Review: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

margaret_atwood_the_year_of_the_floodAdam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science, religion, and nature – has long predicted a disaster. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women remain: Ren, a young dancer locked away in a high-end sex club, and Toby, a former God’s Gardener, who barricades herself inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived? Ren’s bio-artist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy policing force of the ruling powers… As Adam One and his beleaguered followers regroup, Ren and Toby emerge into an altered world, where nothing – including the animal life – is predictable.

Jeanette Winterson writes, in her New York Times review of Year of the Flood, that ‘Atwood is funny and clever, such a good writer and real thinker that there’s hardly any point saying that not everything in the novel works.’ And not everything does. But it’s still a wonderful book – especially if, like me, you have already read Oryx and Crake (to which YOTF is a sort-of sequel*).

YOTF is more a novel of ideas than action. Atwood’s satire comes across as both sophisticated and naif, with her child-like portmanteaux animals (‘liobams’ – lions crossed with lambs, and raccoon-skunk ‘rakunks’) belie the sophistication with which she has constructed a world in which corporations govern, and science tries to bioengineer utopia.

* Ursula K Le Guin calls it a “continuation of, not exactly a sequel to, Oryx and Crake.” Is this is merely semantics? Perhaps Atwood is as opposed to writing “sequels” as she is to writing “science fiction”, bless her!


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