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A trip back into Atwood's dystopian future
on September 7, 2009
In The Year of the Flood, Atwood explores further the dystopian future she created in her book Oryx & Crake. It's not really a sequel or a prequel, but more of a companion book. The events in this book happen before, during, and after the events in Oryx & Crake; there are many of the same characters and even a few overlapping scenes, which will be rewarding for those that have read Oryx & Crake, kind of like performing a secret handshake with Atwood. But you don't have to read Oryx & Crake to understand The Year of the Flood, as it works very well as a stand alone novel.
The book is set in the future, where the world has been over run with CorpSeCorps (Corporation Security Corps), genetic mutations, underground drug rings, animal extinctions, and more fun things. The main action in The Year of the Flood takes place surrounding a religious group called God's Gardeners that are basically like new age environmental hippies. The structure of the book is interesting, with lots of flashbacks (nicely dated with the year, thank you Atwood). It is also divided into three rotating sections: that of Adam One (head of the God's Gardeners), Ren, and Toby.
Atwood manages to create here a world that is frighteningly like our own world, but stretched to the max. She has some interesting things to say about religion in this book, about our treatment of the planet, about genetic experimentation. I would say it's an environmentalist book, but it's really not that simple. The greatest achievement in this book is that there are no easy answers. There is something unsettling about Adam One and the God's Gardeners, even with all their loving talk. There are questions about morality and questioning authority, about ritual for the sake of ritual and the power of cult and religion.
Her writing is quite beautiful at times, but never just for the sake of being 'literary'. It can be a harsh world, and Atwood doesn't back down when it's time to deliver the thrills, the gruesome details. This book is full of action, and fast-paced.
I hope that Atwood explores this world even further in a third book, as I believe there are more stories to tell here.