Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood takes place basically in the same time and place as Oryx and Crake. The two books, with several overlapping characters, are almost like two halves of a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that interlock. I definitely recommend reading Oryx and Crake first. Although The Year of the Flood can stand on its own, there were many "Aha!" moments when I recognized a character or incident from the earlier book. One reviewer wrote that you could read them in either order, but The Year of the Flood is more hopeful, and the two female narrators are so much more heroic and likeable than Jimmy/Snowman was in Oryx and Crake. In The Year of the Flood, Ren and Toby are members of a group called God's Gardeners who are eschewing the lifestyle of the rest of the population in favor of trying to preserve what's left of Earth's dwindling resources. Their leader has predicted a Waterless Flood, and that's exactly what transpires when the plague hits. Atwood's projections of what the world could be like in the not-too-distant future is chilling and depressing, but she peppers the story with vivid descriptions of the landscape and sometimes colorful hybrid animals. I have to admit that I was somewhat grossed out by the various purposes that maggots serve in the God's Gardeners community, but the group's reliance on nature is what characterizes them and prepares the survivors for the resourcefulness that they'll need after the plague. I hope there's a third book in the offing.

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