The Year of the Flood: A novel
By Margaret Atwood
Published in 2009
Published by Anchor Books
I own this copy of this book and was not paid for this review.
For quite a long time now, I have been interested in post-apocalyptic and dystopic fiction. Not the apocalyptic stuff where the world is about to end and everyone runs down the street screaming while buildings fall down en masse. No no no. I care about the what next? What happens after? What do you do when the fabric of society has been shredded to pieces and survival is your top priority. What happens to the people in this situation?
A number of years back, while studying English Literature at undergraduate level, a lecturer who is now happily my thesis supervisor introduced me to Margaret Atwood through Oryx and Crake. I was instantly hooked, completely consumed by the weird and wonderful future world she had created - so you can imagine my excitement when I heard a sequel was being released. I've been wanting to read it since I heard about it, so when a friend passed it along to me I was thrilled.
Only, I'm not sure I want to call it a sequel. It's another angle on the same story, told from the perspective of two women (Ren and Toby) this time instead of the male perspective of Jimmy. It's Oryx and Crake from the other side of the looking glass filling out and expanding on the same story whilst also being an entirely self-sufficient novel. If you haven't read Oryx and Crake it doesn't matter and if you have, this story won't bore you.
The story is told from the perspective of Ren and Toby, separately. We meet them in Year Twenty-Five, the year that the flood has hit but we are transported back in time for large sections of the novel to various points in time in the preceding twenty years when both Toby and Ren lived with a small environmentalist sect called The Gardeners. Through these flashbacks the reader learns a great deal about the lead up to the so-called "Waterless Flood" - a fatal pandemic of epic proportions - and life in the pleebs, the seedier living areas outside of the well-groomed corporate controlled compounds.
As with Oryx and Crake, human progress gone mad is a key theme in this book. The same weird animal combinations that exist as a result of gene-splicing are there as is the intriguing but terrifying darkness. No-one is safe - security is controlled by corporations, law is controlled by corporations and those who speak out or put a foot wrong usually disappear permanently or are found in a gruesome state a few days later. I think this is the part of this novel that captivated me the most because I kept thinking none of this is impossible. Every single thing that happened in this novel is possible right now in our world. The technology and power struggles already exist. Which is not to say that this is an inevitability for society but it should surely be read as a warning of the darkly possible future that is lurking in the shadows of today's multi-national corporations and technological advances.
I unreservedly loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the characters and the possibilities it presented. I completely recommend this book, particularly if you're a fan of the dystopic/science fiction genre. But even if you're not, if you're a fan of a really good story that has really interesting and unique ideas - read this book. And Oryx and Crake too.
Have you read either of these books? Which other post-apocalyptic/dystopic fiction have you read and enjoyed?