I had to deliberate with myself whether to post this “review” on my main blog or the (low-trafficked) miscellaneous review blog I keep for fun. I really do like writing that much. I feel so unqualified to remark on, let alone review, a Margaret Atwood novel like The Year of The Flood (YOTF). Especially when I don’t have the greatest recollection of reading Oryx and Crake (O&C), which first introduced her readers to this post-apocalyptic world; however, Year of the Flood is not a sequel and I’ll try to comment without reliance on O&C.
Like being in the ruins of a civilized society, time seems to stretch out at the beginning of the novel. You know right off the top that a Waterless Flood has ravaged the world and two survivors, Toby and Ren, are introduced separately. Because you already know what they are doing today, the story meanders a little, exploring their background.
Although they find themselves in different places, unaware of the other’s existence after the Flood, Toby and Ren have a shared past. Toby had a normal life until her mother passed away and there is a heavy hint of conspiracy surrounding the cause of the mother’s illness and treatment. The family falls apart thereafter and Toby ends up in the worst area (pleebland) and about to be physically ripped apart by the biggest terrorizing gangster in the area when she is rescued and protected by God’s Gardeners. The Gardeners are kind of all-round environmental activists who see through the world and they are gaining in strength at that time of Toby’s recruitment. Toby is skeptical of the whole canon of the Gardeners’ beliefs but they offer her protection and she can be useful and teach them something in return. The longer she stays, the more the doctrine fills her and she ascends the ranks somewhat and becomes an insider (an Eve).
Ren, unlike Toby, tells her story from the first-person perspective. She is young, early teens, at the beginning. She lives with the Gardeners, her mother willfully following one of the leaders (Adams) to the compound, leaving behind life in the cushy HelthWyzer (think big pharma) compound. Like any other cool kid, and amplified by the “new girl”, Amanda, who becomes her good friend, she challenges the Gardeners’ beliefs but when she does get to leave the Gardeners, her faith–at the very least, indoctrination–seems quite a strong influence.
The third point of view comes from Adam One, who leads the region’s Gardeners. He is, as his name implies, a true believer. An address he gives leads off each section of the book and the extent of his faith, the “doublespeak” he uses in his addresses is hilarious. The rise and fall of the Gardeners, the post-Flood plight of the group which neither Toby nor Ren would know of, is revealed in allusions in Adam One’s addresses. One of his earlier addresses approaches the Gardeners’ view of how you can have faith while also believing in evolution. Creationism doesn’t make the least bit of sense to me when you read the Bible literally, but is more plausibly interpreted and in terms of non-linearity of time and–is it really gullible–I can believe that.
Some of the crazy names like CorpSeCorps, HelthWyzer and BlyssPluss sounds oddly familiar–I was too lazy to crack open my copy of O&C and read it again–but I knew it was the same world when the characters first encounter rakunks and pigoons. Those are creatures from O&C one can’t forget! With the flashbacks and exposition of the past, YOTF and O&C occupy the same timeline. The Children of Crake and Snowman occupy O&C as well as Oryx and Crake’s (love) story (as far as I remember). YOTF was all about God’s Gardeners, a mere mention in O&C, and the two novels are tied nicely together in that the people Snowman meets at the very end of O&C are people you get to know from YOTF.
A “climax” to the novel, should you call it that, is when the telling of the backstory ends because it has caught up with the present day. Civilization as you and I know it is over and anyone who survived is in it for just him/herself. Some very nasty characters were on the loose and very vicious and I got really anxious reading it, hoping nothing bad would happen to the sympathetic characters Atwood created!
I own a paperback copy of Oryx and Crake and because of The Year of the Flood, I will read it again to have the enriched view of the world that is anticipated with the two novels/perspectives now published. Hopefully I won’t have forgotten too much of YOTF when I get around to O&C soon, but not too soon.