When I am really impressed by a book, I often find myself becoming an author stalker. I research the author and start reading more of his or her books. I’ve done this over and over again, as I expect most readers do. Margaret Atwood is the latest author with whom I’ve become obsessed. The minute after I finished Oryx and Crake, I had to get the companion novel, The Year of the Flood. Atwood herself, I believe, doesn’t call this a sequel or prequel, as it takes place at the same time as Oryx and Crake. It’s rather a slightly different story set in the same time and place, told by different characters.
[Click here for my review of Oryx and Crake.]
The Year of the Flood also describes the dystopian world in Oryx and Crake, both pre-and post Armageddon. This time around, however, our narrators are Ren and Toby, both of whom at one time lived with the “God’s Gardeners,” an environmentally-conscious religious group dedicated to preserving and restoring the natural world, while living within the genetically and chemically altered world that Atwood first created in Oryx and Crake.
What’s fun about reading the two novels back to back is that the first book is narrated only by a male character, one who is deeply connected to events and people that change the world forever. Flood is told by two female characters, one who is a child for most of the novel. Both characters are, at some parts of their lives, attached to a group that is outwardly opposing the altered direction in which most of the world is moving. Yet both characters never fully feel part of the God’s Gardeners, so they offer interesting perspectives of their comrades---doubt and agreement at the same time, accepting bits of what they live, and rejecting other bits privately. All of these little pieces add for really great contrasts both within Flood and between the two books.
Interspersed throughout the book are hymns and teachings of the God’s Gardeners’ religious doctrine. Many of these pieces pay homage to environmentalists in our own time like Rachel Carson and Dian Fossey. Those references I found really interesting and for some names that I didn’t recognize, enlightening and educational…forcing me to never be far from my web browser while I was reading so I could look up the name and learn more about the real person.
All in all, this was a fun read, different enough from Oryx and Crake to make it feel like a completely separate story but with fun ties back to the previous book for those of us who’ve read it and enjoyed it. I also liked that this one had a more hopeful ending than the previous one.
Ratings (For an explanation of my rating factors, please visit the Rating System Key page.)
Crack Factor – 8.5. This one is getting a slightly lower crack factor than Oryx, probably because having read Oryx first, I knew where this world was going…so it wasn’t quite as addicting. If you read Flood before Oryx, you’d probably be a little more hooked.
Tears Shed Factor – 8.5. Oryx didn’t touch my emotions the way this book did. The female perspective in this novel is probably responsible for the difference. I could identify with many of the characters’ hopes and fears, desires and disappointments; even though their world is so different from mine, I could feel their emotions pretty well.
Distraction Factor – 9. This book is just as thought provoking as Oryx, but from a different perspective. There was a lot more misogyny and violence against women in this book, and the main characters have to survive it. You didn’t see that exploitation from the same perspective in Oryx and it’s more upsetting from the victim’s angle, so I found myself dwelling on it more this time around.
Enrichment Factor – 9.5. I learned a lot from the stories and references to the God’s Gardeners’ “saints,” the aforementioned contemporary environmentalists. It was one more of the ties that Atwood creates between our current world and this scary potential future that we face, forcing you to take heed.
PeopleFactor – 9. I felt more connection to the characters in Flood than I did to the ones in Oryx and Crake; they also seemed a little more developed in this book.
Story Telling Factor – 9.5. This book is a survival story. The main characters have a constant struggle to survive, both before and after the “waterless flood,” which is what the God’s Gardeners call the impending Armageddon. It keeps the story moving. I also like the hopeful message at the end of Flood, which was not as apparent in Oryx.
Writing Skills Factor – 9.5. Same as in Oryx and Crake--Atwood is pretty amazing. I often felt like I was sitting beside the character while I was reading her story.
Bad Ass Babe Factor – 8.5. Both Ren and Toby, and secondary character Amanda, are really amazing. They live in a frightening world for women and they navigate it amazingly well. I also appreciated their sense of loyalty and friendship. All are willing to lay down their lives for each other, and this comes out especially at the end.
Hotter than Adam Factor –? I hesitate to give this book an HTAF rating, because the male characters are so secondary, but Adam One, the leader of the God’s Gardeners and Zeb are pretty great characters. Adam One for his vision and leadership and Zeb for his strength, courage and street smarts. Both of these characters work really hard to take care of the people around them.
Total Rating – 9.16