The Year of the Flood

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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 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

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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

From Barnes & Noble
Margaret Atwood's novel somehow manages to be both futuristic and primordial. Set in a post-apocalyptic age when most of humanity has been obliterated, The Year of the Flood tracks its two rare, perhaps unique female survivors. Ren, a supple young trapeze dancer who is imprisoned inside a sex, club and Toby, an ex-counter clerk who has become a follower of Adam One, the religious leader who predicted the catastrophic natural disaster. Beyond this mismatched trio are a host of bizarre walk-ons and sideshow characters, not to mention an ominous police state waiting in the wings.
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
From the Publisher
“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: 9780771008443
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.62 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize; and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

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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Introduction

In this long-awaited new novel, Margaret Atwood brilliantly envisions what could happen if we continue on the dangerous path of disrespect for the environment-and for one another. The questions and topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading experience and to generate lively discussion.

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Interviews & Essays

The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
I've never before gone back to a novel and written another novel related to it. Why this time? Partly because so many people asked me what happened right after the end of the 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake. I didn't actually know, but the questions made me think about it. That was one reason. Another was that the core subject matter has continued to preoccupy me.

When Oryx and Crake came out, it seemed to many like science fiction - way out there, too weird to be possible - but in the three years that passed before I began writing The Year of the Flood, the perceived gap between that supposedly unreal future and the harsh one we might very well live through was narrowing fast. What is happening to our world? What can we do to reverse the damage? How long have we got? And, most importantly - what kind of "we"? In other words, what kind of people might undertake the challenge? Dedicated ones-they'd have to be. And unless you believe our planet is worth saving, why bother?

So the question of inspirational belief entered the picture, and once you have a set of beliefs - as distinct from a body of measurable knowledge - you have a religion. The God's Gardeners appear briefly in Oryx and Crake, but in The Year of the Flood, they're central. Like all religions, the Gardeners have their own leader, Adam One appeared. They also have their own honoured saints and martyrs, their special days, their theology. They may look strange and obsessive and even foolish to non-members, but they're serious about what they profess; as are their predecessors, who are with us today. I've found out a great deal about rooftop gardens and urban beekeeping while writing this book!

Another question frequently asked about Oryx and Crake concerned gender. Why was the story told by a man? How would it have been different if the narrator had been a woman? Such questions led me to Ren and Toby, and then to their respective lives, and also to their places of refuge. A high-end sex club and a luxury spa would in fact be quite good locations in which to wait out a pandemic plague: at least you'd have bar snacks, and a lot of clean towels.

In his book, The Art Instinct, Dennis Dobson proposes that our interest in narrative is built in - selected during the very long period the human race spent in the Pleistocene - because any species with the ability to tell stories about both past and future would have an evolutionary edge. Will there be a crocodile in the river tomorrow, as there was last year? If so, better not go there. Speculative fictions about the future, like The Year of the Flood, are narratives of that kind. Where will the crocodiles be? How will we avoid them? What are our chances?

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Reading Group Guide

1. How does the friendship between Amanda and Ren grow, despite their differences and the restrictions they face? They meet as children. Who was your greatest ally when you were that age? What do you think of Ren's treatment of Bernice?

2. What survival skills do the novel's female characters possess? Do they find security or vulnerability at Scales and Tales, the AnooYoo Spa, and within the community of Gardeners? What strength does Pilar find in nature, while Lucerne is drawn to artificial beauty?

3. How do Adam One's motivations compare to Zeb's? In their world, what advantages do men have? Are they really “advantages”?

4. Discuss Toby's parents and their fate. What does their story illustrate about the dangers of an unregulated and corrupt drug industry? What motivates Toby to become a healer?

5. How does Adam One's explanation of creation and the fall of humanity compare to more standard Judeo-Christian ideas? What does he offer his followers, beyond an understanding of the planet and the creatures that inhabit it?

6. Discuss the father figures in Ren's life: her stepfather, Zeb; her biological father, Frank; and eventually Mordis. What did they teach her about being a woman? How did they shape her expectations of Jimmy?

7. As a refugee from Texas, Amanda is an outsider, facing constant risk. Would you have harbored her? Why is Ren so impressed by her?

8. What is the result of a penal system like Painball? How does it influence the citizens' attitude toward crime?

9. Should Toby have honored Pilar's deathbed wish that she become an Eve? How did the lessons in beekeeping serve Toby in other ways as well?

10. Crake's BlyssPlus pill offers many false promises. What are they, and what was Crake really striving for (chapter 73)? If human beings are the greatest problem for the natural world, could they also provide solutions less drastic than Crake's? How?

11. In what ways do the novel's three voices—Toby's, Ren's, and Adam One's—complement one another? What unique perspective is offered in each narration?

12. Explore the lyrics from The God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook. What do they say about the Gardener theology and the nature of their faith? Adam One does not always tell the truth to his congregation. Is well-meant lying ever acceptable?

13. Margaret Atwood's fiction often displays “gallows humor.” Can a thing be dire and funny at the same time? Must we laugh or die?

14. The Year of the Flood covers the same time period as Oryx and Crake, and contains a number of the same characters — (“Snowman,” a student at the Martha Graham Academy and “the last man on earth”) and Glenn (“Crake,” who studied at the Watson-Crick Institute), as well as Bernice, Jimmy's hostile college room-mate, Amanda, a live-in artist girlfriend, Ren (“Brenda,”) whom he remembers briefly in Oryx and Crake as a high-school fling, Jimmy's mother, who runs away to become an activist, and the God's Gardeners, whom he mentions as a fringe green cult. Re-read the final pages of both books. What do you predict for the remaining characters? Should the Gardeners execute the Painballers? Why? Why not? Would you?

15. What parallels did you see between The Year of the Flood and current headlines?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 245 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(109)

4 Star

(74)

3 Star

(32)

2 Star

(15)

1 Star

(15)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 246 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Here comes the (waterless) flood!

    Margaret Atwood's latest book The Year of the Flood is another of her dystopian offerings. It's many years in the future (Atwood never gives an exact date), and humans have finally managed to destroy much in the natural world. Many animal species are extinct, pollution is rampant, weather is out of control, and society is buckling down to live out the days the best they can. Into all this comes the "waterless flood", a disaster that has wiped out nearly all the humans in the world. At least two have survived: Toby, the manager of a high-end spa who has barricaded herself inside; and Ren, a dancer/prostitute who was in the "sticky zone" (a type of sick bay) when the disaster hit. Now, separately, the two have to try to survive in this strange new unpeopled world. Will they ever find each other? And, the bigger question: did anyone else survive?

    I really liked this book; it's not only a great read but very thought-provoking as well. The story is told with flashbacks to Ren and Toby's former lives, which added a lot to the book; it made an interesting contrast to see what things were like before the waterless flood. Toby is tough, smart, and resourceful; and it's always wonderful to see a strong female protaganist (one reason I love Atwood's books). I also thought Atwood did an excellent job of showing how bad things could possibly get on earth in the years to come, without being preachy about it.

    I did have two minor quibbles about the book, which is why I gave it four stars instead of five. The first was the annoyingly cute futuristic names many of the things are given: "Anooyoo", "violet biolet", "SekSmart", "Mo'hairs", "Sea/H/Ear candy", "liobams" (if names will really be this cheesy in the future than the world is indeed in trouble;-)!. Yes, it's a very minor thing, but for some reason it grated on my nerves a bit. The other quibble I can't say without giving away spoilers, but it has to do with some coincidences that happen towards the end of the book. I didn't find these coincidences to be very plausible.

    Minor quibbles non-withstanding, I could barely tear myself away from the pages of this book. I highly recommend it, especially if you like your sci-fi with a mix of great literature.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Dissappointed

    I've got to say first, I'm a fan. A huge one. And Oryx and Crake was just awesome... but this, well, it just didn't cut it for me. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's timing. But it felt like a meander down another author's attempt at her writing. It just didn't hold together or share the sense of solid storytelling I've come to expect from this author. Skip it. Get all the others instead. Buy them twice, they are worth it. Not a loser in the bunch. She's allowed this one I guess.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Completely unengaging.

    I literally read this and felt nothing. The characters are flat, the setting pretentious and cliche, and the plot(?) completely uninteresting. I've liked her books in the past, but this one's a dud.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Perfect for any Atwood fan

    An apocalyptic tale drawing from current events--disease, food production, environmental degradation, socioeconomic segregation, corporate controls, religious fanaticism, etc., etc. Thought-provoking. Fast-paced. Hard to put down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Entertaining and Engrossing

    I read Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood back to back. I had really enjoyed Oryx and Crake, and expected Year of the Flood to be a smooth continuation of the first book, but it is not. I was about a fourth of the way through the second book before I realized and accepted, yea, embraced, the fact that Year of the Flood has a style and focus and engaging characters all its own. The two books should be read in order, but the reader must be open-minded when starting the second book, as it approaches the causes and aftermath of the pandemic (waterless flood) in a totally different but equally entertaining way.
    P.S. About half way through, I was thrilled to see a few of our 'friends' from Oryx and Crake cropping up!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I loved this book

    I can't believe it only has 3 stars! It's been a while since I read Oryx and Crake and I found that was ok because even thought the two books are interwound, you didn't need to remember details from O&C to understand this book. I loved the 2 characters, though Ren at the end coming apart didn't seem true to the character she had been throughout the book. I read this book in 3 days, and enjoyed it. I hope Margaret Atwood comes out with a 3rd installment to this series.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    Read after reading Oryx and Crake

    IT starts off slow but dont give up on it. It picks up and gets more intriguing in the second half. And it finishes where Oryx leave off. If youre afan of dystopia you will like this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    Still not sure what just happened

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2011

    What the ...?

    This book was ridiculous. I cant believe it got so many good reviews. I had to force myself to finish reading it. It did have a pretty interesting plot and i actually did think the characters were really well developed and really started liking some of them. But, some of it was so boring, i started skipping whole sections ( like adam one's sermons on whichever saint day it was ). It could've been so much better, but just turned out to be weird and a huge let down.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2010

    A Cautionary Tale

    This is the tale of a future where science and technology have run amuck. (Ironically, it's also the first book I've read on my Nook.)

    Atwood creates a world that has lost its way and most of its humanity while giving us strong and undaunted characters to root for along the way. Great extrapolation of current issues in ecology, genetics, medicine and more - a story with a message, humor, and even a little hope.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2013

    Apoplectic Apocalypse - Part II!

    Read the the first one first! Then read this one. Then read the third one. And then hope there is a fourth!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 7, 2013

    Book 2 of the MaddAddam trilogy follows a familiar pattern as th

    Book 2 of the MaddAddam trilogy follows a familiar pattern as the first without becoming repetitive. The year of the Flood takes parallel look at the time up until the pandemic which kills nearly everyone on the planet, but the stories cross paths with those from Oryx and Crake on a couple of occasions allowing you to see familiar tales from a new angle. This book has a bit more suspense than book one and offers a harder look at the stark realities of this cruel world, setting up the story for a great end with book 3.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    authors can turn to the dark side very quickly

    Atwood has some were already there to pad a story with the bizzare grafic sex and violence and present the disfunctional as norm and anti hero as more ibteresting it is sad

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 19, 2013

    Not for IPads!!!  I'm sure the book is great but the nook versio

    Not for IPads!!!  I'm sure the book is great but the nook version is unreadable on an iPad - the text overlaps and is distorted on every other page. Don't buy the nook book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    Help!!!!!

    What is the name of the third book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    B & N: Please fix missing page btwn p 170 - 171.

    Missing page btwn p. 170-171.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    my favorite atwood novel yet

    Very engaging and with two complex dfemale characters that inspire interest and empathy which has been rare in cmparison to other margaret atwood novels. While about 50 pages too long, i highly reccommend.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2012

    Fantastic follow up

    I thought this novel did an excellent job following up oryx and crake while being entertaining on its own.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2012

    Very much a 2nd in a trilogy

    Builds on themes from Oryx and Crake but not as dramatic

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 22, 2011

    Highly recommended!

    Dear Ms. Atwood - surely there must be one more book in this 'trilogy'! I read Year of the Flood first, then Oryx and Crake - OMG! Please, please, just a little more! I must read them both again, and soon! Yet, surely there must be more! You are the best - many thanks!
    DebraE

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 246 Customer Reviews

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