The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2)

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy #2)

4.0 249
by Margaret Atwood
     
 

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"The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners - a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life - has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we

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Overview

"The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners - a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life - has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible." "Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Pain-ballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Pain-ball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers." Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move, but they can't stay locked away.

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Editorial Reviews

Jeanette Winterson
Atwood is funny and clever, such a good writer and real thinker that there's hardly any point saying that not everything in the novel works. Why should it? A high level of creativity has to let in some chaos…The flaws in The Year of the Flood are part of the pleasure, as they are with human beings, that species so threatened by its own impending suicide and held up here for us to look at, mourn over, laugh at and hope for. Atwood knows how to show us ourselves, but the mirror she holds up to life does more than reflect—it's like one of those mirrors made with mercury that gives us both a deepening and a distorting effect, allowing both the depths of human nature and its potential mutations. We don't know how we will evolve, or if we will evolve at all. The Year of the Flood isn't prophecy, but it is eerily possible.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
Ms. Atwood has loosened up in this volume and given her imagination free rein…By focusing on her characters and their perilous journeys through a nightmare world, she has succeeded in writing a gripping and visceral book that showcases the pure storytelling talents she displayed with such verve in her 2000 novel, The Blind Assassin.
—The New York Times
Michael Dirda
By its last half The Year of the Flood has turned into a heart-pounding thriller, a desperate Painball game to the death set in an already devastated world. Still, the book regularly undercuts the horrific with touches of comedy…and Atwood superbly captures the voices and attitudes of the serious Adam One, the frivolous Lucerne, the resourceful Toby and the rather simple-minded and fragile Ren. Canada's greatest living novelist undoubtedly knows how to tell a gripping story, as fans of The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid's Tale already know. But here there's a serious message, too: Look at what we're doing right now to our world, to nature, to ourselves. If this goes on…
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Reviewed by Marcel Theroux

In her 2002 speculative novel, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood depicted a dystopic planet tumbling toward apocalypse. The world she envisaged was in the throes of catastrophic climate change, its wealthy inhabitants dwelling in sterile secure compounds, its poor ones in the dangerous “pleeblands” of decaying inner cities. Mass extinctions had taken place, while genetic experiments had populated the planet with strange new breeds of animal: liobams, Mo'Hairs, rakunks. At the end of the book, we left its central character, Jimmy, in the aftermath of a devastating man-made plague, as he wondered whether to befriend or attack a ragged band of strangers. The novel seemed complete, closing on a moment of suspense, as though Atwood was content simply to hint at the direction life would now take. In her profoundly imagined new book, The Year of the Flood, she revisits that same world and its catastrophe.

Like Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood begins just after the catastrophe and then tracks back in time over the corrupt and degenerate world that preceded it. But while the first novel focused on the privileged elite in the compounds and the morally bankrupt corporations, The Year of the Flood depicts more of the world of the pleebs, an edgy no-man's land inhabited by criminals, sex workers, dropouts and the few individuals who are trying to resist the grip of the corporations.

The novel centers on the lives of Ren and Toby, female members of afundamentalist sect of Christian environmentalists, the God's Gardeners. Led by the charismatic Adam One, whose sermons and eco-hymns punctuate the narrative, the God's Gardeners are preparing for life after the prophesied Waterless Flood. Atwood plays some of their religion for laughs: their hymns have a comically bouncing, churchy rhythm, and we learn that both Ren and Toby have been drawn toward the sect for nonreligious reasons. Yet the gentleness and benignity of the Gardeners is a source of hope as well as humor. As absurd as some of their beliefs appear, Atwood seems to be suggesting that they're a better option than the naked materialism of the corporations.

This is a gutsy and expansive novel, rich with ideas and conceits, but overall it's more optimistic than Oryx and Crake. Its characters have a compassion and energy lacking in Jimmy, the wounded and floating lothario at the previous novel's center.

Each novel can be enjoyed independently of the other, but what's perhaps most impressive is the degree of connection between them. Together, they form halves of a single epic. Characters intersect. Plots overlap. Even the tiniest details tessellate into an intricate whole. In the final pages, we catch up with Jimmy once more, as he waits to encounter the strangers. This time around, Atwood commits herself to a dramatic and hopeful denouement that's in keeping with this novel's spirit of redemption.

Marcel Theroux's most recent novel, Far North, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in June.

Library Journal
Never one to rest on her laurels, famed Canadian author Atwood redeems the word sequel with this brilliant return to the nightmarish future first envisioned in Oryx and Crake. Contrary to expectations, the waterless flood, a biological disaster predicted by a fringe religious group, actually arrives. In its wake, the survivors must rely on their wits to get by, all the while reflecting on what went wrong. Atwood wins major style points here for her framing device, the liturgical year of the God's Gardeners sect. Readers who enjoy suspense will also appreciate the story's shifting viewpoint and nonlinear time line, which result in the gradual revelation of key events and character relationships. Atwood's heroines seem uniformly grim and hollow, but one can hardly expect cheerfulness in the face of the apocalypse, and the hardships of their lives both pre- and postflood are moving and disturbing. VERDICT Another win for Atwood, this dystopian fantasy belongs in the hands of every highbrow sf aficionado and anyone else who claims to possess a social conscience. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]—Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh
Kirkus Reviews
Atwood returns to the post-apocalyptic world she imagined in Oryx and Crake (2003, etc.). In the futuristic year Twenty-Five, the world is run by corporations; genetic experiments include splicing animals like lions and lambs; and the environment is increasingly a wasteland. When the viral "waterless flood," long predicted by Adam One of a religious/environmentalist cult called The Gardeners, decimates the world's human population, there are only a few survivors. At the AnooYoo spa, which she has been managing under a pseudonym to hide from a psychopathic sexual stalker, Toby stays alive using the skills she learned as a longtime Gardener, conserving, foraging and hunting when necessary. Across the city, sex worker Ren survives because she happened to be locked in an isolation room at the Scales and Tales strip club when the virus hit. As Ren and Toby each wonder whether she is the only human left alive, both relive the last 15 years, which shaped their individual fates and led to the apocalypse. Ren knew Toby as one of the Eves, female leaders of The Gardeners, with whom she lived as a child while her mother was having an affair with mysterious renegade member Zeb. Eventually Ren and her mother returned to the HelthWyzer Compound; there teenage Ren fell in love and had her heart broken by Jimmy, protagonist of Oryx and Crake. Ren's best friend Amanda, a street kid adopted by The Gardeners, has also survived. She makes her way to Ren, the two join up with members of a splinter group of Gardeners headed by Zeb, and they all head toward AnooYoo. Unfortunately, not only Gardeners have survived. The women confront evil as well as a demented version of perfection developed by Jimmy'scrazed-genius friend Crake. Atwood wears her politics on her sleeve, but she doesn't shy away from showing the Gardeners' tendency toward self-righteous foolishness. Another stimulating dystopia from this always-provocative author, whose complex, deeply involving characters inhabit a bizarre yet frighteningly believable future. Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Miami
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“A gripping and visceral book that showcases Atwood’s pure storytelling talents.” The New York Times

“A heart-pounding thriller.” The Washington Post

“Atwood is funny and clever. [She] knows how to show us ourselves, but the mirror she holds up to life does more than reflect.... The Year of the Flood isn’t prophecy, but it is eerily possible.” The New York Times Book Review

 “A gripping read, revealing Atwood in her most masterful storytelling mode.... The book is a cracked mirror of the times we live in.” The Gazette

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780739328507
Publisher:
Diversified Publishing
Publication date:
09/22/2009
Series:
MaddAddam Trilogy Series, #2
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
608
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

T H E G A R D E N

Who is it tends the Garden,
The Garden oh so green?

’Twas once the finest Garden
That ever has been seen.

And in it God’s dear Creatures
Did swim and fly and play;

But then came greedy Spoilers,
And killed them all away.

And all the Trees that flourished
And gave us wholesome fruit,

By waves of sand are buried,
Both leaf and branch and root.

And all the shining Water
Is turned to slime and mire,

And all the feathered Birds so bright
Have ceased their joyful choir.

Oh Garden, oh my Garden,
I’ll mourn forevermore

Until the Gardeners arise,
And you to Life restore.

From The God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook


1

TOBY

YEAR TWENTY- FIVE, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD

In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. She uses a mop handle for balance: the elevator stopped working some time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, so if she slips and topples there won’t be anyone to pick her up.

As the first heat hits, mist rises from among the swath of trees between her and the derelict city. The air smells faintly of burning, a smell of caramel and tar and rancid barbecues, and the ashy but greasy smell of a garbage-dump fire after it’s been raining. The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef — bleached and colourless, devoid of life.

There still is life, however. Birds chirp; sparrows, they must be. Their small voices are clear and sharp, nails on glass: there’s no longer any sound of traffic to drown them out. Do they notice that quietness, the absence of motors? If so, are they happier? Toby has no idea. Unlike some of the other Gardeners — the more wild-eyed or possibly overdosed ones — she has never been under the illusion that she can converse with birds.

The sun brightens in the east, reddening the blue-grey haze that marks the distant ocean. The vultures roosting on hydro poles fan out their wings to dry them, opening themselves like black umbrellas. One and then another lifts off on the thermals and spirals upwards. If they plummet suddenly, it means they’ve spotted carrion.

Vultures are our friends
, the Gardeners used to teach. They purify the earth. They are God’s necessary dark Angels of bodily dissolution. Imagine how terrible it would be if there were no death!

Do I still believe this? Toby wonders.

Everything is different up close.

The rooftop has some planters, their ornamentals running wild; it has a few fake-wood benches. It used to have a sun canopy for cocktail hour, but that’s been blown away. Toby sits on one of the benches to survey the grounds. She lifts her binoculars, scanning from left to right. The driveway, with its lumirose borders, untidy now as frayed hair-brushes, their purple glow fading in the strengthening light. The western entrance, done in pink adobe-style solarskin, the snarl of tangled cars outside the gate.

The flower beds, choked with sow thistle and burdock, enormous aqua kudzu moths fluttering above them. The fountains, their scallop-shell basins filled with stagnant rainwater. The parking lot with a pink golf cart and two pink AnooYoo Spa minivans, each with its winking-eye logo. There’s a fourth minivan farther along the drive, crashed into a tree: there used to be an arm hanging out of the window, but it’s gone now.

The wide lawns have grown up, tall weeds. There are low irregular mounds beneath the milkweed and fleabane and sorrel, with here and there a swatch of fabric, a glint of bone. That’s where the people fell, the ones who’d been running or staggering across the lawn. Toby had watched from the roof, crouched behind one of the planters, but she hadn’t watched for long. Some of those people had called for help, as if they’d known she was there. But how could she have helped?

The swimming pool has a mottled blanket of algae. Already there are frogs. The herons and the egrets and the peagrets hunt them, at the shallow end. For a while Toby tried to scoop out the small animals that had blundered in and drowned. The luminous green rabbits, the rats, the rakunks, with their striped tails and racoon bandit masks. But now she leaves them alone. Maybe they’ll generate fish, somehow. When the pool is more like a swamp.

Is she thinking of eating these theoretical future fish? Surely not.

Surely not yet.

She turns to the dark encircling wall of trees and vines and fronds and shrubby undergrowth, probing it with her binoculars. It’s from there that any danger might come. But what kind of danger? She can’t imagine.

In the night there are the usual noises: the faraway barking of dogs, the tittering of mice, the water-pipe notes of the crickets, the occasional grumph of a frog. The blood rushing in her ears: katoush, katoush, katoush. A heavy broom sweeping dry leaves.

“Go to sleep,” she says out loud. But she never sleeps well, not since she’s been alone in this building. Sometimes she hears voices — human voices, calling to her in pain. Or the voices of women, the women who used to work here, the anxious women who used to come, for rest and rejuvenation. Splashing in the pool, strolling on the lawns. All the pink voices, soothed and soothing.

Or the voices of the Gardeners, murmuring or singing; or the children laughing together, up on the Edencliff Garden. Adam One, and Nuala, and Burt. Old Pilar, surrounded by her bees. And Zeb. If any one of them is still alive, it must be Zeb: any day now he’ll come walking along the roadway or appear from among the trees.

But he must be dead by now. It’s better to think so. Not to waste hope.

There must be someone else left, though; she can’t be the only one on the planet. There must be others. But friends or foes? If she sees one, how to tell?

She’s prepared. The doors are locked, the windows barred. But even such barriers are no guarantee: every hollow space invites invasion.

Even when she sleeps, she’s listening, as animals do — for a break in the pattern, for an unknown sound, for a silence opening like a crack in rock.

When the small creatures hush their singing, said Adam One, it’s because they’re afraid. You must listen for the sound of their fear.

2

REN

YEAR TWENTY- FIVE, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD

Beware of words. Be careful what you write. Leave no trails.

This is what the Gardeners taught us, when I was a child among them. They told us to depend on memory, because nothing written down could be relied on. The Spirit travels from mouth to mouth, not from thing to thing: books could be burnt, paper crumble away, computers could be destroyed. Only the Spirit lives forever, and the Spirit isn’t a thing.

As for writing, it was dangerous, said the Adams and the Eves, because your enemies could trace you through it, and hunt you down, and use your words to condemn you.

But now that the Waterless Flood has swept over us, any writing I might do is safe enough, because those who would have used it against me are most likely dead. So I can write down anything I want.

What I write is my name, Ren, with an eyebrow pencil, on the wall beside the mirror. I’ve written it a lot of times. Renrenren, like a song. You can forget who you are if you’re alone too much. Amanda told me that.

I can’t see out the window, it’s glass brick. I can’t get out the door, it’s locked on the outside. I still have air though, and water, as long as the solar doesn’t quit. I still have food.

I’m lucky. I’m really very lucky. Count your luck, Amanda used to say. So I do. First, I was lucky to be working here at Scales when the Flood hit. Second, it was even luckier that I was shut up this way in the Sticky Zone, because it kept me safe. I got a rip in my Biofilm Bodyglove — a client got carried away and bit me, right through the green sequins — and I was waiting for my test results. It wasn’t a wet rip with secretions and membranes involved, it was a dry rip near the elbow, so I wasn’t that worried. Still, they checked everything, here at Scales. They had a reputation to keep up: we were known as the cleanest dirty girls in town.

Scales and Tails took care of you, they really did. If you were talent, that is. Good food, a doctor if you needed one, and the tips were great, because the men from the top Corps came here. It was well run, though it was in a seedy area — all the clubs were. That was a matter of image, Mordis would say: seedy was good for business, because unless there’s an edge — something lurid or tawdry, a whiff of sleaze — what separated our brand from the run-of-the-mill product the guy could get at home, with the face cream and the white cotton panties?

Mordis believed in plain speaking. He’d been in the business ever since he was a kid, and when they outlawed the pimps and the street trade — for public health and the safety of women, they said — and rolled everything into SeksMart under CorpSeCorps control, Mordis made the jump, because of his experience. “It’s who you know,” he used to say. “And what you know about them.” Then he’d grin and pat you on the bum — just a friendly pat though, he never took freebies from us. He had ethics.

He was a wiry guy with a shaved head and black, shiny, alert eyes like the heads of ants, and he was easy as long as everything was cool. But he’d stand up for us if the clients got violent. “Nobody hurts my best girls,” he’d say. It was a point of honour with him.

Also he didn’t like waste: we were a valuable asset, he’d say. The cream of the crop. After the SeksMart roll-in, anyone left outside the system was not only illegal but pathetic. A few wrecked, diseased old women wandering the alleyways, practically begging. No man with even a fraction of his brain left would go anywhere near them. “Hazardous waste,” we Scales girls used to call them. We shouldn’t have been so scornful; we should have had compassion. But compassion takes work, and we were young.

That night when the Waterless Flood began, I was waiting for my test results: they kept you locked in the Sticky Zone for weeks, in case you had something contagious. The food came in through the safety-sealed hatchway, plus there was the minifridge with snacks, and the water was filtered, coming in and out both. You had everything you needed, but it got boring in there. You could exercise on the machines, and I did a lot of that, because a trapeze dancer needs to keep in practice.

You could watch TV or old movies, play your music, talk on the phone. Or you could visit the other rooms in Scales on the intercom videoscreens. Sometimes when we were doing plank work we’d wink at the cameras in mid-moan for the benefit of whoever was stuck in the Sticky Zone. We knew where the cameras were hidden, in the snakeskin or featherwork on the ceilings. It was one big family, at Scales, so even when you were in the Sticky Zone, Mordis liked you to pretend you were still participating.

Mordis made me feel so secure. I knew if I was in big trouble I could go to him. There were only a few people in my life like that. Amanda, most of the time. Zeb, sometimes. And Toby. You wouldn’t think it would be Toby — she was so tough and hard — but if you’re drowning, a soft squashy thing is no good to hold on to. You need something more solid.

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