The Year of the Flood
by Margaret Atwood
I normally write my own synopsis, but this one just about says it all, so
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 . . .
I'm a big fan of Margaret Atwood and the dystopias she creates. When I picked up The Year of the Flood, I didn't realize at first that it was a sequel to one of my favorite books (not only by Atwood, but in general), Oryx and Crake. Now, you can read TYOTF on it's own, it does stand alone, though it may be bizarre at times, and you will most certainly miss out on some inside stuff. You can read it on its own, but I would highly recommend picking up both. Here's why:
Atwood is a master of tone and voice. Nowhere is it more evident than here, in The Year of the Flood. She is able to weave together two stories from two very different people, in two different tenses (Ren in first person, Toby in third) and she blends them together effortlessly. She makes it feel so natural to switch back and forth between the two, and works in their experiences and connections and lives seamlessly, juggling it all expertly.
Everything in TYOTF is so visual and present and real. The world she has created in Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood is some of the most memorable and full dystopia I have ever read. All of her bases are covered: the human element, the natural/animal element and the environmental/ecological, the political, the financial, the religious -- everything has been thought of and everything has a part to play to build a world that will creep under your skin and take hold.
There's a great amount of tension and "what next"ness. It's one of those books that you sometimes want to put down and think about what you just read, while at the same time, you don't want to let it out of your hands. She has an uncanny ability to write about the worst in humanity in the most grimly believable way, and yet show you glimpses of what's best about humanity; you know there's a bright lining, if only somebody could get at it. You end up caring so much about these people and what happens to them; you want so much for the bad guys to get theirs and the good guys to come through safe and whole. But at the same time, Atwood lets you have precious few illusions; it is dystopia, after all.
And I really don't know how to say more than this without giving something away. There are so many layers to unpeel to get at the heart of this book, and it is well worth multiple readings. I only hope there's more. And that I don't have to wait too long for it.
The Year of the Flood has its own website with significant things from the book that I can't really tell you about without being spoilery, except to say: check out the God's Gardener music. Gotta love an interactive reading experience. It also has links about non-profit environmental groups, and a drop down list titles "neat stuff" -- so you know I like that.
You can participate in the book, too, by taking the God's Gardener Hymn Challenge on the site and on youtube.
I enjoyed this review of TYOTF by Joshua Chaplinsky, as well as this one by blogger buddy, She.