Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

31. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

I didn't realize Oryx & Crake was meant to be a trilogy (and had resigned myself to never knowing what happened after Jimmy went to find the fire), until Year of the Flood came out and I was so excited! I started reading it right away...and then for some reason stopped, and well, I kind of forgot about it. But then MadAddam came out, and so I have finally finished reading Year of the Flood.

Flood is a more expansive and immersive novel than Oryx & Crake, even if it is nominally about two women trapped in separate hiding places after an apocalypse. Toby, trapped in the AnooYoo Spa, has a storyline that demonstrates the evolution of the CorpSeCorps, the corporations that run the world. Ren, younger than Toby and trapped in an upscale sex club,has a storyline that emerges more slowly, but demonstrates the nearer past of the CorpSeCorps and resistance movements. Her storyline also crosses with that of Snowman the Jimmy, from Oryx.

Both Toby and Ren are former members of God's Gardeners, a religious sect that believed in a Waterless Flood, which would wipe the Earth clean of humanity's sins. The God's Gardeners, led by Adam One, are almost like a wet dream of what a religion should be. Sure, they pull weird cultish shenanigans like plain shapeless uniforms and infrequent washing, but all that they do has a purpose. They teach the children to recognize edible plants in nature, to respect animal and human life, but also how to defend themselves. Adam One's sermons mix science with religion, and admit uncertainties and practicalities. And the Gardeners are truly, unwaveringly kind to human beings. And while they are strict vegetarians, they acknowledge that eating animal flesh may at times be necessary to sustaining human life.

Anyone with any interest in dystopia, utopia, apocalypse, biology, technology, animal, and gender politics should probably rush out to read these books right now, if they haven't already. But I want to leave you with a line from one of Toby's sections that I read over and over again. It makes so much sense, and yet I don't think we think like this enough. Toby is observing a group of pigoons (pigs with human neural tissue) that have dug up her garden. She shot one in retaliation, and now she and the pigoons are silent enemies:

"And if we eat pigs, why shouldn't pigs eat us? If they find us lying around." (320)

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