The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood
In one of those serendipitous moments that happens every now and then, the Flash Blogging phrase that I am required to use today as my post title, just happens to also make a very suitable title for this review of Margaret Atwood's latest novel.
Set in the post-apocalyptic near future, The Year of the Flood unfolds through the reminiscences of two women who have survived the Waterless Flood that has obliterated most human life, Ren by virtue of being locked in quarantine in a sex club, Toby by barricading herself in an exclusive spa where she has functioned as a planted sleeper agent. Both women have been members of God's Gardeners, an environmental cult that blends Christianity with science and that struggles to preserve biological diversity in a world that is increasingly impacted by both species depletion and genetic engineering.
The world prior to the Waterless Flood is one that is disturbingly recognizable. The endangering of biodiversity, the rise of an increasingly powerful world security force, the ruination of cities, the barricading of the wealthy into scientific fortresses, and the development of splinter groups do not require a great stretch of the imagination to foresee happening. This is an apocalyptic tale with a strong environmental message, which only adds to its immediacy and its strength.
I do love a good post-apocalyptic story, and I was completely engrossed by The Year of the Flood. Atwood does such a masterful job of painting a rich and fully realised portrait of this world and the people who struggle to survive in it, that I found the 400+ pages not long enough.
My only quibble with the novel was with a couple of secondary characters who kept conveniently reoccurring and re-entering into the lives of Ren and Toby. Nobody has that many coincidental, yet highly significant, encounters with the same people.
I also found that the final portion of the book wrapped up rather quickly, when set against the pace of the rest of the novel leading up to it. Part of this, of course, was due to the fact that the novel had at that point moved entirely out of the realm of flashbacks and into the present. The pace naturally moves along more quickly when you are not stopping to reflect. But this was also where The Year of the Flood and its predecessor, Oryx and Crake, begin to meld and it felt slightly like two stories were battling to be told at once.
I think if I had recently read Oryx and Crake I would have appreciated that literary technique more fully, but as it was, I felt I had to spend too much time trying to remember what happened in a book I read several years ago.
But these are all minor quibbles, at most. I highly enjoyed The Year of the Flood, was thoroughly caught up in it, and come away with an ever-increasing admiration for the skill and the brilliant storytelling of Margaret Atwood.