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 reflectit'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
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
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
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.
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
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
“[Written with] energy, inventiveness, and narrative panache. . . . A gripping and visceral book that showcases [Atwood’s] pure storytelling talents.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“[The Year of the Flood] shows the Nobel Prize-worthy Atwood . . . at the pinnacle of her prodigious creative powers.” —Elle
“A heart-pounding thriller.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Leave it to Atwood to find humor in a post-apocalyptic world as she covertly, and brilliantly, addresses questions of how we need to live on an imperiled planet.” —Kansas City Star
“Atwood is funny and clever, such a good writer and real thinker. . . . The Year of the Flood isn’t prophecy, but it is eerily possible.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Timely and gripping. . . . Atwood tells a good story, one filled with suspense and even levity.” —USA Today
“Enthralling. . . . Memorable characters, a tightly controlled pace and shockingly plausible scenes make it fly—to a mysterious, skin-prickling ending.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Atwood renders this civilization and these two lives within it with tenderness and insight, a healthy dread, and a guarded humor.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
“Atwood spins the most arresting alternate mythologies to our hell-bent world. . . . The Year of the Flood is a slap-happy romp through the end times. Stuffed with cornball hymns, genetic mutations worth of Thomas Pynchon and a pharmaceutical company run amok, it reads like dystopia verging on satire. She may be imagining a world in flames, but she’s doing it with a dark cackle.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Thought-provoking, beautifully constructed, and rich with the imaginative flourishes for which [Atwood] is rightly famous. . . . A hugely entertaining and satisfying read.” —The Irish Independent
“Prodigiously imaginative and outrageously funny. . . . Atwood’s wit is biting. . . . Her brilliance dazzles.” —The Plain Dealer
“Heart-pounding, mysterious and surprisingly touching. . . . She enchants us so convincingly that after her spell is over, the ‘real’ world seems temporarily transformed. The Year of the Flood is both a warning and a gift.” —Jane Ciabattari, “Books We Like,” NPR.org
“Atwood is a wry wizard at world-building. . . . Fans . . . should grab a biohazard suit, crawl into a hermetically sealed fallout shelter, and dive right in.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Funny. . . . Entertaining. . . . You fall into her intensely inventive world and find yourself carried happily along.” —Anthony Doerr, Orion Magazine
“Atwood scores a 10.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“Atwood's latest is a fiercely imagined tale of suffering that rivals Job’s. . . . As dark as Atwood's vision may be, the bonds among her women give her work a bittersweet power.” —People
“Richly imagined. . . . Thought-provoking, unexpectedly funny and utterly original.” —The Denver Post
“Engrossing and suspenseful.” —The New York Review of Books
“Riveting. . . . Cunning, droll. . . . The intensity of her apocalyptic fantasy doesn’t prevent Atwood from giving free rein to her peppery and inventive humor. . . . So she courts us with her puckish wit, holds us spellbound with suspense, and then confronts us with harrowing and tragic scenarios.” —The Kansas City Star
“Atwood’s language remains as juicy and colorful as ever. . . . [She] allows her imagination to roam rudely, widely, and vigorously where lesser minds fear to tread.” —Barnes & Noble Review
“Vintage Atwood: It’s artfully edgy, casting a pitiless eye on her fellow creatures. . . . A powerful indictment of the way human beings have long treated the planet and themselves. . . . The book takes big risks.” —Chicago Tribune
“Mesmerizing. . . . Flood's relentlessly fabulous inventions and despondent predictions become almost unbearable, especially told in such gorgeously trenchant prose. In this way, the book recalls Atwood’s 1985 masterpiece, The Handmaid's Tale.” —Time Out New York (five out of five stars)
“Atwood unflinchingly holds aloft the sanctity of life—for all species—and the human quest for love.” —Chicago Sun-Times
“With Atwood’s characteristic brainy humor. . . . The Year of the Flood consistently does what one expects of any work by Margaret Atwood: It entertains, spins out suspense and rewards a reader's basic impulse, all the while subtly and expertly maintaining its literary respectability.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[An] entertaining, often mesmerizing, consciousness-raising novel. . . . This is a work that amuses, informs, enlightens and, remarkably, also challenges its readers to be better persons.” —San Antonio Express-News
“[Atwood] is emerging as literature’s queen of the apocalypse. . . . Fine. . . . Illuminating. . . . Gripping and scary, provocative and quite humorous.” —Associated Press
“A marvelously absorbing novel. . . . Vivid and remarkably drawn.” —The A. V. Club
“[With] Atwood’s trademark wit and clarity of vision.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Atwood's mischievous, suspenseful, and sagacious dystopian novel follows the trajectory of current environmental debacles to a shattering possible conclusion with passionate concern and arch humor.” —Booklist, starred review