243 of 257 people found the following review helpful
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." The predicted day has come in the form of a global pandemic. Society has broken down completely. From their respective places of isolation, each woman wonders if she may be the last human left and struggles to survive in this altered world.
As everyone knows, there's nothing like apocalypse to make a person introspective. As each woman reflects upon the ups and downs of her life with the Gardeners and beyond, the reader gradually gleans a fuller picture of the world these women lived in, their individual and joint histories, what led to cataclysm, and what has ultimately happened to the world.
As one might expect from Atwood, The Year of the Flood is a beautiful telling of an ugly story. And what a story it is! In addition to being very much a novel of ideas, it is an utterly un-put-downable page-turner! It's a quick read, with short chapters and lots of white space on the pages. The novel flies by. The ending is satisfying and unsatisfying at once. It sheds some light on Oryx and Crake's enigmatic conclusion and completes this arc of the story, but leaves this reader very much hoping for a final volume of this rumored trilogy.
70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
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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. He's a wonderful pastiche, equally earnest and ridiculous--straight out of the pages of "Mother Earth News." The characterizations of the rest of the Gardeners, the numbered Adams and Eves, are equally tender, as they tend their bees and mushrooms and the rooftop garden and patiently store away supplies in hidden "Ararats" for the calamity they know is coming. Unlike Orwell's degraded masses, these proles are full of hope. Don't miss this newest Atwood. She can put a plot together better than just about anyone, and the coalescing threads of this one kept me reading until midnight as the world came to an------well, not exactly, and not in the way you might think. Apocalypse, as constructed by Atwood, is never predictable, always astonishing, and certainly not impossible.
72 of 83 people found the following review helpful
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.
75 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2009
Margaret Atwood's latest book The Year of the Flood is another of her dystopian offerings. It's many years in the future (Atwood never gives an exact date), and humans have finally managed to destroy much in the natural world. Many animal species are extinct, pollution is rampant, weather is out of control, and society is buckling down to live out the days the best they can. Into all this comes the "waterless flood", a disaster that has wiped out nearly all the humans in the world. At least two have survived: Toby, the manager of a high-end spa who has barricaded herself inside; and Ren, a dancer/prostitute who was in the "sticky zone" (a type of sick bay) when the disaster hit. Now, separately, the two have to try to survive in this strange new unpeopled world. Will they ever find each other? And, the bigger question: did anyone else survive?
I really liked this book; it's not only a great read but very thought-provoking as well. The story is told with flashbacks to Ren and Toby's former lives, which added a lot to the book; it made an interesting contrast to see what things were like before the waterless flood. Toby is tough, smart, and resourceful; and it's always wonderful to see a strong female protaganist (one reason I love Atwood's books). I also thought Atwood did an excellent job of showing how bad things could possibly get on earth in the years to come, without being preachy about it.
I did have two minor quibbles about the book, which is why I gave it four stars instead of five. The first was the annoyingly cute futuristic names many of the things are given: "Anooyoo", "violet biolet", "SekSmart", "Mo'hairs", "Sea/H/Ear candy", "liobams" (if names will really be this cheesy in the future than the world is indeed in trouble;-)!. Yes, it's a very minor thing, but for some reason it grated on my nerves a bit. The other quibble I can't say without giving away spoilers, but it has to do with some coincidences that happen towards the end of the book. I didn't find these coincidences to be very plausible.
Minor quibbles non-withstanding, I could barely tear myself away from the pages of this book. I highly recommend it, especially if you like your sci-fi with a mix of great literature.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2009
I love Atwood, and Oryx and Crake was truly brilliant...but this sequel is not on par with its predecessor.
The story revolves around Ren and Toby, two survivors of a disaster that wipes out most of humanity. However, most of the book is back story and goes back and forth between their respective pre-disaster stories. However, the two characters weren't differentiated enough, so at first I was having a hard time remembering what happened to who. The book as a whole, while it does have Atwood's usual flawless prose, is unfortunately not very engaging, and has little forward momentum. The sermons and hymns of the God's Gardeners that are interspersed throughout the book are a chore to get through and didn't add much to the story.
I am about halfway through the book and I doubt I will finish. Nothing much has happened so far and I don't feel motivated to continue. I really wanted to love this book, so it's disappointing.
This is the fifth book of Atwood's I have read, and Lady Oracle, Handmaid's Tale, and Oryx and Crake were all brilliant, among my favorite novels of all time. This book shares some of the traits of Bodily Harm, which I did not like, including unlikeable/indifferent protagonists, too much back story, and not enough narrative drive.
Looking forward to reading Atwood's other books as she is a wonderful writer. But for me this one is a misfire.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2009
I was transported by "The Year of the Flood". Surely this book, along with "Oryx and Crake" and the much hoped-for third volume in a possible trilogy, is destined to be a classic. Unlike most reviewers, I listened to the audio versions rather than read them. I finished "Oryx" and began "Flood" immediately so I lived in Atwood's near future for many suspended hours. I came away wanting to plant my own vegetable garden, start a hive and donate to the World Wildlife Fund. Her vision is of a future that is the inevitable outcome of how we live today... terrible, savage and unsure. But "The Year of the Flood" is also a time of cleansing, and beginning again. Paradise lost or regained? Dystopian or utopian? I can't decide. I am left full of questions, unbalanced by the complexity of it all and awed by her refusal to shy away from ambiguity.
One note on the audio version. The reading is excellent. But beyond that, the hymns are sung and enrich the text. I'm not sure Adam One would have been as appealing to me had I read his sermons and hymns rather than listened to them. Someone, Ms. Atwood perhaps, put a lot of thought into creating a living religion based on compassion and commonsense.
I can't wait for Volume Three, but then I must. Thank you, Ms. Atwood, for your wonderful and unique work. I hope it has the effect of raising awareness of the fragility of our earth.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2009
Atwood has done it again! I cannot imagine any Oryx and Crakefan will be disappointed with this book, but if you've not read Oryx and Crake definitely read it first. (And if you can re-read O and C before reading this book, all the better!)
Filled with Atwoods brilliant satire (taking on religion, human excess and the "green" movement), I don't think it's a spoiler to say, The Year of the Flood takes us back to the world of O and C with sort of a parallel tale. Focus on a group of fanatics called Gardener's reminded me a bit of Handmaid's Tale. Atwood is brilliant in creating her own religions.
There's more I'd like to say, but too much opportunity for a spoiler. I had no idea this book was even in the works, so it was a totally unexpected surprise. One I'm thrilled with!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2010
Atwood has stated before that she writes "speculative fiction" not science fiction. This is a very apt description for her near-future dystopian novels. With this book, she proves she is a master of her self-described genre. This book is a companion book to Oryx and Crake which Atwood previously published.
The story takes place in a near-future North America sharply divided along class lines where people live in heavily secured corporate compounds or what used to be cities, now derisively dubbed "pleeblands". The only semblance of government remaining is headed up by big brother type corporations and and "law" is enforced by a paramilitary organization called the "CorpSeCorps". I chose to forgive the weak pun because the rest of the novel is so good. Civilian possession of firearms has been outlawed and one can bet that if he/she makes any noise, the corpsmen are going to come looking.
The protagonists here are women (traditional Atwood) living mostly in the pleeblands who belong to a separatist cult called God's Gardeners. Their leader is the charismatic Adam One. The group is a self-reliant, vegan commune that has established itself among abandoned city buildings and rooftop gardens. Their religious code is based in a blend of science and several major faiths with some made-up stuff thrown in for good measure. It portends the coming, apocalyptic "waterless flood". Each chapter opens with a spiritual lesson from Adam One and is followed by one of the cult's poetic hymns. Many of Adam One's lessons are downright hilarious. One of Atwood's greatest talents is weaving humor into her disturbing narratives. The "saints" of this cult are canonized preservationists and activists (Dian Fossey and others).
The residents of this future world must deal with all sorts of man-made horrors. Animal protein is scarce as traditional food sources have been exhausted by over-population, climate change and disease. A huge number of animal species have become extinct. Genetically engineered creatures have escaped into the wild. Global warming has made a desert of the American mid-west and melted the polar ice caps, flooding North American coastal cities. Disease is rampant. Frightening new gene-spliced microbes crop up regularly.
Atwood's characters are deeply textured and fully realized. The author dexterously examines the relationships among women and between men and women as she has done in previous works. The plot is multi-layered, playing out in the characters' memories (another talent of Atwood's) and in real time. The dystopian themes are fully explored and vividly imagined. Atwood has a singular and fantastic talent for taking contemporary trends and amplifying them (not necessarily exaggerating them) to create horrifying futures.
In the end the "flood" does come and most of humanity is wiped out. We discover that a new race of strange, disease-resistant, genetically engineered humans has been created. Will this new race become the dominant species in this new world? Have we, traditional humans, totally annihilated ourselves? I hope that Atwood will let us know by writing a third companion book. Oh, I hope she will. Pretty please...
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Adam One, the leader of the quasi-religious eco-cult caller God's Gardeners, had long predicted the coming of a plague, a Waterless Flood that would destroy all human life and as the story begins, it seems that he has been proven right.
We meet our two heroines, the older, tougher Toby and Ren, a worker in an upscale sex club. Both find themselves, through peculiar circumstances, still alive after what turns out to be a bio-engineered virus sweeps through. In the midst of the horror of the dead, each wonders if they are only person alive and yet also fearing who else, what else, might be out there.
As the story progresses, the chapters move back and forth in time and we learn how these two women came to be where they are. Society, in this future that Atwood speculates about, is bizarre and disturbing, maybe most of all because it is not totally unbelievable. There appears to be no government. The Corporations and their brutal security force, the CorpSEcorps, control the more upscale compounds where science and technology and 'progress' have become the new gods, resulting in all sorts of lovely bio-engineered creatures. Like the cross between a lion and lamb..you know the whole lion lays down with the lamb idea...that looks so cute and fuzzy...until they rips your throat out. Or the pig with a human brain. Ok, there have been some problems with some of the experiments.
Outside the compounds you have the pleeblands, violent and lawless, where the cultish God's Gardeners reside yet attempt to rise above it all. Both figuratively and literary, since they live on rooftops, easier to defend, raising their gardens and preaching and planning how to survive the flood that will soon come. We learn the backstories of Toby and Ren, both at times dreadful, sad stories, both tied to the God's Gardeners, and both, in their own ways, showing us how they became survivors. Because that is what they both are, survivors. And in the later part of the book we explore, if not totally resolve, what being a survivor in this new world, this world after the Flood, may mean.
Without question, Atwood writes from a certain ideological point of view and if you have read my reviews before, you might have noticed that I hate a heavy handed, preachy novel. Especially if the views it is preaching differs from my own...lol. But happily, Atwood is a much better writer than that. Everyone, every view, to some degree, is subjected to Atwood's witty and often very amusing treatment. Because yes, this book, while often violent and even gross, is also often very funny and witty. And ultimately, she wraps it all into what I found to be a quite entertaining and compelling story. Also a story with some great characters. A well written, engaging plot, some well defined, affecting characters and the exploration of some interesting questions, all makes for a book that I totally enjoyed. She creates a disturbing and thought provoking image of a future, an image that may well remain with out after you have finished enjoying this entertaining book.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2010
I must disagree with many of the posts/reviews I have seen here. This book was full of interesting ideas about the fate and future of the human race, however the characters never engaged my interest like Oryx and Crake. Both Toby and Ren/Brenda were BORING. Nothing was resolved in a believable manner and it just seemed to end suddenly after 300+ pages. I forced myself to finish, hoping that something interesting would occur, some sort of dramatic twist, but alas, I was disappointed by the non-ending. I also don't think this book can stand alone without some background knowledge of Oryx and Crake. Especially the encounter near the end, I don't believe this would make much sense to those who have not read O&C previously. Also, the God's Gardeners' songs quickly became tiresome.
Worth reading? dunno...right now I would say don't waste your time, give it a good skim at best.