The Year of the Flood is Margaret Atwood’s sequel, or more accurately companion, to Oryx and Crake. Both novels are set in a near future, post-apocalyptic world, where Atwood shows what might happen to our society if we continue the destructive behaviors she believes are destroying our planet. Where Oryx and Crake told the story through the eyes of two men, The Year of the Flood centers on two women, Toby and Ren, survivors of a devastating “waterless flood.” The women met as members of God’s Gardeners, an environmentalist sect. Through flashback Atwood covers the 20 years leading up to the flood. She describes in detail day-to-day life with God’s Gardeners: their leaders, rituals, and hymns. Atwood’s world is also populated with genetically engineered animals, unusual food, and corporations who claim to be doing good in the world while actually wreaking havoc.
The book got off to a slow start, as Atwood meticulously built her world. But about halfway through, the pace suddenly accelerated. Characters’ lives intertwined, including some key figures from Oryx and Crake. The catastrophic nature of the flood left people stranded and alone, foraging for food while remaining ever on guard against predators. Were there any “good guys” left, or would this all end in a Hunger Games-style fight to the death? Will the planet survive?
The story was both suspenseful and thought-provoking. And while I would probably agree with Atwood on several points, I found her treatment heavy-handed. This was especially true of the God’s Gardeners. I loved their self-sufficiency and animal rights activism, but the homilies and hymns in each chapter were a bit much. Still, I’m looking forward to the third book in this trilogy, MaddAdam, which is scheduled for publication in August.