The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

April 29, 2010 at 12:10 am 3 comments

The Adams and Eves used to say, We are what we eat, but I prefer to say, We are what we wish. Because if you can’t wish, why bother?

God, I love Margaret Atwood. She is so prolific and yet such a wonderful writer that her continued excellence honestly stuns me. Normally, writers of this caliber tire out after a certain number of novels; Atwood is still on her game, 21 novels  later.

Her latest work, The Year of the Flood, is a follow-up to the Booker Short-listed Oryx and Crake (2003). Atwood has essentially taken the world of Oryx and Crake and tilted it, allowing the reader to view the major events of that novel through the eyes of characters who formerly played minor roles.

While Oryx and Crake centered on the titular characters and their mutual friend Jimmy, who were directly responsible for the destruction portrayed at the beginning of the novel, The Year of the Flood brings the reader into the world of God’s Gardeners, an environmentalist cult whose followers are more observers than causers of the path of the narrative.

As a result, The Year of the Flood is much more focused on religion and environmentalism than the corporate criticism that characterized the earlier novel. The themes might remind readers of The Handmaid’s Tale, though the universe is still clearly that of Oryx and Crake, complete with rakunks, glowing green rabbits, and pigs with human brain tissue.

The Year of the Flood is overshadowed by its predecessor. Sure, this novel shows off Atwood’s poetry and keen sense of voice: the “sermons” she includes are written in such a different style from the rest of the narrative that it’s hard to believe the entire book is written by the same person. The Year of the Flood also showcases Atwood’s social awareness, and story is imbued with the same eerily prophetic spirit that haunted The Handmaid’s Tale.

But at the same time, Oryx and Crake was a masterpiece. This newer story could not exist without the brilliance of its companion, and it is necessary to have read the former before the latter in order to understand much of the story’s unfolding. Readers may also find themselves wondering why the liobams and Mo’hair sheep aren’t mentioned in Oryx and Crake, and if Atwood had really meant for the voice in Jimmy’s head to be the newly rechristened Ren.

Atwood can be easily forgiven for these slight flaws — if they can even be called that. Lovers of Oryx and Crake will be so happy for another glimpse into this world that they probably won’t even notice small possible inconsistencies. Crake remains maddeningly enigmatic and Oryx’s past remains shrouded, though Atwood does tie up some of her earlier novel’s loose ends, such as how many people survived the “flood,” and how. Of course, the Crakers make a few appearances (does everyone find them incredibly loveable, or is it just me?).

But readers who were waiting for a continuation of the events in Oryx and Crake will be disappointed. Atwood only gives the reader a conclusion to the episode that ends her previous book, which constitues maybe twelve hours in the characters’ lives, before setting up another cliff-hanger. I literally uttered the words, “No, no, please don’t let it be over,” as I reached the last page.

However, as always Atwood knew what she was doing. Now that I think about it, she probably couldn’t have gone anywhere else with the story — though I’m sure Atwood can and will probably prove me wrong with another brilliant follow-up. With her compelling story and gripping ending, she’ll have at least this book blogger lining up for a copy.


Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Sci-fi. Tags: , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Corey  |  April 29, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Semi-related: Have you seen this? Someone did the entire Handmaid’s Tale in Tweets! Thought of you.

    • 2. KT  |  April 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      I am vaguely appalled at the idea of a tweeting Offred, though the concept is interesting! I’m SO EXCITED, though, that Margaret Atwood is on Twitter! AUGH!

      • 3. Corey  |  April 30, 2010 at 5:07 am

        Yeah! I can’t believe we missed her as part of our Tweeting authors list from a while back. Ack!


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