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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.
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on November 24, 2009
This book being the second book of a supposed trilogy, is made better reading the first book 'Oryx and Crake' before reading this. Atwood went out to write a companion to that book in more ways than one. The books share characters, timeline, as well as tone.

Her genius in this one is that almost everything is opposite in Flood when compaired to Oryx. In Oryx most of the characters are men, in flood thay are women. In Oryx the characters are well off and educated, in flood they are lower class and educated in the streets. In Oryx we are in the world of science, and in Flood we are in the Spiritual world. The further you get the more rich the experiance, and how true her world seems to become. All in all a wonderfull read.

If this is the second book in a trilogy, I am looking forward to the last book.
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on November 7, 2009
It's hard not to compare `The Year of the Flood' to `Oryx and Crake' Atwood's post-apocalyptic 2002 novel. While Flood is not a sequel to the previous novel, it is a companion piece, sharing a common place and time. It has been billed as a stand-alone story and while it's true that you can read `The Year of the Flood' without reading Oryx and Crake, one of the more interesting aspects of reading Flood is seeing how Atwood connects the dots between the two novels. It may not be necessary read O&C first to enjoy Flood, but it seems to me that a layer of the novel would be missing.

I enjoyed reading `The Year of the Flood' but I couldn't help but think how much better a novel Oryx and Crake was. It's a darker, more disturbing, and more complex novel than Flood. Atwood described O&C as "a joke-filled, fun-packed rollicking adventure story about the downfall of the human race." She was kidding (a little), but the bottom line is O&C is more ambitious, more perceptive, and more interesting than Flood.

The Year of the Flood also features a constant barrage of remarkable coincidences. Virtually all of humanity dies in a plague and yet it seems that the only survivors were people the two female protagonists knew and they keep running into each other. Jimmy from O&C keeps turning up and it strains credibility a little. I thought maybe Atwood would provide some explanation for why these people survive (aside from being isolated at the time of the plague) but nothing is offered. It appears that it is all just a coincidence, which ends up feeling a little too contrived and convenient.

The greatest strength of the novel is the richly imagined and fully developed religion that forms the core of the novel. "God's Gardeners" is a clever merging of religion and science. There is a satirical edge to God's Gardeners that provides the perfect venue for Atwood's razor sharp wit. The novel's narrative is interspersed with sermons from Adam One to his flock that are often amusing in their earnestness. For example, Adam One speaks to his struggling flock as they roam the wasteland following the waterless flood that has wiped out virtually all of humankind, speaking about one of their followers savagely killed by wild dogs he says: "...via a conduit of a wild dog pack she has now made the ultimate sacrifice to her fellow creatures and has become part of God's great dance of proteins."

All in all, I enjoyed The Year of the Flood. If you are in the mood for a post-apocalyptic novel and you haven't read Oryx and Crake, I highly recommend reading it first, in part because you will appreciate Year of the Flood more after reading it, but mostly because it is a much better novel. The Year of the Flood is well worth reading, if for no other reason than to experience God's Gardeners, it just pales in comparison to novels by Atwood like O&C and The Handmaid's Tale that tread on similar ground.
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on October 25, 2009
[Cross-posted to LibraryThing and LivingSocial]

The only Margaret Atwood novel I'd read prior to this one was The Handmaid's Tale, which I loved. But having never read Oryx and Crake, the companion to Year of the Flood, I didn't know what to expect. Now that I've finished it, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It left me feeling flat ' didn't love it, but didn't dislike it either.

The world in which the story takes place is the same one as in Oryx and Crake. It's the future, and Atwood paints a deeply unsettling picture of what we become. In the Exfernal World, we seem to have lost our basic humanity towards each other; there are no limits to what people will do to each other and there seems to be no sense of guilt for anything that's done. I wasn't conscious of being disturbed by it as I read, but it did get under my skin ' I eventually had to stop reading it before bed because it was giving me nightmares.

I really liked the main characters, Toby and Ren, and their backstories were interesting. Atwood alternates the narrative between them and it worked well. I think the book could have done without the Adam One speeches in between, though.

The general tone of the book was pretty dark and depressing and there isn't much sense of hope at the end ' probably why it left me feeling so flat. It was well written but not really a page turner. I don't think I'll be picking up Oryx and Crake any time soon.
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on October 27, 2009
The earth as we know it no longer exists.

The world is an empty place, destroyed by the Waterless Flood. It is a world where gene spliced animals now roam free; animals like liobams (a lion and lamb hybrid) and Mo'Hairs (multi-coloured sheep used for growing hair replacements) and rakunks (racoon and skunk hybrids).

It is no longer a world for humans.

But yet, two people have survived the Waterless Flood: Toby is holed up inside of AnooYoo, a health spa that catered to the rich and Ren, locked inside a safe room inside Scales and Tales, a high end sex club.

While both continue to fight the land and the animals in order to survive, they both reflect on how they arrived at their places in life. Through a series of flashbacks, we're shown Ren and Toby's story and we learn about the Gods Gardeners.

Both were involved with The Gods Gardeners, a religious sect that preached love for everything, every plant and every animal. They are a religious sect that is separated from regular life and shunned by society at large.

But The Gods Gardeners is also a sect that hides secrets. People do not have a past, only a future. But secrets, even if they are not spoken, have a way of breaking free, despite our wish to keep them silent...

My meagre plot summary in no way comes close to covering the entirety of the plot in The Year of the Flood. It is an epic, sprawling novel that moves back and forth between past, present and future effortlessly.

There is no way I could convey to you everything that is in this novel. The Year of the Flood touches on a multitude of subjects including science, religion, the environment, love, desire, cannibalism, war and so on. It would at first glance that there is too much that is covered in The Year of the Flood, that Atwood has filled it too full.

But it is not too full; Atwood manages to pull of the impossible and creates an incredible novel that speaks to the heart, to the mind and to the spirit.

I was incredibly excited when I learned that Atwood's new novel would be a sequel to Oryx and Crake, perhaps my most favourite of Atwood's novels. I wondered if she'd be able to write as good a novel as Oryx and Crake a second time. Thankfully, The Year of the Flood is better.

Though the future she presents is grim, there is a dark humour present. Her characters are also incredibly realized and well developed. You care about these people from the first page. It is almost impossible not to.

In the end, though, The Year of the Flood wasn't a sequel. It is more of a companion book to Oryx and Crake. In fact, The Year of the Flood covers the same time period and overlaps with the plot of Oryx and Crake.

Also, there is a balance between the two. In Oryx and Crake, we focused a lot on the relationship between men: between Snowman and his father, Crake and his father, between Crake and Snowman themselves. In The year of the Flood, the characters that Atwood focuses on and develops are female: Toby and Ren, Amanda Payne and more.

It is a story of the love between daughters, between young girls and elder women, a story of friendship between girls that grow into women. Where Oryx and Crake was inherently male, The Year of the Flood is inherently female.

Though The Year of the Flood is told from Ren and Toby's point of view, the novel is really about the story of three women (Ren, Toby and Amanda) and their will to survive in a cruel and harsh world. It is a story of hope, despite all odds. A story of the power of love.

Once again, Atwood presents us with a dark novel tinged with humour that is unclassifiable. Despite the darkness, I did not want The Year of the Flood to end. Part parable, part science fiction, part speculative fiction, part literary tale, part cautionary myth, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most dark and her most incredible.

Atwood shows us that even in the darkness there is light. And even in the most cruel of situations, there is beauty.
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on November 14, 2009
I picked up this book knowing only these two things: That it was a dystopic science-fiction novel, and that it was written by Margaret Atwood, whose only other novel I've read was "The Handmaid's Tale". I found this novel to be very similar to "The Handmaid's Tale" in its depth of world creation. There is an alternate universe, which like the world created in many dystopic novels, is an exaggerated future, but one that is by no means difficult to see paralleled in our own society.

After reading this novel, a real page turner, my opinion of Atwood's writing abilities has only been further heightened. I was under the impression that "The Handmaid's Tale" was an unrepeatable masterpiece, but "The Year of the Flood" is extremely close in quality. Admittedly, I knew "Oryx and Crake: A Novel" was supposedly good, but I had skipped over it because of the weird title. However, after reading this novel, "Oryx and Crake" has moved up to the top of my reading list, and I cannot wait to read more about the world Atwood has so brilliantly created. I would recommend this book to everyone, especially those who are fans of literature or fans of science-fiction, because this book has the ability to please both types of discerning reader immensely. This book is a MUST READ!
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on April 8, 2013
Although at first i seemed to get second thoughts about the book, but as i got deeper into the story, it captured my attention, i finished it in half the time i expected. The story somewhat gets the reader to reflect as to where we are going in the future and what is awaiting us. I would definitely recommend this book and waiting for the next edition of this trilogy
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on April 4, 2014
I am three quarter into the book and I am still waiting for something to happen. I cannot relate to the main persons in the story. I read the book only when I can't sleep.... it is NOT a page turner. Way too much descriptions that are thrown together to try to create a world that is not believable. Good fiction needs to be believable. Honestly I don't understand why this book was chosen for Canada reads. I have read other books from Margaret Atwood and this one is not her best.
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on December 29, 2009
I received The Year of the Flood as a Christmas gift. In anticipation, I reread Oryx and Crake. Like many others, I too look forward to a third novel, which I hope takes us further into time than these two, to bring about a solution to Atwood's dissolution of the world.

This scary story makes me look at the life with different eyes, and reminds me why I have a set of herbal healing books on my shelf. God's Gardeners are wise, and to be commended, until one learns that some of them are instrumental in bringing about the destructive "waterless flood" their leader predicts.

One difference between the two books is who the adversaries are. In Oryx and Crake, the animals seem to be the most frightening enemies. The Year of the Flood has those same viscious intelligent animals, but adds a criminal element that also survives.

Yet the book ends with the possibility of forgiveness, at least from Toby's perspective, despite the fact that she has suffered at the hands of evil. Will the third book show a world where evil is overcome by love? Is forgiveness believable in that world or in this?

A very thought provoking book. Well done!
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on September 3, 2013
Only someone of Atwood's ability could turn a somewhat flat story into a decent book. Atwood is great at understanding when to turn it up a notch. For a good chunk of the initial book, she stays in second gear, but this nicely sets up the last 100-pages, which she plows through full-throttle. It's this tempo that makes you a bit less concerned with the story's overall flatness. In comparison to Oryx and Crake which had more surprise to it, The Year of the Flood was rather formulaic and obvious throughout. Some of it even felt forced, where Atwood tried to interconnect everything even though it didnt need to be. One positive of this though, she set herself up nicely for MaddAdam with a group of characters that I hope she continues to build on and take us further versus looking back into the past so much. It's in this post-apocalyptic landscape - read: post Flood - that is most interesting. She needs to spend more time here than always reaching back telling us how we got here - she's had two books to already do that. I'm hoping she takes her readers further into this world and shows how a group that is cognizant of the failures that got them here, rebuilds civilization.
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