From the Publisher: 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, but they can't stay locked away. By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.
Ms. Atwood is not known for her light touch. Instead, The Year of the Flood is preachy and grim and often downright silly. Anyone who has read an Atwood novel won't be surprised to learn that this one is imbued with the anti -capitalist, anti-religion and anti-male themes that characterize much of her fiction.
Ms. Atwood serves up an apocalyptic vision of a world that has been destroyed by overpopulation, greed and man's wanton destruction of the environment. If you like your dystopias green, this is the book for you. Al Gore and his fans may find The Year of the Flood a page-turner. The rest of us will have to struggle to stay awake.
I know that sounds bad, but her dystopian visions are so profoundly disturbing, I find they influence my thinking forever after. Say what you will—her nightmares are not easy to dismiss!
Readers of 2003’s Oryx and Crake will recognize the world of The Year of the Flood. Neither a prequel nor a sequel, the latter is more of a companion novel. It’s set in the same world, covering roughly the same time span. Whereas Oryx and Crake was a post-apocalyptic narrative told from Jimmy’s point of view, here the narrators are Toby and Ren. Jimmy, Oryx, and Crake make appearances in this novel, and readers of both books will discovered minor characters from the former novel are major characters in the latter. In short, the two are intertwined, but may be read in any order. It is not necessary to have read Oryx and Crake first, though ultimately reading them both is an immensely satisfying experience, shedding light on many aspects of the story being told.
Now to the story…Toby and Ren have both spent significant portions of their lives involved with a fringe religious group called God’s Gardeners. Ren was brought to the ascetic group as a child by her mother. Toby found her way there out of desperation in adulthood. Each has professed disbelief in the tenets of the religion, but the pacifistic and environmental teachings have become deeply ingrained in both. At the opening of the novel, it is Year Twenty-Five in the God’s Gardeners’ calendar; the Year of the Waterless Flood.
From the beginning, the group’s prophet-like leader had preached that a “waterless flood” was coming to wipe out humanity. In addition to their dogmatic environmentalism, the group believed in preparing for this flood with survival skills and food caches called “Ararats.” The predicted day has come in the form of a global pandemic. Society has broken down completely. From their respective places of isolation, each woman wonders if she may be the last human left and struggles to survive in this altered world.
As everyone knows, there’s nothing like apocalypse to make a person introspective. As each woman reflects upon the ups and downs of her life with the Gardeners and beyond, the reader gradually gleans a fuller picture of the world these women lived in, their individual and joint histories, what led to cataclysm, and what has ultimately happened to the world.
As one might expect from Atwood, The Year of the Flood is a beautiful telling of an ugly story. And what a story it is! In addition to being very much a novel of ideas, it is an utterly un-put-downable page-turner! It’s a quick read, with short chapters and lots of white space on the pages. The novel flies by. The ending is satisfying and unsatisfying at once. It sheds some light on Oryx and Crake’s enigmatic conclusion and completes this arc of the story, but leaves this reader very much hoping for a final volume of this rumored trilogy.
Atwood succeeds at fleshing out this religion of the God’s Gardeners, giving them a host of saints, religious dogma, hymns, sermons, and a hierarchy. She has clearly examined the preparedness folks out there now, those that do prepare for something bad to happen, those that try to simplify their own lives, and those who try to be self-sufficient. Their communal lives are presented in an unflinching manner. There are squabbles, failures, in-fights, betrayals, true believers, people who join for the wrong reasons, and anything else you would realistically find in a commune. But overall, they are a group of pacifists and vegetarians. You can see the fracturing of this group through the narratives of Ren, who is the step-daughter of MaddAddam (who appears in Oryx and Crake) and Toby, a woman who is rescued from a mad man rapist and decides to stay with the group as a way to remain safe. I’m very glad for the two views—Ren was raised in the Gardeners group, so it’s the life she knows and expects, whereas Toby was paying lip service to the group so she could stay safe from the outside world. But, I suppose, that’s what all the Gardeners were doing.
Cameos from Oryx and Crake run rampant through this novel, though it should still be possible for those who haven’t read it to appreciate this novel on its own. However, there were too many times that her story felt forcibly contrived so it could parallel O&C, particularly the parts with Amanda and the last couple of chapters.
Fans of Atwood’s other speculative fictions and fans of the genre will appreciate this latest novel. She includes themes of the objectification of women and nature, rampant consumerism, corporate and governmental corruption, and the successes and failures of pacifism and protesting.
Both women have spent a lot of their lives until recently living as part of an alternative community, a commune called “God’s Gardeners” and the Ren/Toby narratives are also interspersed with speeches, or perhaps sermons, from the leader of the group to other members, and hymns. God’s Gardeners are trying to establish self-sufficiency and living in a way which will not be at the expense of the planet, giving up on modern conveniences such as the mobile phone. Both Ren and Toby came to live with the community in circumstances which were not of their choosing, though, and have struggled to fit in. They are also very aware of the inconsistencies and flaws of community members and their actions.
The Year of the Flood can be described as a kind of sequel to Oryx and Crake, published in 2003. It is set after the catastrophe and many of the same characters appear in some way – Ren and her friend Amanda are portrayed through Snowman’s memories of his past. I found The Year of the Flood much more engaging though. I could recognise the high quality of the writing in Oryx and Crake and found Atwood’s vision of what might happen really frightening. One aspect of reading a novel I enjoy is the interaction between characters, and in that story other characters are only portrayed in the main character’s memory; for all he knows, he is the only surviving human. In The Year of the Flood, I found Ren and Toby both much more sympathetic characters, and although Ren and Toby also spend most of the present day narrative of the book alone, I was drawn in by their stories and their hopes for some sort of survival.
I also liked the portrayal of the alternative ways of life in this novel. Although I admit I would personally find the God’s Gardeners option very hard, and the author through her heroines does show quite a critical perspective on this group, the other choices in the novel seem much grimmer. Capitalism is embodied in CorpSeCorps, the company which has gradually taken over all sorts of things including a lot of the functions of the state, and its workings are deeply sinister. Toby’s mother worked selling health supplements but they were unable to save her when she became ill, and nor were the privatised clinics run by her employer Helth Wyzer. For those in this society who do not have the dubious privileges of employment and life controlled by the corporation, there is the scary life of the street kids, contemptuously described as pleebrats by God’s Gardeners (commune members are not immune to snobbery.
A lot of The Year of the Flood is told through flashbacks and memories of how Ren and Toby have ended up where they are, but the novel is also held together and driven forward by the present day suspense of their situation. Will they be able to get out into the outside world and make a new life for themselves in the aftermath of the disaster? Will they find each other or other survivors? These questions, and lots of others, help to keep turning the pages and find out what has happened and where the story will go next. I think this more obvious storyline also makes the novel a more attractive read than Oryx and Crake.
The Year of the Flood is a complex novel and I think I would like to reread it and that I would get more out of doing so, maybe in conjunction with a reread of Oryx and Crake.
The two books run mostly concurrently with Year of the Flood ending about two hours after Oryx and Crake. They are the first two books in the MaddAddam trilogy, and I wonder if the yet unreleased third book will show another perspective of the same time period or if it will pick up where these two left off.
I enjoyed Year of the Flood. It's told from the perspective of two very different characters who become members of God's Gardeners, a religious sect (or cult, depending on how you look at things) committed to being the next Noahs in what they call the upcoming "waterless flood." They learn as much about their environment as they can while respecting it.
The book tackles issues like what it means to believe, the difference between how a person is perceived and how she perceives herself, the line between science and religion, and the effects of activism, solitude, and love.
All in all, I found it to be one of Atwood's most satisfying works.
We meet our two heroines, the older, tougher Toby and Ren, a worker in an upscale sex club. Both find themselves, through peculiar circumstances, still alive after what turns out to be a bio-engineered virus sweeps through. In the midst of the horror of the dead, each wonders if they are only person alive and yet also fearing who else, what else, might be out there.
As the story progresses, the chapters move back and forth in time and we learn how these two women came to be where they are. Society, in this future that Atwood speculates about, is bizarre and disturbing, maybe most of all because it is not totally unbelievable. There appears to be no government. The Corporations and their brutal security force, the CorpSEcorps, control the more upscale compounds where science and technology and 'progress' have become the new gods, resulting in all sorts of lovely bio-engineered creatures. Like the cross between a lion and lamb..you know the whole lion lays down with the lamb idea...that looks so cute and fuzzy...until they rips your throat out. Or the pig with a human brain. Ok, there have been some problems with some of the experiments.
Outside the compounds you have the pleeblands, violent and lawless, where the cultish God's Gardeners reside yet attempt to rise above it all. Both figuratively and literary, since they live on rooftops, easier to defend, raising their gardens and preaching and planning how to survive the flood that will soon come. We learn the backstories of Toby and Ren, both at times dreadful, sad stories, both tied to the God's Gardeners, and both, in their own ways, showing us how they became survivors. Because that is what they both are, survivors. And in the later part of the book we explore, if not totally resolve, what being a survivor in this new world, this world after the Flood, may mean.
Without question, Atwood writes from a certain ideological point of view and if you have read my reviews before, you might have noticed that I hate a heavy handed, preachy novel. Especially if the views it is preaching differs from my own...lol. But happily, Atwood is a much better writer than that. Everyone, every view, to some degree, is subjected to Atwood's witty and often very amusing treatment. Because yes, this book, while often violent and even gross, is also often very funny and witty. And ultimately, she wraps it all into what I found to be a quite entertaining and compelling story. Also a story with some great characters. A well written, engaging plot, some well defined, affecting characters and the exploration of some interesting questions, all makes for a book that I totally enjoyed. She creates a disturbing and thought provoking image of a future, an image that may well remain with out after you have finished enjoying this entertaining book.
"Oryx & Crake" was a fantastic piece of writing. Snowman, a hermit clad in a babesball cap and bedsheet, lives a lonely and melancholy life on the American eastern seaboard, apparently the only survivor of a cataclysmic plague. Nearby is a society of humanlike beings called Crakers, who revere Snowman as a prophet or god. The bulk of the story is told through flashbacks detailing Snowman's former life as Jimmy, growing up in a hyper-commercialised world ruled by corporations. In high school Jimmy befriends a boy called Glenn, who nicknames himself Crake, and who grows up to become a brilliant bioengineer. Disillusioned and disgusted by humanity, Crake creates a new race of people, and releases a plague to wipe out the old ones. He vaccinates Jimmy against this plague beforehand, allowing him to survive as the guardian of the Crakers.
One might wonder what he is guarding them against, but at the climax of the book Jimmy discovers three real humans camping on the beach nearby. As he ponders his role as a guardian and agonises over what he will do with them, the novel ends.
"The Year of the Flood" isn't really a sequel; it takes place chronologically alongside "Oryx & Crake," following two characters instead of one, but again utilising the flashback method of following them as they grow up. Ren and Toby are both former members of a religious group called God's Gardeners, a peaceful vegetarian sect that cultivates a rooftop garden in the middle of the otherwise bleak and grimy city. Eventually they both leave the sect, but are reunited after the plague.
The problem with this book was that I couldn't help but compare it to the much better "Oryx & Crake." For much of the novel, I felt like I was reading a book that I'd already read, because essentially I was: same themes, same world, just different characters. (Ironically, the book improves quite a bit in the second half, when Jimmy and Crake enter as supporting characters; it is, after all, their story.) One of the things that made "Oryx & Crake" so great was the perfect sense of crushing loneliness, the feeling that Jimmy was the last true human being left alive, something that was only slightly compromised by the sudden arrival of others in the very last chapter. "The Year of the Flood," on the other hand, has a post-apocalyptic world that seems scarcely less populated than it was before the plague, with strippers and ex-convicts and artists and scientists and nearly all of God's Gardener's crossing paths, shooting at each other, and spying on Jimmy. It kind of spoils the sense of Snowman's miserable solitude in "Oryx & Crake" to know that a bunch of random characters from "The Year of the Flood" are living just down the road. I'm not even talking about Ren and Toby; there's a group of ex-scientists they meet who are living in some huts and herding sheep who warn them to steer clear of the crazy guy who sleeps in a tree and talks to himself. Lame. We also never get any indication how these seething multitudes of humanity managed to survive the plague.
"The Year of the Flood" is not a bad book. I don't think a writer of Atwood's talent is capable of writing a bad book, and if you read it without first reading "Oryx & Crake" perhaps you'll really enjoy it. But it's an unnecessary book, and one that, to some extent, dilutes the quality of an earlier and much better one. Atwood already told the story of this world: the story of Crake, who tried to remake the human race, the story of Snowman, who was left behind to protect this new breed, and the story of Oryx, the woman who was a symbol, or perhaps even a catalyst, for the failings and desires that set these events in motion.
Why, then, bother telling the story of a bunch of unrelated nobodies? If Atwood writes more novels set in the world of Snowman and the Crakers, perhaps this one will slot in better in retrospect. If not, it's an odd and unwieldy companion to a superior book.
I think the reason I enjoyed The Year of the Flood less than Oryx and Crake was simply because Atwood didn't seem to have as much to say. Perhaps she had said it all already in Oryx. Still, both are definitely worth reading. Atwood remains one of the great authors of our time.
This book will flush out the world more, but still leaves questions as to the motivation of Crake, which I hope the last book covers. In this installment, Atwood showcases a female perspective of the world and describes the type of struggles for non-compound people. The dual views from a young teenage girl, Ren, as opposed to that of a woman, Toby, who has had to make some really hard decisions was gripping. Also the ideology of the Gardeners through Adam One sermons helps to see the opposing views to this new world of biogenetic splices.
Something that the audio book offers is the songs Adam One leads after each sermon are fully flushed out songs created by Orville Stoeber. Though this is also the one thing that bothered me in the listening of the audio book, and I will admit to fast forwarding through most of the songs. The songs and Adam One’s sermons both were hard for me listen to and I think it was because they embodied the extreme religious fervor that struck a sickening cord for me. The songs are very church-esque/John Denver/hippy styled songs, which for me brought back uncomfortable memories from childhood. So despite my feelings, Margaret Atwood did an excellent job portraying these people.
On the whole, I am excited to see what Margaret Atwood has in store in the final book of this series. And as with the first book in the series I will probably take the time to read each again so I can pick up the nuances of her writing, such as spelling of names, and such which are sorely amiss in the audio version.
I liked this book better than the first. I felt the story was more fleshed out, more substantial. It had a lot of meat on its bones, so to speak. I also felt the characters were more defined - the book is told from the point of view of two female characters and alternates between them - and I got to know them a lot better than I got to know Jimmy from Oryx and Crake.
I also felt this was a lot more disturbing and depressing compared to Oryx and Crake. It was almost like in that one, events were happening in a far off place and they didn't seem real. Or they seemed sterile, in a way. Maybe because of how it was told, in flashbacks? However, this book was also told in flashback form, but it still felt more real. Also, this could be because the events here took place mostly in the pleeblands, which is where I can imagine myself, not in the Compounds.
I really can't wait to find out what happens next. I should only read series after all the books are published so I never have to wait! (As I did with The Hunger Games series.)
After reading The Year of the Flood, I almost feel like going back and changing my rating to Oryx and Crake to 3 stars. I think I might.
The Year of the Flood is a companion piece to Atwood’s 2003 novel Oryx and Crake. It is not a sequel, but rather a re-telling from a different point of view. This book is centered on Adam One and his religious sect God’s Gardeners. The gardeners revere all life forms as well as the Earth itself. Adam One predicts an upcoming “waterless flood”, in which most life on Earth will be destroyed. The Gardeners prepare for this eventuality and do all they can to live an environmentally responsible life.
The “flood” takes the form of a bio-engineered plague which wipes out most of humanity, but spares animal and plant life. God’s Gardeners are uniquely suited to survive the plague, and to navigate this new world. The Year of the Flood is told from the point of view of two women who have survived the plague and are struggling to survive.
This novel presents a frightening vision of the future. It is very well-written and worthwhile reading. Once again, Margaret Atwood proves to be a gifted writer. In addition to envisioning a world, Atwood has created the religion of God’s Gardeners. Many of the chapters end with hymns from the God’s Gardeners Oral Book of Psalms. These have even been recorded! So, if you’re not disturbed by the prospect of a dismal future where humankind is destroyed by a terrible plague, then go read this novel.
The story follows the lives of Toby, the manager of a spa, and Ren a sex worker at an upscale sex club at the dawn of the end of world as they know it. Both women had at one time been adherents of a green cult called the Gardeners with the charismatic Adam One as its leader. The running philosophy of this group was a jumble of Christian beliefs mixed in with a vegan lifestyle and an abhorroence of the corrupt corporate mentality. Though neither woman is really a hard core member believer of the goings on in the group, they each form an attachment to it for a variety of reasons.
One of the main beliefs of the group was always that the earth was going to be destroyed in the coming future. Adam One has been preaching for years that a waterless flood was imminent, one that would wipe out all who are unprepared and he urges his followers to be physically, mentally and materially ready. Everyone is told to build their own "Ararat" where they store up all they will need when the world collapses. But Adam One's preaching is of course not much different from many such movements. But unlike many such prophets, he turns out to be right. The world does indeed get overtaken by a wave of disease in the form of a virulent virus that wipes out most of the population.
By the time of the virus is wiping out the population both women have now been away from the Gardeners for sometime. But each gets saved from the virus by different coincidences. Each recognizes the epidemic once it breaks out and remembers the words of their leader. They each try to figure out survival while at the same time trying to save themselves from hunger, loneliness and when they do finally realize that they are not the only ones alive, how to survive those who are using this disaster to their advantage.
I throughly enjoyed this book and to be honest I was not expecting that reaction. Having just read Oryx and Crake which I was less than impressed with, I was reading this out of duty seeing as I had to provide a review for the free book received than any anticipated enjoyment. Whereas in Oryx and Crake I felt that too much of an emphasis was placed on the outlandish, here the characters were beautifully sketched out and I was fully invested in their well being. As each chapter progresses and you learn about the characters and their past, you empathize and want things to turn out well for them despite the confines of their world. A world where technology reigns supreme and the rich are able to seclude themselves in compounds guarded by a brutal police force. It is a depressingly real place and one where dissenters are quickly silenced in "accidents". Unfortunately, the world outside those walls of the rich is just as bad. Lawlessness reigns supreme, chaos is a way of life and everyone is stealing from one another and high on something or another. This is the world that the mad genius of Oryx and Crake seeks to remove. I do wonder if one has not read the aforementioned that they would be able to understand certain things/references that are made in this book. Characters from Oryx and Crake populate the background of this book and it explains their actions in the previous book.
I enjoyed this book immensely and would highly recommend it.
Save your money and reread Oryx and Crake.
Welcome to Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian novel which serves as a prequel to her previous work Oryx and Crake. The Year of the Flood takes place roughly during the same time period as Oryx and Crake, but jumps back and forth from the post-pandemic months and the years leading up to the disaster. Jimmy (Snowman) makes a reappearance in The Year of the Flood, but the main characters are two women – Toby and Ren. The novel is narrated first in Toby’s voice then in Ren’s, alternating chapters to provide significant background on not only the state of the world, but each woman’s personal story as well.
The heroes of the novel are members of a (mostly) pacifist, eco-friendly group called the Gardeners. Headed up by a Christ-like man called Adam One, the Gardeners rescue people off the streets (and from morally reprehensible lives), prohibit meat eating of any kind, document the animals being lost to extinction, and work underground to gain information about the various corrupt practices of the government. Both Toby and Ren become members of the Gardeners – Toby as a healer and eventually one of the Eves (female members who take on a leadership role in the group), and Ren who joins the group as a child.
Nobody does dystopian literature better than Atwood – and in The Year of the Flood she provides complex female characters who are faced with futuristic horrors which involve women as sexual tools for men, plenty of violence, and lots of cynicism. There is also Atwood’s signature sense of humor embedded in the story which is often graphic while exploring serious subjects such as pandemics, government corruption, and loss of our natural resources.
I love Margaret Atwood’s writing. I am always astonished by the brilliance of her prose and her ability to tell an engrossing story. But The Year of the Flood is not without its faults. I could have lived without the insertion of Adam One’s sermons and song lyrics from the Gardener’s “hymn” book. I also felt the ending was rather abrupt and left the reader wondering what the future held for the characters (in this way, it was a lot like Oryx and Crake).In some ways, I felt Atwood wrote the ending to connect the novel to Oryx and Crake – it felt a bit contrived.
Despite its faults, The Year of the Flood will appeal to readers who enjoy an engaging dystopian tale and who have read and liked Atwood’s previous work. I would be interested to see if Atwood is planning a third book in the series…and if so, where she might take her characters next.
What makes Margaret Atwood's science fiction books so fascinating is her ability to portray where our current events will lead us if we continue on the same path. In flashbacks, we learn how Toby's family was destroyed because her father would not sell his land to developers. In my community, a woman who refused to sell her land is having her home shattered by the blasting of the consturction company. Toby's mother becomes ill and the insurance company refuses to cover her care, just as we read headlines about people dying because insurance companies refuse coverage. We later learn that the vitamins Toby's mother took were the very cause of her demise and I listen to broadcasts explaining how pharmaceutical companies create artificial demand for their products.
Atwood portrays the breakdown of nature and society. The greed of corporations and their dangerous experiments with genetic engineering is a theme threaded throughout the book, although more directly addressed in [Oryx and Crake]. The privatization of the police force echoes the privatization of our military services and warns of abuse of such power. The world becomes lawless, with women used and abused, people murdered for their organs, and criminals hardened into violent brutes by the bizarre penal system.
The Year of the Flood is fascinating and wise, yet it is not as engrossing as [Oryx and Crake], which crosses paths with this novel. The characters are not as engaging and the plot is less powerful, perhaps because of the technique of framing the story with Adam One's sermons and the extensive use of flashbacks.
In “The Year of the Flood”, she does it again. As a companion to the amazing “Oryx and Crake”, this book examines a possible future in which the corporations become the ruling powers…and the pharmaceutical industry runs amok. Sound familiar?
A group known as “God’s Gardeners” splits off, seeing the inevitable destruction of the planet due to the raping and pillaging of the human race. Much of the books takes place in their world as they prepare for the “Waterless Flood” they see coming that will change the world forever. They work as best they can in the world that is left, knowing that the only thing they might be able to save is themselves.
“…the CorpSeCorps run the mobs, and according to our information they’ve declared us off-limits.” “Why would they bother to do that?” asked Toby. “It would be bad for them to eviscerate anything with God in its name,” said Adam One. “The corporations wouldn’t approve of it, considering the influence of the Petrobaptists and the Known Fruits among them. They claim to respect the Spirit and to favour religious toleration, as long as the religions don’t take to blowing things up: they have an aversion to the destruction of private property.” “They can’t possibly like us,” said Toby. “Of course not,” said Adam One. “They view us as twisted fanatics who combine food extremism with bad fashion sense and a puritanical attitude towards shopping. But we own nothing they want, so we don’t qualify as terrorists.”
So there’s humor as well…
And even though you know how things are going to end, generally, the road getting there provides a fascinating journey. The main characters are very well drawn, and give the reader an insight on how close our current world is to theirs…how the world’s current path seems to lead right to where they find themselves.
True, I read most of Atwood’s books feeling as if I have blinders on. There’s so much more going on that I know I am missing…but that just gets me to read her books over again. The richness of the story, of the warnings, of the messages…of what she imparts to the reader through the voices of her characters.
“Glen used to say the reason you can’t really imagine yourself being dead was that as soon as you say, “I’ll be dead,” you’ve said the word I, and so you’re still alive inside the sentence. And that’s how people got the idea of the immortality of the soul – it was a consequence of grammar. As so was God, because as soon as there’s a past tense, there has to be a past before the past, and you keep going back in time until you get to I don’t know, and that’s what God is. It’s what you don’t know – the dark, the hidden, the underside of the visible, and all because we have grammar...”
Atwood has extrapolated on climate change, genetic engineering, privatization of government functions and corporate irresponsibility and immunity, all trends we can see today, to create the distopian future of The Year of the Flood. Her two narrators are Ren, the former girlfriend of Jimmy, aka Snowman from Oryx and Crake and Toby, a senior member of God's Gardeners.
Gods Gardeners are an eco-religious communal group, growing there own food in a rooftop garden on top of one of the buildings they occupy in the middle of the urban chaos of a "plebe," the word Atwood uses to describe a city outside of the walled and gated communities where the wealthy corporate executives live, under the protection of CorpSeCorps, the Corporate Security Corps, which has become the privatized police, army, courts and prison administration of Atwood's unnamed future nation.
In the future world Atwood has created, large corporations, many of them in the business of bio-engineering, run everything. These corporations are answerable to no one. They create and spread new diseases in order to sell the cures they have made for them. They build new creatures, combining the genetic materials of different species. Many technologies of energy efficiency are used, but were unsuccessful in reversing the trend of global warming. Solar provides the electricity for many building which are off the grid, biomass is rendered to make a petroleum substitute. Organized crime is rampant in the plebelands and regularly uses these rendering devices to dispose of bodies, or just takes their saleable organs and leaves them in a vacant lot.
Atwood goes to some length fleshing out God's Gardeners, their theology and rituals, including the words to hymns, which end each chapter. There is a CD of these songs available through Atwood's website. One amusing aspect is their saints days. Like Roman Catholicism, Gods Gardeners structure their calendar around a list of saints. Francis of Assisi is one, but most are people like Rachel Carson, Al Gore and Jacques Cousteau. Euell Gibbons gets a whole week.
Through the stories told by Ren and Toby, Atwood fills in the missing parts of Oryx and Crake. We learn that there is a connection between God's Gardeners and MaddAdam, the online game/eco-terrorist group and that Glenn/Crake, who formed MaddAdam and created the plague, known to the Gardeners as the Waterless Flood, was inspired by the Gardener's doomsday prophecy to create the plague and the genetically altered post-humans that he believes should inherit the Earth from us.
The end of The Year of the Flood coincides with the end of Oryx and Crake, leaving Toby, Ren, Ren's friend Amanda a couple of sociopathic criminals and a colony of blue bellied post-humans to fend for themselves. How will society evolve from here? Is Atwood so enamored of this particular distopia that she would write a trilogy? Perhaps she means to leave it up to the reader's imagination. It would be nice to know what happens next in the lives of the well crafted characters left stranded on the beach at the end, but I think that the speculative propositions presented in the two books have been played out. Going further, to see whether traditional humans or the new blue-bellies will inherit the Earth, or perhaps the pigoons, would be a venture too far into science fiction for Margaret Atwood's taste.