Saturday, May 1, 2010

Girl on Book Action: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
ISBN: 978-0-7710-0844-3


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 away in the high-end sex club where she works, and Toby, a God’s Gardener who has barricaded herself 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 one-time lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers…

As Adam One and his followers make their way through a changed world, Ren and Toby will each find their way out, leading to the novel’s unexpected and affecting conclusion.


My Thoughts:

Oh, Margaret Atwood, I was really looking forward to this book and while I’m not disappointed, I’m also not as satisfied as I wanted to be.

Oryx and Crake was an okay book so I wasn’t expecting that much from Year of the Flood which is set in the same dystopian future. A follow-up book to an okay book is usually either on par with the first or slightly less okay. Ultimately, I also prefer Atwood's straight-up feminist stuff – this environmentalist turn isn’t really my cup of tea. I love women more than hippies and books more than all of them. So there.

Anyway, about the actual novel. I liked that Year of the Flood focused on two women and their lives before and after the waterless flood, how they ended up with the God’s Gardeners and how they survived and their relationships, etc. In the end, I liked the Toby sections more than the Ren sections, although earlier Ren was less whiny and childish (even when she was a child). I wish I’d read Oryx and Crake more recently, because I think that the intermingling of the characters would have been more meaningful, although even with the gap between the two books, I appreciated Crake showing up, and Snowman. Even though they weren’t central characters, their appearances added to what I already knew of them from the earlier novel.

I really liked the idea of the Painball arena, which are a type of Death Race (you know like in that movie with sexy Jason Statham), but without cars - just teams of prisoners locked into a forested area (like you would play Paintball in) and going up against each other. The point is to kill the other team and the event is streamed on the internet so people can watch. And no, I don't like the idea because I’m a sadist, but because I think it speaks to our society’s obsession with violence and reality TV. I sort of wish that there would have been a little bit more about that – but hey, maybe one day there’ll be a further novel in this setting.

Some of the Adam One sermons felt a little heavy-handed to me, though I can understand how and why they would be included to add depth to the plot. I have to admit, that my eyes kind of glazed over while reading some of them. The only thing I truly enjoyed about these sections was noticing the difference between the “reality” of events that Adam One discusses and how he presents them in the sermons. Also, I liked the songs.

In conclusion (oh yes, I said that), I will recommend Year of the Flood, although I would also suggest reading Oryx and Crake beforehand. Now I’m going to go back to waiting for a new feminist novel.

PS: I have no idea what that blurb is talking about with regards to an affecting and unexpected ending - I was not affected at all. It was just an ending, but perhaps that is my general callousness showing itself again.

PPS: The "Secret Burgers" image is from the official Year of the Flood website and is a logo you can get printed on a t-shirt.  Secret Burgers, as you may have guessed, is a fast food burger place with dubious meat-sources.

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