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2017 Book Discussions > Oryx and Crake - The Year of the Flood (Nov 2017)

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message 1: by Whitney (last edited Dec 28, 2017 09:08PM) (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
Here's for discussion of the next book in the Maddaddam trilogy (a little late, the holidays were distracting). Informal, chime in with whatever interests you!

How did people like the second book? In what ways did it expand the Maddaddam universe? What did you think of the intersections with characters from the first book, did they change your perceptions of Jimmy or Crake?

Edited to add that this is an entire book discussion, all spoilers for the first two books allowed.


message 2: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments I liked this second book better than the first. I especially loved the dust cover of the British edition. I know, you can't judge a book by its cover but it was a fine one! I have had the third book in the series on the shelf for a few years. I do believe I need to re-read O&C and The Year of the Flood before I tackle it. I cannot remember making connections between The Year of the Flood and O&C.


message 3: by Marc (last edited Dec 28, 2017 09:14PM) (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
Year of the Flood felt like the flipside of Oryx & Crake to me in terms of telling the story from the point of view outside the corporate compounds. Whereas, Oryx & Crake felt like the scientific, commercial side of things, Year of the Flood felt more religious/spiritual and proletarian. If felt like the second half of a world that Oryx & Crake introduced us to. Can't say it changed my perceptions of Jimmy or Crake much. I liked it slightly less than Oryx and Crake, but still found it quite engaging.

There's a part of my brain that wants to draw some sort of connection between "where we went wrong" and humans losing touch with nature/the land. I guess in Biblical terms this would be Adam & Eve being cast out of Eden. I guess what I'm wondering is when humans started considering themselves separate from the natural world. Have we always done that? These books, in part, feel like the quest to mend that schism. Am I off my rocker?


message 4: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
If you read them close together, there are a lot of crossover moments. Ren is in the same compound as Jimmy, both she and Amanda date him. She and Toby attended Martha Graham. Glenn aids the Gardeners. Oryx delivers BlyssPluss to Scales and Tales et. al. I thought it was most interesting to see Jimmy from an outside perspective, as we only got his own view of himself in O&C.


message 5: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments Whitney wrote: "If you read them close together, there are a lot of crossover moments. Ren is in the same compound as Jimmy, both she and Amanda date him. She and Toby attended Martha Graham. Glenn aids the Garden..."

Exactly why I need to re-read without months (years?) between!


message 6: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 11 comments I just finished The Year of the Flood and I did like it better than Oryx and Crake. For me the Gardeners appreciated the natural world and took care to learn about what is provided to help heal and sustain humans through herbs, mushrooms and bees.

I don't think you are off your rocker, Marc. I think humans right out of the gate, pretty quickly tried to master nature. When Ren enters back into the Compound she senses what you are describing: artificial chemical 'clean' smells and a physical distance from the natural world. This distance drives the desire for an artificial life focused on pleasure and satisfaction which is happily coordinated by the Corporations. Also the splicing and gene manipulation is evidence of man feeling superior to nature - I think the Gardners/MaddAdam are trying to mend the disconnect but of course make big human mistakes along the way.

I think there was a lot of overlap between the two books and it gave me a different perspective on Amanda and Jimmy. And I loved Toby, her character bloomed throughout the book. Did anyone else have favorites?


message 7: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
I think 'not off your rocker' is correct as well (at least in this instance.) Committing the minor sin of assuming author intent, Atwood is an environmental activist. The compounds are certainly an extension of how people are trending now, giving up control and hard work for convenience and comfort, as well as a disconnect from how things are produced. I would guess Atwood sees the gardeners as essentially correct in their philosophy, but maybe taking things to a bit of an extreme?

Your statement "This distance drives the desire for an artificial life focused on pleasure and satisfaction which is happily coordinated by the Corporations" brings up interesting considerations. What do you think came first, the distancing, or the desire for an artificial life? Do you think people actually desire an artificial life, or is that just what comes with the corporate packaging?

I was also happy to get a different perspective on Jimmy and Amanda; especially Amanda. I like it when different books flesh out previously minor characters into more than the one dimensional characters they seemed to be originally.


message 8: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 11 comments Whitney, that is a great question. Perhaps it is more about the distancing from nature that accelerates over time. I think that the more tech savvy we all get, the less connected we all feel to nature and one another. Has anyone eaten at a restaurant and the table next to you has everyone on phones and not talking?

I recently watched the episode of Black Mirror "Nosedive' where everyone is rated by their peers and you live, travel and work based on your star rating. The more artificial the life and experience the higher the rating. Kind of scary but so on-point to how many now live. And your statement is very true... "how people are trending now, giving up control and hard work for convenience and comfort, as well as a disconnect from how things are produced"- we probably have some version of a Secretbuger out there somewhere.

In the novel, the Corporations could have just taken over everything but didn't because they still needed individuals to want and buy their product. The packaging is is great - Sea/H/ear Candy, AnooYoo....


message 9: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
Great observations, MichelleCH! The Black Mirror episode does fit in quite nicely here with your previous comments about an artificial life based on pleasure and satisfaction (I also thought that was a particularly well-done episode). Toby ended up being a favorite character for me, so this second book proved quite enjoyable as we got to better know her character.

The weird thing is that a lot of this stuff happens (both in the book and in real life) almost as if it is fated. It's not that people choose it outright, but life/society is structured in such a way that making other choices takes real and sometime insurmountable effort. And the real costs of things are hidden or so far removed from sight/your locale that they almost don't exist. We're having this wonderful conversation right now (which feels like a really positive thing that I'd likely to be a part of more often), but it requires devices made out of materials that need to be ripped out of the earth, powered by a communications network that requires a non-interrupted flow of power forever, etc., etc. And probably none of us made a real choice to start using the internet--it just sort of happened and became a part of your life. That, and choosing not to on an individual basis is not going to change anything. Technology seems to kind of sneak its way into one's life (you choose to buy a car or a cell phone or a computer, but you didn't really choose to have your day-to-day life depend on those things).

Once we satisfy basic needs (food, shelter, water), we're kind of forced to look for purpose/meaning, or simply pursue pleasure/desire. Crake must feel things are too far past the point of return to try anything but a full reset, but the Gardeners seem to think there's a middle way or that a more balanced life is possible.

How much of this trilogy (through the first two books) did you feel was about society organized around the individual vs. society organized around the group (or collective)?


message 10: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 11 comments I know, I feel the same way. Ideally I would like to not have a smart phone or email, but in reality that is NOT going to happen any time soon!

I think balance is the right approach. Crake is typical of many dogmatic leaders. It's an all or nothing approach for him with no regard for the costs to human or nature. I think that you can have technology, but how you spend that currency is what matters i.e. solar power versus coal.

Hmmm. I think that at first glance it seems as if society is organized around the individual as individual needs are prioritized in many weird and creepy ways. The pigoons and chickienobs meet individual needs for organs and food. Everyone FEELS like they have choice.

But in order for this society to work it has to be organized around the group of Corporations who keep everyone under control through the use of the CorpSeCorps. Other than the Gardeners, no one really owns their own life or freedom.

I hope the third books goes more into the Crakers. Now they are fascinating! I want to know if they evolve and become more human with all of our idiosyncrasies and "bad habits"?


message 11: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 266 comments What a great discussion! I wish I'd read the book faster so I could have come here sooner. I too liked this book a little better than the first one.

You aren't off your rocker, Marc--I think you are exactly right. And I love what you said about technology sneaking up on us. Not having a choice about it is something that really bothers me, and it seems to be an increasing problem.

I think both books point out that society is organized around the individual and the group. To me, the first was about how an individual impacts the society, and the second was kind of the opposite--how society impacts the individual, particularly Toby and Ren.

My favorite characters were Toby and Zeb. But I loved the saints. Really loved the saints, and the feast days and the crafts. What a mix of fun and horror this book was!


message 12: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
I'd almost forgotten how fun and funny all the saints were and all those songs/rituals, Kathleen. Seemed like Atwood must have had a lot of fun writing these elements, as well. Both you and MichelleCH pointed out how the books point out organizing around the individual, as well as the group--this set up made me think the third book might be either some sort of synthesis of these two viewpoints or show some sort of "new" way.

You've got me thinking that it's probably not just technology that does that (sneaks up on us or makes us feel we have no choice). To a certain extent, same goes for how we dress, jobs we end up taking, social rituals, etc., etc. These days, it feels like an act of rebellion just to go outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.

Are any/all of you taking on the third book right now? Would love to hear your thoughts on that one and the trilogy as a whole.


message 13: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 266 comments I think you're right about that, Marc--so much of what we do is just going with the flow. Here's to a little rebellion!

I was advised to not wait too long before reading this second book (to see some of the connections), so I hope to do the same with the third, maybe in a few weeks.


message 14: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
Here, here! Just came across this quote a few minutes ago:
"There can be no submission--because the very fact of our discussing these matters implies curiosity, and curiosity in its turn is insubordination in its purest form." -Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister


Took me several years to get to the whole trilogy (long enough, so that I had to re-read Oryx & Crake and I'm not much of a re-reader), so no pressure from me. :)


message 15: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 266 comments What a great find! Love the connection between curiosity and insubordination. Thanks for sharing. But oh dear, now I've added another book to read ...


message 16: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
FWIW, that's my least favorite Nabokov (out of the three I've read). I think it was either free or a $0.50 used book find....


message 17: by MichelleCH (new)

MichelleCH (lalatina) | 11 comments Marc wrote: "I'd almost forgotten how fun and funny all the saints were and all those songs/rituals, Kathleen. Seemed like Atwood must have had a lot of fun writing these elements, as well. Both you and Michell..."

Once I get through Moby Dick, I am definitely on to the third book. I'm taking quite the detour.


message 18: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
That's an awesome detour, plus it still has an environmental/ecology theme!


message 19: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I read Year of the Flood first, then discovered it was part of a trilogy. LOL! Luckily, it really didn't affect me when I read the first.

I love this trilogy because it feels like something that COULD so easily happen.


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