The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood is a brilliant visionary imagining of the future that calls to mind her classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale.Today is a buddy review with Chris from book-a-rama. This is the first time, but hopefully not the last. The review is broken into two parts. The first part is posted here and the second half is posted on Chris' blog.
Adam One, the kindly leader of God’s Gardeners — a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion — 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 been spared: Ren, a young trapeze-dancer, locked inside a high-end sex club; and one of God’s Gardeners, Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived?
By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and witty, The Year of the Flood unfolds Toby’s and Ren’s stories during the years prior to their meeting again. The novel not only brilliantly reflects to us a world we recognize but poignantly reminds us of our enduring humanity.
Kelly: I think the best way to start this conversation off is to say why we read the book in the first place! I actually am not a big Atwood fan; but for some reason I bought Oryx & Crake when it first came out IN HARDCOVER. I have no idea why looking back, but I am sure I had a great reason at the time... Anyway, I ended up really liking it and when I heard that this book was connected to it I once again acted like a crazy person and bought an Atwood book in hardcover. How about you?
Chris: I like Atwood's dystopian novels, like Handmaid's Tale and Oryx & Crake. When I heard that The Year of the Flood was a sequel (sort of) to Oryx & Crake I wanted to read it. I really liked that it was a different point of view of the events in Oryx & Crake. Jimmy wasn't a very reliable narrator being self-absorbed and drunk or crazy a lot of the time, so seeing what else was happening in the outside world was interesting. Did you like that aspect of the book?
Kelly: I have to be honest that I hardly remembered Oryx & Crake... It came back to me as I read it, but it took me a while. I read Oryx & Crake back when it first came out, so it wasn't very fresh in my memory. I really liked the narrators to this book, though.
Chris: I think I read it 2 years ago. I remembered more of it as it too. I didn't recognize Glenn or Jimmy right away. I liked the female narrators as well.
Kelly: I actually think I will probably reread Oryx & Crake now that I have read this one. I want to remember the story better. Did you feel the urge to read it again?
Chris: I do. I'd like to compare the two books in case I missed anything.
Kelly: I know I missed a lot! It was too long ago! Who was your favourite narrator?
Chris: I really liked Ren. She was always so optimistic even though things were so bleak. What an odd career she had. What about you?
Kelly: I would probably say Ren, too, but I also liked Toby a lot, too. She is probably who I could see myself more in. I suppose we can't really talk about this book without discussing the Gardeners. What did you think about them?
Chris: Yeah, it's hard to choose. I liked Toby too even though she could be harsh at times.... The Gardeners. At first I thought they were just a bunch of nut jobbers but then I wondered if they were smart to hide their politics behind their bizarre dogma.
Kelly: I think Toby had to be harsh. She had a rough life and that is how she chose to deal with it all.
Chris: Yes, the stuff with her parents hardened her.
Kelly: I know. I thought the Gardeners were a bit odd in the beginning! But, as the novel progressed and we saw their story more, I thought they were a lot more than we were first lead to see them as. It impressed me, really, at times.
Chris: Yes, especially since it turned out that they were right. A lot of them had nowhere else to go and didn't believe in the whole thing themselves. But I think Adam One believed in it with his whole heart.
Kelly: I know. Adam One seemed to know what everyone needed better than they knew themselves. His entire character could have been a bit odd, but I actually think he was written pretty well.
Chris: He was a good leader. I wonder what he was before the Gardeners. What did you think about the weird science in the book?
Kelly: Me too! He would have been a good narrator. I was really curious about him and I don't think we got to see enough of him.
As to the science, it was all about strange. I think that was the point, though. Atwood was trying to make a point about science and how it can get a bit overdone. I think, anyways. What did you think?
Chris: There were no ethics. If they could do it, they would. It was terrifying! Those pigoons were awful. And lionbams- that was a ridiculous idea. Science without ethics is a bad idea. There has to be a line of "ok, this is too out there. Stop."
Kelly: The thought process behind why they combined lions and lambs was just crazy, didn't you think! It almost made sense it was so out there. It's a scary world, and we are actually not that far away from it...
To read the second half of the review head over to book-a-rama. Enjoy!