Kemper's Reviews > The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
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it was ok
bookshelves: apocalypse-now, sci-fi, modern-lit, playing-god

I’m really tempted to take a cheap shot at Margaret Atwood and call her the George Lucas of literature since I was very disappointed in this follow-up to Oryx & Crake.

She built an intriguing world in O&C where corporations ruled and profited through genetic engineering and gene splicing animals in a way that would give Dr. Moreau some ethical concerns. And she tied that to the devastating story of how it ended along with the tale of Jimmy (Snowman), his mad scientist friend Crake, and the woman they both loved, Oryx.

The Year of the Flood centers around two women, Ren and Toby, through the course of their lives before, during and after the disaster that occurs in O&C. Tobey has been victimized by bad luck and a vicious man to end up having to hide with the God’s Gardener’s. Ren’s mother fell for one of the Gardeners and left her husband, taking Ren from the cushy corporate compound they had been living.

God’s Gardeners are a green religious group led by Adam One. By taking animal rights to a peaceful extreme and tying it to Christianity, they’ve attracted a small following despite the consumerist culture around them. Adam One preaches about the Waterless Flood, a disaster that will pay back humankind for all the injustices done to the animal kingdom, and those who have read Oryx & Crake know that Reckonin’ Day is coming.

Ren is eventually returned to the corporate compound life, but never forgets her time with GG or her best friend, Amanda. Tobey is surprised to find herself becoming one of the respected senior members of the GG as time passes. Neither woman knows it, but they keep brushing up against the events and people who will eventually cause the Flood. Especially Ren who’s first real boyfriend, Jimmy from O&C, breaks her heart and leaves her pining for him for the rest of the book.

I was really looking forward to reading more about this culture that Atwood had described in Oryx and Crake, especially since the first book centered on the ‘elite’ types who work and live in the corporate compounds, and this was more about the rest of the people trying to live in a world turned into a biological and ecological madhouse. But after reading it, I really don’t see what the point was.

Oryx and Crake did just fine as a standalone book. Giving me another version of events from an outsider’s perspective really didn’t add anything to it. More, since I knew how it was going to end, I wasn’t nearly as involved in this story as I was O&C. Plus, while O&C ended on an ambiguous note, Year of the Flood gives us resolution to that book, only to introduce a new ambiguous ending. Also, there are far too many coincidences to be remotely plausible about survivors who knew each other before the Flood constantly running into each other after the big disaster. It’s less of an apocalypse and more like a class reunion.

I haven’t been this disappointed since Jar Jar Binks showed up. And I’m worried that Atwood will be releasing Special Digitally Enhanced Versions of Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood very soon.

I probably shouldn’t be this hard on a book that had some great writing, but I really liked Oryx and Crake so reading this one left me feeling like I got a plate of reheated leftovers and it’s making me bitter.

(I have no idea if Atwood plans to do any more books related to this story, so if she releases some kind of brilliant third book that ties all of this together and enhances the overall story, I reserve the right to change my mind about this one.)

And on a humorous side note, I listened to the audio book version of this, and the song lyrics included by Atwood as part of Adam One’s sermons have been turned into some horrible post-modern Christian rock tunes. It made Creed sound good.
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Reading Progress

December 16, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
January 8, 2010 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Nice Jar Jar Binks reference. When you called her George Lucas, I was expecting the Ewoks to show up.

Kemper The Ewoks were pretty bad, but Jar Jar hurt my soul...

message 3: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "The Ewoks were pretty bad, but Jar Jar hurt my soul..."

Especially since everyone had The Phantom Menace built up so much in their minds before seeing it.

Kemper Have you seen these? It's long, but I wasted a couple of hours on it one day and I laughed. Then I wept. Then I laughed again.

message 5: by Kasia (new) - added it

Kasia You know what beats post-modern Christian rock tunes and doesn't feature Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks (unless they make a prequel, then it might)

Kemper It's the Dark Side!

message 7: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda What a disappointment! I, too, was really looking forward to Year of the Flood because Oryx and Crake was such an inventive and bizarre post-apocalyptic story. This is why I typically prefer standalone novels--it's too disappointing when they fubar a good thing by just refusing to leave it alone.

Kemper Amanda wrote: "What a disappointment! I, too, was really looking forward to Year of the Flood because Oryx and Crake was such an inventive and bizarre post-apocalyptic story. This is why I typically prefer stan..."

Yeah, I was pretty let down, but I've got geekish fanboy demands about my sci-fi, even when someone like Atwood writes it so take my opinion with a grain of salt. It's still well written, and had some interesting ideas and characters, but I just couldn't get over how it seemed exist to just fill in the gaps of of O&C.

message 9: by Kay (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kay I'm with you- it just seemed lack lustre and I wonder why she bothered.

Ollie I'm an Atwood fan but I have to agree with you - it's hard to know why she thought this was a needed book, or even why she used someone with such a limited vocabulary as Ren to be one of her narrators. It would have been better if she's substituted Ren for one of the less sympathetic female characters (Lucene, etc).

message 11: by Joseph (new) - added it

Joseph Whirry I have to agree about the audiobook, 10 seconds into the first song, I had to shut it off and pick something else.
I have really enjoyed some of Atwood’s other works and I was eager to follow up O & C... but your review confirms that I have higher priorities on my to-read list.

Kemper Jwhirry wrote: "I have to agree about the audiobook, 10 seconds into the first song, I had to shut it off and pick something else.

This did seem pretty pointless at the time but now that I know there's a third book coming, I'm hoping the third chapter will pull the whole thing together and redeem this one. Either that, or I'll end up even more disappointed.

message 13: by Tim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tim Gunderson I always read your reviews in Archer's voice. It's great.

Kemper Don wrote: "I always read your reviews in Archer's voice. It's great."

After I win Powerball I plan on hiring H. Jon Benjamin to do audio versions of all my reviews.

message 15: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Forget the Powerball. Have you seen this scratchers where you can wini $2500 a week for life? Much harder to screw that up.

Kemper Dan wrote: "Forget the Powerball. Have you seen this scratchers where you can wini $2500 a week for life? Much harder to screw that up."

Then I could just sign that over to HJB to do the audio!

Carolyn Although I agree that it is far too convenient for them to have all found each other again and again, I'm not ready to shut down this series just yet. Atwood has a third book that is due to be released sometime this year entitled MaddAddam. My guess is that it will follow the same events but from the point of views of the MaddAddams. With any luck, she plans to re-enter the elite gene-splicing world with the people who actually worked for Glenn. One can only hope, at least.

Kemper Carolyn wrote: "Although I agree that it is far too convenient for them to have all found each other again and again, I'm not ready to shut down this series just yet. Atwood has a third book that is due to be rel..."

That's why I left myself some wiggle room in the review. I'm hoping that a brilliant third book will tie all of this together and make this one seem more relevant.

Cecily So, you liked Oryx and were disappointed by this. How do you feel now about the imminent MaddAddam?

(I agree about Jar-Jar.)

Lauren Conveniently the survivors all seem to have smoked some of the same killer weed. Coincidence?

message 21: by Katherine (new) - added it

Katherine I loved O&C but I am really struggling to get through this one.

message 22: by Peter (new)

Peter Croft Yep, don't get the big deal either. Seemed to me like a mash-up of much better novels, I found myself being reminded of "Dhalgren" and not in a good way. Her dialogue is stilted as well, lots of the time she sounded like she was trying to establish some sort of street cred but it just comes off as artificial. I kept waiting for this book to catch alight, at least for me it never did.

message 23: by Nick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nick Don't forget that Amanda and Ren (Brenda) are, actually, Jimmy's ex-girlfriends from The Martha Graham Academy, so it's appropriate for Atwood to provide their perspectives. To each his own, but knowing these details gives the narrative much purpose and credence in the trilogy.

message 24: by Adrian (new)

Adrian hahaha I am listening to the audiobook and had to jump on here to make sure I got the right one. I thought it was some Christian bible thingy.

Margaret Greene Can't agree with this review more. So disappointed. Also, audiobook, why the terrible Christian rock songs every chapter? I came to hear a story not a sing along.

Chelsea My sentiments exactly. You were more charitable than I was, however, when you gave this garbage a two-star rating.

message 27: by Julie (new)

Julie Wright Good review. I am completely unimpressed w/ this book and don't want to waste my time finishing it. After reading this commentary, I will not feel bad returning it to the library w/out finishing. This story was very disappointing, as I've really like other books Atwood has written.

April I just finished reading (well, listening) to this book, and your review... it makes me giggle whilst I nod in agreement. :)

Marieskinner Agree with you 100%

message 30: by Kelly (new) - rated it 1 star

Kelly Freir I agree with your review so much! I really enjoyed Oryx and Crake and expected this to be a continuation of that story. Unfortunately it was not and I found it to be SO tedious! Near impossible to finish. I don't think I'll bother with book 3 after the torture of reading this.

Rebecca Just one thing! It's not a coincidence they keep running into each other. The God's Gardeners had the ideology that started the plague in the first place, and that same ideology also kept a lot of them alive, so the only people left alive in a city are bound to keep running into each other, and the ones who the writer chose to write about were the characters who were going to survive the longest. Focusing on the characters who died and therefore didn't run into each other would have made for a short story.

One more thing: the city isn't very big because half of it is under water thanks to global warming. I imagine it as something like Dublin, where there is nothing at all unusual about meeting people in college or in your job or the supermarket who went to the same primary school as you, it happens every week.

Otherwise I guess I agree with you. Looking forward to reading MaddAddam now :)

Laureen Hudson Relieved to find your review... thought I was going to be the only person who thought it was suboptimal.

Laura Martinez I disagree respectfully with your poor review. I absolutely loved this book. In Oryx and Crake, we got the perspective from the inside world. The sheltered life of a not-so-bright compound kid. In YotF, we get the perspective of life in the pleebs and life as a God's Gardener and from two very different characters. I couldn't love Toby more. And things come together so well by the time you get to MaddAdam. I finished this trilogy, am currently reading her book, The Heart Goes Last and will likely reread it. I liked it that much.

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