Tuesday, October 13, 2009

YEAR OF THE FLOOD by Margaret Atwood

I read Margaret Atwood's previous novel, ORYX AND CRAKE, many years ago when it first came out. I wish I could remember more of it because many of the characters from that novel appear in her latest work, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD.

THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD follows the stories of two women, Ren and Toby, in the aftermath of worldwide plague.  Also known to a certain religious group as The Waterless Flood.  The story moves back and forth through time as the two women remember the events leading up the Waterless Flood. Both women were members of a religous cult-like group known as God's Gardeners.  These individuals were a type of ultra-environmental group that considered it their responsibility to bring gardens back to Earth while storing the DNA and attributes of animals that had gone extinct.  They are an anti-technology, vegetarian, foraging group that utilizes the trash and scraps of the outer world in order to survive.  As Ren and Toby remember their days with the Gardeners and the subsequent events leading up the plague, they try to figure out how to survive and what to do next. The story is interspersed with sermons by the Gardeners' leader, Adam One, that reveal the tenets of their religious views.

Atwood is very skilled in apolcalyptic futurist literature. The chilling nature of her books lies in the fact that the events are entirely plausible. In this book, a corporation security group known as CorpSeCorps has taken over control of the world. Protein is so lacking that people are willing to take it in the form of SecretBurgers, not knowing exactly WHAT type of protein they are consuming. All carbon-based refuse is turned into Garboil to fuel vehicles. This includes human bodies. Animals roam the earth that come not from nature but from laboratories such a liobams (lion/lamb hybrid) and rakunks (raccoon/skunk hybrid).  It is a bleak look at the future but a compelling one.

BOTTOM  LINE: Recommended. Atwood is a gifted writer.  I did not find this book an especially quick read. The characters were not especially compelling. However, you cannot help but get drawn into this glimpse into our possible future and the possible consequences of our current actions.  It is not clear whether Atwood gives the human race a reprieve or not but the ride itself is fascinating.

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