and even foolish to non-members, but they’re serious about what they profess; as are their predecessors, who are with us today. I’ve found out a great deal about rooftop gardens and urban beekeeping while writing this book!

Another question frequently asked about Oryx and Crake concerned gender. Why was the story told by a man? How would it have been different if the narrator had been a woman? Such questions led me to Ren and Toby, and then to their respective lives, and also to their places of refuge. A high-end sex club and a luxury spa would in fact be quite good locations in which to wait out a pandemic plague: at least you’d have bar snacks, and a lot of clean towels.

In his book, The Art Instinct, Denis Dutton proposes that our interest in narrative is built in--selected during the very long period the human race spent in the Pleistocene--because any species with the ability to tell stories about both past and future would have an evolutionary edge. Will there be a crocodile in the river tomorrow, as there was last year? If so, better not go there. Speculative fictions about the future, like The Year of the Flood, are narratives of that kind. Where will the crocodiles be? How will we avoid them? What are our chances? --Margaret Atwood

(Photo © George Whiteside)

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Marcel TherouxIn her 2002 speculative novel, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood depicted a dystopic planet tumbling toward apocalypse. The world she envisaged was in the throes of catastrophic climate change, its wealthy inhabitants dwelling in sterile secure compounds, its poor ones in the dangerous pleeblands of decaying inner cities. Mass extinctions had taken place, while genetic experiments had populated the planet with strange new breeds of animal: liobams, Mo'Hairs, rakunks. At the end of the book, we left its central character, Jimmy, in the aftermath of a devastating man-made plague, as he wondered whether to befriend or attack a ragged band of strangers. The novel seemed complete, closing on a moment of suspense, as though Atwood was content simply to hint at the direction life would now take. In her profoundly imagined new book, The Year of the Flood, she revisits that same world and its catastrophe. Like Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood begins just after the catastrophe and then tracks back in time over the corrupt and degenerate world that preceded it. But while the first novel focused on the privileged elite in the compounds and the morally bankrupt corporations, The Year of the Flood depicts more of the world of the pleebs, an edgy no-man's land inhabited by criminals, sex workers, dropouts and the few individuals who are trying to resist the grip of the corporations.The novel centers on the lives of Ren and Toby, female members of a fundamentalist sect of Christian environmentalists, the God's Gardeners. Led by the charismatic Adam One, whose sermons and eco-hymns punctuate the narrative, the God's Gardeners are preparing for life after the prophesied Waterless Flood. Atwood plays some of their religion for laughs: their hymns have a comically bouncing, churchy rhythm, and we learn that both Ren and Toby have been drawn toward the sect for nonreligious reasons. Yet the gentleness and benignity of the Gardeners is a source of hope as well as humor. As absurd as some of their beliefs appear, Atwood seems to be suggesting that they're a better option than the naked materialism of the corporations.This is a gutsy and expansive novel, rich with ideas and conceits, but overall it's more optimistic than Oryx and Crake. Its characters have a compassion and energy lacking in Jimmy, the wounded and floating lothario at the previous novel's center.Each novel can be enjoyed independently of the other, but what's perhaps most impressive is the degree of connection between them. Together, they form halves of a single epic. Characters intersect. Plots overlap. Even the tiniest details tessellate into an intricate whole. In the final pages, we catch up with Jimmy once more, as he waits to encounter the strangers. This time around, Atwood commits herself to a dramatic and hopeful denouement that's in keeping with this novel's spirit of redemption.Marcel Theroux's most recent novel, Far North, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in June.
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Customer Reviews

This story and these characters are fascinating.
Becky J
Even though I have just started the third book: Madd Addam, I feel strongly that these books should be read in order.
Brenda Palmer
I read Oryx and Crake, the first book of the series, and so was looking forward to enjoying this follow-up volume.
D. Andrew Kille

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

243 of 257 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I know that sounds bad, but her dystopian visions are so profoundly disturbing, I find they influence my thinking forever after. Say what you will--her nightmares are not easy to dismiss!

Readers of 2003's Oryx and Crake will recognize the world of The Year of the Flood. Neither a prequel nor a sequel, the latter is more of a companion novel. It's set in the same world, covering roughly the same time span. Whereas Oryx and Crake was a post-apocalyptic narrative told from Jimmy's point of view, here the narrators are Toby and Ren. Jimmy, Oryx, and Crake make appearances in this novel, and readers of both books will discovered minor characters from the former novel are major characters in the latter. In short, the two are intertwined, but may be read in any order. It is not necessary to have read Oryx and Crake first, though ultimately reading them both is an immensely satisfying experience, shedding light on many aspects of the story being told.

Now to the story...Toby and Ren have both spent significant portions of their lives involved with a fringe religious group called God's Gardeners. Ren was brought to the ascetic group as a child by her mother. Toby found her way there out of desperation in adulthood. Each has professed disbelief in the tenets of the religion, but the pacifistic and environmental teachings have become deeply ingrained in both. At the opening of the novel, it is Year Twenty-Five in the God's Gardeners' calendar; the Year of the Waterless Flood.

From the beginning, the group's prophet-like leader had preached that a "waterless flood" was coming to wipe out humanity. In addition to their dogmatic environmentalism, the group believed in preparing for this flood with survival skills and food caches called "Ararats.
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70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By M. Feldman VINE VOICE on September 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Margaret Atwood's three compelling and quite different visions of an apocalyptic future, some things never change. There are always the powerful corporations intent on obtaining profit from every human desire: the Soul Scrolls of "The Handmaid's Tale," which turn prayer into a commodity; the Secretburger franchises of "The Year of the Flood," which dispense cheap burgers of dubious provenance. The environment is always degraded, resulting in a precipitous drop in the birth rate ("The Handmaid's Tale") and the terrifying daily thunderstorms of "The Year of the Flood." In all three stories, there is an Orwellian social structure: a tiny elite intent both on holding power at all costs and on a comfortable, even luxurious, life style; a larger group of terrified, obedient mid-level party/corporate functionaries; and a vast underclass that lives in squalor and in violence---the "pleeblands" of her newest novel. And, most important to all three dystopias, there are cold, brutal men with the most up to date weapons "who make sure--successfully, until the global pandemics in both "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood" nearly destroy the human race-- that everyone is terrorized and that power remains with the corporate elites.

Thus, it's quite amazing that her newest dystopia is so different, so inventive, and so convincing, even though elements of "The Year of the Flood" overlap with those in "Oryx and Crake" and the novels are set in parallel, time-wise, with a male protagonist in "Oryx" and two female protagonists, Toby and Ren, in "Flood." Completely original and central to "Flood" is the made-up religion (complete with made-up hymns) of Gods Gardeners, led by its fatherly chief composter, sermonizer, and philosopher, Adam One.
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72 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Holly TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm definitely in the minority here, but I didn't love this novel. I didn't hate it either and I did finish it, but it didn't grab hold of me like some books do. I read "Handmaid's Tale" many, many years ago and it's one of those books I held on to ever since. I didn't feel the same way about this one.

Set in a future time period (year unspecified), the earth has largely been decimated - many animal species are extinct, there are deserts where none existed before and the human population has largely segregated itself into subgroups that have very little interaction between them. With this situation, a pandemic (the waterless flood) takes place which wipes out most of the human race. The novel follows two primary characters, both female, as they try to survive in this post-apocalyptic era. Both women share their stories via memories of what their lives were like prior to the pandemic. It took me a long time to read this book since I wasn't totally involved and I think that is for three basic reasons:

1) I never really cared about the characters. They went through lots of horrific events and yet I just didn't seem to get emotionally involved with them
2) By the end of the book, there were too many coincidences where things just fell neatly into place. It just seemed too tidy for me.
3) The names of the animals and future inventions were too "cutsy" and rather than seeming clever, just seemed over-done.

Again, I didn't hate the book and I'm glad I read it, but it won't be something I re-read in the future.
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More About the Author

MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

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