Updated: Mar 21, 2019
The year 25 is referred to as The Year of the Flood. We are not told when or why the years have been reset. The flood is metaphorically used to describe the pandemic that is set in motion by Crake in the first novel that ends up, for all intents and purposes, wiping out the human species.
The Year of the Flood uses the same structure as Oryx and Crake. The narrators at the beginning of the book are living in their present, the year 25, and the narrative will shift back and forth in time between the present and the past. The time frame is the same for both books. The events in The Year of the Flood take place at the same time as Oryx and Crake.
With the second book in the trilogy we are introduced to the Gardeners. If the Corporations are one side of the coin, then the Gardeners are the other. The Gardeners worship God, nature and the environment, trying religiously to not damage an ecosystem that is already damaged beyond repair. They hold all life to be sacred and are loath to kill or harm any living thing. Conservation and Recycling are not just doctrines, they are their very way of life. Atwood turns to satire here with the both the Gardeners and the Corporations actions being exaggerated, especially the Gardeners, to the point of the absurd. Removing slugs carefully off plants so as not to harm them only to have them squashed to a pulp on the freeway where they are thrown after removal. The army is now privatised and controlled by the Corporations, not the government, effectively giving the Corporations control of the country if the need arises. Anybody or group that opposes the Corporations either disappears, or their bodies are found in the street with vital organs missing.
Satirical it may be, but as with The Handmaid’s Tale, it is easy for the reader to see that Atwood believes that the dystopian future she has presented could very well take place. While writing this, I am listening to a news story where scientists say they can remove fear from our lives by changing a few genes. Obviously, I am simplifying the whole process here, I’m not a scientist, but I believe we have reached, or are very close to reaching, a level of technology regarding genes and DNA, where we should be very careful indeed. I am all for the curing of diseases, who would not love to see the removal of such malignant and soul-destroying diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Cancer. However, as Atwood says, this technology is a tool and a tool can be used for the wrong purpose in the wrong hands.
I found this second book to be more character oriented, and the two major characters, Toby and Ren, are both great characters. Toby is an Eve. A member of the higher order of the Gardeners. One of its leaders. Ren is younger and one of the regular Gardeners. Toby is determined and has an inner strength, while Ren, seems at times to be frail and, although not lacking courage, lacks Toby’s strength and resilience. Both characters have obstacles to overcome. Toby questions her beliefs and wonders if she truly believes in the Gardeners way of life. Ren is pursued by a homicidal maniac who was once her boss and captor, using her for sex whenever he felt like it. We experience the book mainly from their perspective. I felt a much greater connection with these characters than Jimmy and Crake in the first book.
There is poetry in the form of hymns that are Interspersed throughout the chapters of the novel. These hymns come from the God’s Gardeners Oral Handbook and give the reader an insight into the Gardeners’ beliefs and way of life. While all of them are enjoyable, some are quite profound, especially the last one.
There are many dystopian future novels out there, but for me, this one is at the very top of the list. I can’t wait to read the final book. 5 Stars.
There is a great 5 minute video with Margaret Atwood talking about The Year of the Flood here - https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=INTERVIEW+WITH+MARGERAT+ATWOOD+THE+YEAR+OF+THE+FLOOD&qpvt=INTERVIEW+WITH+MARGERAT+ATWOOD+THE+YEAR+OF+THE+FLOOD&view=detail&mid=0ECBE288A437E42833AA0ECBE288A437E42833AA&&FORM=VRDGAR