Moira Russell's Reviews > The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
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bookshelves: ebook, on-the-paperwhite, gifts

Nowhere near as good as Oryx & Crake, sadly. But the women characters! Toby! Ren! Amanda! Pilar! I really don't think this is as much a retelling of O&C as everyone says it is; it's more a shadow cast, a mirror, a reflection in water. Female heroes instead of men; the people on the ground, in the street, instead of locked up safe in Paradice; childhood as home, sex as trade. The back of the tapestry. Loved loved loved all the details about the Gardeners, Adam One after a while, and even the sermons and hymns in the end. It didn't knock me on my ass the way O&C did, tho. But maybe I should be happy about that. Heh.


Later. Further notes (no no this is not a review, not even a sketch of one) - I wasn't sure the people saying that having the big reveal in O&C took suspense away from Flood were right, but....maybe? Caring more about the people in the story and watching the waterless waves roll in (it makes sense in the book) was even more grinding, though. I really hope we don't revisit it in Book Three, it's horrifying every time. I can't help but think this is in some sense an answer to all the disaster porn/zombie love stuff out there -- and not in a toughass "are you MAN enough to carry your own boomstick?" way.

What I really liked about O&C was how the narrative and story fit seamlessly together - yeah, Jimmy was a blitzed post-apoc wanderer, but it was clear there was something really wrong with him, he'd been smashed before that, and his dual narrative -- how this happened along with how could I have let this happen? -- was really moving. That was a lot easier for me to follow than Flood's shifting chronologies and structures, even though they were more clearly outlined -- datelined, actually. You had Ren and Toby's alternate narratives both shifting without break into the past and back again, which for me made it hard to keep the timeline straight, even tho Adam One's sermons are basically the spine of the book -- for a while I kept thinking Toby was a lot younger than she was, which threw the interactions out of whack. (This makes me think the narrative might be clearer in a physical book, with actual page breaks, and I could've flipped back to check on what was happening in previous Years, &c. On the Kindle it's just sort of forge ahead.)

I did love how in this book, the men are seen mostly as romantic interludes from the POV of the women, the women characters are truly kickass (TOBY), everyone was a lot more keen and clear-eyed than poor Jimmy (a low bar, there) -- altho the constant sort of low-pitched humming (that's how it affected me, like a weird sonic frequency) of sexual assault buzzing through the storyline made me uncomfortable, it was hard to relax into the story. (Just like REAL LIFE, haha.) Oryx's story in O&C was harrowing, but it was just one story told by one person, to a man; Atwood depicts the constant not-so-low-level atmosphere of threat women move in all the time, like an element in addition to air, that weighs us down, and that was even more harrowing. And trust Atwood to blow up the dual 'rape as background grit/rape as motivation for Kickass Heroines' tropes in one book.

I didn't realize til I started reading MaddAddam how much I missed the Crakers -- their place in the story, the stories they want, the stories told about and to them. I think they're one of Atwood's best creations -- limited, quasi-angelic, maddening, childlike, innocent, unspoiled, Other without being ruined by the pressure of alienation - hah, I guess that makes them actual aliens (I'm punchy, I went unwillingly to bed at like quarter to five in the morning, what do you want from me). (They're like something from a Tiptree story! But not nightmarish and/or doomed.) The Gardeners were a little bit like that -- they started off as a wheezy yet unsettling low-level cult, and then (mostly through Pilar and Adam One) turned into real people, and Peggy got me with the hymns to moles and weeds. (I know I keep harping on those, but really. A HYMN to WEEDS. An actual one, that you can sing. That encapsulates Atwood, right there.)

Things I loved: TOBY. Pilar. Toby as Persephone! Ren and Amanda's friendship. Ren and Amanda RESCUING EACH OTHER. Jimmy's love life seen through the rather disenchanted eyes of his girlfriends, heh. Crake ditto. HAMMERHEAD. (Trust me, it is hilarious when you get there.) The non-condemning non-patronizing portrayal of sex work (and how a lot of work, for women, by men, turns into sex work anyway, often unpaid). Did I say Toby? I even loved Adam One after a while, all preachy and annoying at first, but sort of pragmatic yet ethical later, like an actual saint must have been (you know Hildegard of Bingen, say, was a canny lady). TOBY. Toby being a badass in a hot pink caftan with a shotgun was, again, like the flip shot of Snowman being a poor bumbling fool wrapped in his filthy sheet waving his dick empty weapon around.


Finally, the non-lulzy presentation of Amanda's actual work -- the words aren't written, but they're written in matter which decays, and then predators are made into a pattern, and the words are themselves eaten and changed -- made me think: these books aren't really about genetic splicing or social satire or climate change, but storytelling, the role of mythology, how we narrate ourselves. Crake can eradicate violence from his engineered children, but not stories. They understood about dreaming. He knew that: they dreamed themselves. Crake hadn't been able to eliminate dreams. We're hard-wired for dreams, he'd said. He couldn't get rid of the singing either. We're hard-wired for singing. Singing and dreams were intertwined. Songs that are dreams: has there ever been a better description of art?
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Quotes Moira Liked

Margaret Atwood
“Glenn used to say 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.”
Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

Margaret Atwood
“What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question.”
Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood


Reading Progress

April 10, 2011 – Shelved
August 28, 2013 – Shelved as: ebook
August 28, 2013 – Shelved as: on-the-paperwhite
August 30, 2013 – Started Reading
August 30, 2013 –
0.0% "I am about to read this now! .....I am a lit-tle wary after O&C, which BROKE me right at the end, but it was also AWESOME. So come on, Peggy, do it to me again!"
August 30, 2013 –
3.0% "omg what the hell is up with this religious sermon shit //wilts"
August 30, 2013 –
10.0% "welllll this is Grim so far"
August 31, 2013 –
12.0% ".....dude, that God-as-sponge metaphor is from Augustine, and didn't work any better then"
August 31, 2013 –
20.0% "....OK, 'Noah's Ark dumplings stuffed with vegetable Animal farms' and one surprise Noah carved out of turnip is pretty damn cute"
August 31, 2013 –
20.0% "'The lion-sheep splice was commissioned by the Lion Isaiahists in order to force the advent of the Peaceable Kingdom.' ah, there's the worldbuilding I loved in the first book"
August 31, 2013 –
20.0% "AAGH. 'All dead now' WHAT?"
August 31, 2013 –
25.0% "maggot therapy auuuuuuuuuughghghg"
August 31, 2013 –
25.0% "Speculation...."
August 31, 2013 –
30.0% "'He sang the virtues of the wild Onion, of the wild Asparagus, of the wild Garlic, that toil not, neither do they spin, nor do they have pesticides sprayed upon them, if they happily grow far enough away from agribusiness crops.' OK, these little sermons/Guide chats are growing on me."
August 31, 2013 –
30.0% "'Mordis said that ChickieNobs were really vegetables because they grew on stems and didn't have faces.' AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"
August 31, 2013 –
30.0% "'There was something new they'd started using just after I went into the Sticky Zone - BlyssPluss, it was called.' ohhhhhhhh god no no no"
August 31, 2013 –
30.0% ".....omfg worst use of 'membrane' ever"
August 31, 2013 –
35.0% "aaaaaaaaaaaah it's CRAKE\n \n RUN EVERYONE RUN HE'S A GENOCIDAL MANIAC"
August 31, 2013 –
40.0% "the hymns to the moles and weeds are fucking awesome"
August 31, 2013 –
40.0% "OMG THERE GOES SNOWMAN....I am really all bollixed up with the chronology here. Argh."
August 31, 2013 –
40.0% "Peggy I seriously hope you are not actually going to kill off these people"
August 31, 2013 –
40.0% "Pilar noooooooooo....altho actually, nicely foreshadowed"
August 31, 2013 –
45.0% "OMG LITTLE CRAKE AGAIN\n QUICK SOMEONE FILLET HIM\n STONE HIM\n SOMETHING"
August 31, 2013 –
45.0% "I actually really like the Gardeners stuff, especially Toby. I am kind of dreading the Waterless Flood coming up."
August 31, 2013 –
47.0% "AUGH\n SHE KILLED OFF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF\n \n PEGGY YOU BITCH"
August 31, 2013 –
50.0% "OHAI Jimmy"
August 31, 2013 –
53.0% "'Glenn was so cool he was practically frozen' heh"
August 31, 2013 –
60.0% "'"This guy's one of a kind."' Yeah, he's a GENOCIDAL MANIAC\n WHO'S PLANNING TO KILL YOU ALL\n AND REPLACE YOU WITH _SINGING PLANT PEOPLE_"
August 31, 2013 –
60.0% "omg the postcards"
August 31, 2013 –
65.0% "Inaccessible Island Rail http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inaccess..."
August 31, 2013 –
80.0% "Crake, if you kill Adam One I will dive into the book and put you through the garboil myself, I don't care you're not real"
August 31, 2013 – Shelved as: gifts
August 31, 2013 – Finished Reading

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