So, I’ve just gone out and bought a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, as part of my Year of Reading Women – I loved Oryx and Crake so much that I kinda needed to buy this book as soon as possible. Which I did. And then I read it in around twelve hours. So this review is coming out pretty fresh, I’ve only just put the book down.
“…the reason you can’t really imagine yourself being dead was that as soon as you say, “I’ll be dead,” you’ve said the word I, and so you’re still alive inside the sentence. And that’s how people got the idea of the immortality of the soul—it was a consequence of grammar.”
To start, I’m kind of disappointed with The Year of the Flood. Following on from Oryx and Crake, I thought the novel would keep the story moving along. It doesn’t. It’s a prequel/simultaneous story, about a religious cult called “God’s Gardeners”, and their descent from being tolerated by the giant Corporations that run the world, to being declared terrorists. A lot of this story takes place alongside the timeline of Oryx and Crake, and I thought it was kind of cheap (and unrealistic) the way that the lives of the children of God’s Gardeners dovetailed with the two main characters of Oryx and Crake.
Everyone mentioned in that story has intimate ties to characters in this one, which wouldn’t be a huge problem except that these stories are about the end of the world, about a genetically engineered virus that wipes out the majority of the human race. Except for Jimmy, a bunch of Greenies (who his best friend Crake met with, without Jimmy’s knowledge) and two of his ex-girlfriends (who, as children, were members of the same group of Greenies, and in fact shared the same communal house. And, to pile coincidence upon coincidence, Jimmy, Ren and Amanda all end up at the same dead-end college!) Add some hardened criminals to the mix (who, naturally, have a vendetta against this particular group of God’s Gardeners.) Oh, and the crims have also been inside a gladiatorial game, coming up against a bunch of political prisoners. Who were this political prisoners? The same group of God’s Gardeners, who didn’t know they were working for Crake (Jimmy’s best-friend, remember.)
“Nature full strength is more than we can take, Adam One used to say. It’s a potent hallucinogen, a soporific, for the untrained Soul. We’re no longer at home in it. We need to dilute it. We can’t drink it straight. And God is the same. Too much God and you overdose. God needs to be filtered.”
I really wanted to like this book, and because it’s Margaret Atwood the story is flooded (see what I did there) with beautiful prose, and moments of profound insight into humanity and into Green/religious groups. But all those coincidences really threw me off.