The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the FloodMargaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood is the flip side of Oryx and Crake. In some not too distance future the world is split into the genius rich society and the plebe world. Oryx and Crake describes the fall of that society from the “have” side. The Year of the Flood is the “have not” side.
Toby’s life was fairly normal until her mother got sick. Both parents died closely together. She then was out of school and on her own. She had a shaky job at a fast food restaurant, then that became too dangerous for her. She was able to hide away with the Gardeners. The Gardeners are a fanatical environmental group, but not a destructive group. They grow their own food; everything they have is natural. They are vegans although acknowledge the need that some day they may have to break that rule to survive. Toby feels safe on the roof top with the Gardeners, but doesn’t feel like she fits in.
Ren was around ten when Toby joined the Gardeners. Ren’s mother, Lucerne, fell in love with Zeb, one of the Adams of the group, and ran away with him, leaving the biotech corporation and her husband behind. She took Ren with her. Ren is out of place at first, but eventually is able to make friends. She recruits Amanda, one of the plebe street girls, who becomes her best friend. Then Lucerne changes her mind, returns to her husband, and yanks Ren back into the “have” world of biotech and money.
Society is breaking down. Toby and Ren see it happening from different view points. They, like Snowman in Oryx and Crake, are surviving now but remember the sequences of their past. They are part of the few humans who survive what the Gardeners call the Waterless Flood. Life wasn’t easy before the plague. Toby was constantly vigilant in case the murderer from her past discovers her. Ren is a child growing up with a careless mother in a secretive community, then pulled away from her friends. As a Gardener, she sees the seamy side of life that is visual and obvious. In the biotech world, she sees the false lives instead, learning that having isn’t necessarily living.
The Year of the Flood is not as powerful as Oryx and Crake. It is still bleak and chilling. Margaret Atwood purposefully starts at the end and starts bringing in the memories, same as in the earlier novel. It is confusing for a while, especially since the book jumps back and forth between Toby and Ren. Plus the reader gets some of the sermons on preserving the world and their way of life from Adam One, the main leader of their cell group.
Genetic manipulation is rampant by the time this novel opens. Most natural animals have become extinct. Instead, genetically created mutations survive, like the raccunk or the liobam. Even animals that look normal have been changed. Pigs get human brain implanted to make them smarter and reasoning. Bees are implanted with small cameras so the corporations can spy anywhere.
Atwood has imagined another possible future. The Year of the Flood drags – more during the first half. By the second half the reader has finally got a sense of the threads being woven, so it’s easier to follow. Despite her vision of the future, The Year of the Flood ends on a somewhat hopeful note. Or does it? I haven’t completely decided yet.
Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong language, Suggestive dialogue or situations