Margaret Atwood,
MaddAddam Trilogy #2: The Year of the Flood
(Anchor, 2009)

Margaret Atwood should be a painter, because her masterful strokes of language can create a picture more vivid than a photograph. Her depiction of a dystopian future is the most depressingly realistic and vivid portrayal I have read yet. The Year of the Flood is neither a sequel nor a prequel to Oryx & Crake, the first book in the series; it is a companion piece. It takes place in the same exact time period, just with different characters. Characters from the first novel will make appearances throughout the book, though. The first in the series is not required for this book to be enjoyable, although it is definitely something I recommend.

The Year of the Flood is about a girl and woman going through life with The Gardeners, an environmental religious group, or cult, based on certain teachings of Christianity. Their principles are about respecting all living creatures and using the Earth the way it was meant to be used, without causing harm. They don't eat any living creatures, they use herbal remedies rather than the dangerous corporate produced "medicine," and they only eat what they grow. The girl Brenda, or Ren as she prefers, is the daughter of Lucerne, a woman who ran away from a corporate lifestyle/retreat to be with her lover Zeb, who is in The Gardeners. Ren is a young girl who is living a "regular" life, only with Gardener creeds and beliefs. Toby is a girl on the run from CorpSeCorps, a global corporation that provides private "security" when she gets saved by The Gardeners. We see them grow and change until finally, and I'm not spoiling it for you by saying this, "The Waterless Flood" occurs and kills off almost all of humanity. These two survive for various reasons, which reading the book will fill in for you. This story is a wonderful character study, and as I said before, a painting which is to be admired.

Margaret Atwood dislikes having her work be called science fiction, and for a while I was agitated by that. Now, I understand. Science fiction implies something that may happen in the future, but the point of her MaddAddam trilogy is to describe a world that is eerily similar to ours, because if we look closer, it is ours. She means to make a statement with her novels and try to make some change occur before it is too late.

In her novel, animals such as the elephant and the panda have gone extinct, and this doesn't seem like it could be too far off. The corporations in the novel produce food and medicine that the common people don't know the makeup of, much like our pink slime debacles and the bombardment of pharmaceutical mistakes and side effects. The poor in this novel live in places called "The Pleeblands" while the poor in our world live in "ghettos." The comparisons could go on and on; the point is, Atwood has created a novel that doesn't truly create a new world, but only gives the current one a paint job. Maybe that is why it is so vivid in my mind, or maybe she truly is a stunning writer.

This novel's strong suits are its characters and its setting. As I've said before, the settings are amazingly vivid, and beautifully written but the same could be said about the characters in this novel, at least the female characters. Another author, Junot Diaz, once said "If you're a boy writer, you've gotta get used to the fact that you suck at writing women," and I think this can be equally applied to Margaret Atwood. Her male characters are wooden and lifeless, and they are cliched and weak. I have a major complaint about the state of novels and that is, female characters are rarely written well, but this book completely subverts my complaint. Her female characters are written tremendously well. Ren and Toby are as realistic as they come, you feel their fears and you understand their stupid decisions. I easily sympathized with them, and I felt as though she was writing about real people.

My only true complaints are that the beginning can be a bit of a hassle to get through. The first 100 to 150 pages are a bit boring, but if you stick with it you will get a fantastic book. The other complaint I have is that the ending is a little unsatisfying; maybe the final book in the series will be more satisfactory.

The Year of the Flood is an amazing novel, the setting is beautifully written, as are the characters, and the story becomes a juggernaut about 150 pages through the book. As of right now I'm having a hard time deciding if I like Oryx & Crake or this book better. I would recommend it to all "sci-fi" lovers, even though Atwood would argue against that, and anyone who cares about our Earth and its animal inhabitants. It is a wonderful read, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

book review by
Vlady Kozubnyak

28 February 2015

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