The sun brightens in the east, reddening the blue-grey haze that marks the distant ocean. The vultures roosting on the hydro poles fan out their wings to dry them. The air smells faintly of burning. The waterless flood – a man-made plague – has ended the world.
But two young women have survived: Ren, a young dancer trapped where she worked, in an upmarket sex club (the cleanest dirty girls in town); and Toby, who watches and waits from her rooftop garden. Is anyone else out there?
Length: 518 pages
I read The Year of the Flood for a university module. It’s technically the second book in the Maddaddam trilogy, but events in the first two books happen concurrently, so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in. I believe the third book does need to be read last, though.
The Year of the Flood is set in a dystopian future, as usual Atwood has extrapolated from our current world to give the reader a more extreme version of things like businesses, fast food, and environmental activists. The book follows two different timelines. The first is the present day for the characters, the other is their past.
We follow two main point of view characters: Ren and Toby. Both were once part of a cult called The Gardeners, a group of extreme environmental activists. This group is positioned in opposition to the corporations, who are portrayed as exploiting and damaging both people and the environment.
In the present-day storyline, the world has been ravaged by a pandemic. One which is much worse than our current pandemic. People are dead and dying in the streets. Toby and Ren are survivors, and we follow them as they deal with the consequences of the global situation.
I liked both Toby and Ren, and I liked the way Atwood has set the world up. But it’s one of those strange books that I’m not sure how I feel about. It’s such an odd book – part satire, part serious message. I’m not a huge fan of satire, so I think some of that went over my head.
As usual with Atwood, the writing is impeccable. All the characters felt well-rounded and like real people, if a little eccentric sometimes. I never felt frustrated at the story, or like I had questions that weren’t being answered.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Though I can’t shake that odd feeling about it. I think it’s frightening that something like this could easily come to pass. Especially considering events of the last 12 months.
I will be reading the other two books in the trilogy.