If you’re already a fan of Margaret Atwood, you will appreciate the latest of her works, which as in Oryx and Crake combines apocalyptic scenarios with cutting-edge science and a great deal of mischievous humor. The Year of the Flood is a big, bold, dystopic novel that never stops hoping, even as everything is falling apart for the characters she peoples her imaginative landscape with.
The story centers on a group of people struggling to survive the coming “year of the flood,” although none of them really knows what is going to happen. Under the watchful eye of a prophet-like guru called Adam One, the members of God’s Gardeners learn to preserve plant and animal life and to survive on nature, should the need arise - and, oh, will the need arise.
Amid the violence of an outside world that careens toward destruction, the members come together from all walks of life - some by choice, others not - to combine their energies for the common goal of sheer survival of the species. The characters run the gamut from a young trapeze performer for a sex club, a former street gang member who also happens to be a girl, an eco-fighting biker, a dying mother-figure who must first impart her secrets to a trusted protégé, a host of naïve but good-hearted Adams and Eves, and a lot of violent, vicious outsiders bent on killing anything in their path. Add to that a background of genetic tampering, a massive pandemic and a race of super-people with blue penises, and wow, what a story!
Atwood’s combination of thrills, emotional tenderness, scientific exposition and uneasy humor makes The Year of the Flood one of the more thoughtful and deep end-of-the-world novels on the market. Her characters are well-developed flesh-and-blood creatures we can all relate to, even if their situation is one we hope we never have to be in.
You don’t have to have already read Oryx and Crake, which is a sort of “sequel/prequel” to this book (and only by reading it can you understand why I call it that). But it does add a bit more backstory and understanding of what is going on, and to whom.
I could not wait to get my hands on this novel, and I was not disappointed. It haunts me still.