Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, the preservation of all species, the tending of the Earth, and the cultivation of bees and organic crops on flat rooftops – has long predicted the Waterless Flood. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have avoided it: the young trapeze-dancer, Ren, locked into the high-end sex club, Scales and Tails; and former SecretBurgers meat-slinger turned Gardener, Toby, barricaded into the luxurious AnooYoo Spa, where many of the treatments are edible. Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda, or the MaddAddam eco-fighters? Ren’s one-time teenage lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy and corrupt policing force of the ruling powers Meanwhile, in the natural world, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through a ruined world, singing their devotional hymns and faithful to their creed and to their Saints – Saint Francis Assisi, Saint Rachel Carson, and Saint Al Gore among them – what odds for Ren and Toby, and for the human race? By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most effective.
‘The Year of the Flood’ can be read as a stand alone book but I would recommend reading ‘Oryx and Crake’ first because it’s a wonderful and interesting read.
‘The Year of the Flood’ starts from the end of Snowman (Jimmy) story from ‘Oryx and Crake’ and the beginning of Ren and Toby stories, women who have both survived the pandemic (also known as the ‘Waterless Flood’ by the God’s Gardeners), Ren is isolated in the Scales club she danced in and Toby in the AnooYoo Spa, its early days and both of them are surviving as much as they can, waiting to be rescued.
Ren and Toby know each other because at one point they were both members of the God’s Gardeners, a group who believe that all life is sacred and use their skills and knowledge to live the life they have chosen, they grow their own food, make their own clothes, make their own medicines. The story highlights Ren and Toby’s pasts leading up to the present.
At different times in their lives Ren and Toby meet Jimmy (Snowman) and Glenn (Crake), characters from ‘Oryx and Crake’, Ren becomes Jimmy’s girlfriend, Glenn helps a member of the God Gardeners member who is with Toby at the time. All of the characters have interacted at some time, which I thought made great reading because I had so many questions about Snowman, Crake and Oryx.
Margaret Atwood brings the characters to life with two strong female characters who are both survivors, along with the rest of the God’s Gardeners, as the story progresses, things change within the group, which eventually leads to the ‘Waterless Flood’.
‘The Year of the Flood’ is an excellent read and it does answer a lot of questions but it is very different from ‘Oryx and Crake’ (I know there is a risk of comparisons being made between the two books) I found there was more a feeling of hope in ‘The Year of the Flood’, the God’s Gardeners had so much faith in what they did, which was refreshing, at times there was low points but they worked well, they highlighted how quickly everything changed for some of the characters.
The book delves further in the ideas of modified animals, food and so on, the God’s Gardeners have very strong ideas about that. The lifestyle of the God’s Gardeners is explored brilliantly, yes, they are trying to make the world a better place, they are living what they feel as a good life but at the time they are affected by the same frailties of human nature, love, loss, jealously, I felt it showed human nature excellently.
My favourite part was finding out what happened to Jimmy (Snowman), because I did worry about him (yes, sad but true) and you also found other things and there is a lot of potential for a sequel.
It is a strong story about life and how to survive it, how to react with the situations surrounding you, finding out who you are as a person, no one is perfect, you do the best you can with what you have.
A great read.
Reviewed by: Paula Mc (Gyre)