The Year of the Flood: Book summary and reviews of The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood

By Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2009,
    448 pages.

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Book Summary

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .

Meanwhile, 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 this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away . . .

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Another win for Atwood, this dystopian fantasy belongs in the hands of every highbrow sf aficionado and anyone else who claims to possess a social conscience. " - Library Journal

"This is a gutsy and expansive novel, rich with ideas and conceits, but overall it's more optimistic than Oryx and Crake...Each novel can be enjoyed independently of the other, but what's perhaps most impressive is the degree of connection between them. Together, they form halves of a single epic. ..." - Publishers Weekly

"Another stimulating dystopia from this always-provocative author, whose complex, deeply involving characters inhabit a bizarre yet frighteningly believable future." - Kirkus Reviews

"As an artefact, her novel is a remarkable feat of the imagination, as well as a salutary warning. As a record of the best qualities of the human spirit, it is curiously untouching. One is sufficiently engaged to want to finish the book, but if it ended with everyone eaten alive by liobams, one would hardly care." - The Telegraph (UK)

"The personality and feelings of characters in Oryx and Crake were of little interest; these were figures in the service of a morality play. The Year of the Flood is less satirical in tone, less of an intellectual exercise, less scathing though more painful. It is seen very largely through the eyes of women, powerless women, whose individual characters and temperaments and emotions are vivid and memorable. We have less of Hogarth and more of Goya." - Ursula LeGuin, The Guardian (UK)

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Angela W. (Bronx, NY)
The Survivors
“The Year of the Flood” offers a parallel view of the future world depicted in “Oryx and Crake”, but from a decidedly female perspective. We meet the two main characters – Ren and Toby - each living in isolation after most of humanity has been wiped out from what they call the ‘Waterless Flood’. Switching between past and present to show how the world is and how it got that way, the back stories illustrate that the women are not perfect, but that they possess traits that many of the characters in “Oryx and Crake” lack: They are resilient and realistic and human.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by JD (NY librarian)
Compelling
Margaret Atwood describes a chilling future where science and corporations have run amok. I found her description of this world rich and her main characters well developed. It was both an intellectually stimulating book and an enjoyable read. I would have given it five stars except that I felt certain aspects of the plot were too contrived.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by La Deana R. (Norman, OK)
The Year of the Flood
I started The Year of the Flood with high expectations, a little too high. While I will say it is certainly a very unique book I personally found it hard to like the characters. I did enjoy Ms Atwood's ability to create fictional "blended" animals and there were times I had to look words up just to verify that some things mentioned did not, in fact, exist is this world. The futuristic world was well described - though not one I would ever wish to occupy!

Ms. Atwood has a beautiful way with words and lots of little "gems" of wisdom within the book. (example: Hunger is a powerful reorganizer of the conscience. Another is "hunger is the best sauce". Possibly my favorite "What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question". But for me it was a struggle for me to finish this book (looking at some of my popular suspense novels sitting on my shelf didn't help!) I would only recommend this book to very a select readership.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Zoe B. (Naperville, IL)
Dystopian Hopefullness
Margaret Atwood is so in tune with scientific and environmental issues she manages to write futuristic books that could be reality tomorrow. Expanding on her world created in "Oryx and Crake', she tells a parallel story of the people left in the outside world after the "waterless flood". Rather than conveying a sense of hopelessness and despair in this distopia, her characters are interesting, hopeful and even amusing at times. Atwood is an amazing author.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Carol H. (East Greenwich, RI)
"We're using up the earth. It's almost gone."
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of an alternate reality set in the not so distant future. Its steadily building narrative reads like a chronicle as it slowly reveals the story of the Gardeners, a quasi-religious group that has decided that living "green" is the answer to a disintegrating society. What makes this novel come alive are the distinct personalities of the Gardeners and Atwoods detailed depiction of a society in the process of destroying itself from within.

Year of the Flood reads like the middle book of a trilogy (I haven't read Oryx and Crake which came before) but holds up on its own. I don't think it will appeal to everyone, too little overt action, but I gave it four stars for an absorbing story well told.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Ann C. (Roswell, GA)
The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood's new novel The Year of the Flood is a gripping, chilling, and uncomfortably believable account of a post-apocalyptic world where humankind has engineered its own demise as well as the destruction of the natural environment. It appears that only two humans survive, both female : Ren , a young sex club worker and trapeze artist, and Toby, a God's Gardner - a member of a religious group devoted to preserving the environment.

This book is set in the same dystopian future as Atwood's Oryx and Crake and there are several characters who appear in both books. The quest undertaken by Toby and Ren to see if others have survived the disaster reminded me of the harrowing journey in Cornac McCarthy's The Road. Gene-spliced life forms may seem futuristic to the current reader, but Atwood's use of scientific detail and vividly descriptive prose give the story an immediacy that makes it ultimately believable. And frightening. And, even humorous in some places. I will definitely recommend this book to my friends and to my book club

...11 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Margaret Atwood Author Biography

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa, and grew up in northern Ontario and Quebec, and in Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children's literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid's Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Her newest novel, MaddAddam (2013), is the final volume in a three-book series that began with the Man-Booker prize-nominated Oryx and Crake (2003) and continued with The Year of the Flood (2009). The Tent (mini-...

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