|Hey guys, well I thought I’d start my contribution to these forums with some reviews. The first is of The Year of The Flood by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian novel and the sequel to her 2003 novel Oryx and Crake.
Let me start by saying Atwood is one of my favourite authors, and Oryx and Crake is by far my favourite novel so I had high expectations for this book. It lived up to them in some respects, but in others it was far from it. I was hoping for a new story, following the same characters and carrying on from the cliff-hanger ending. What I got was something very different, interesting, at times a little boring but still filled with enough of Atwood’s charm and “nothing is off limits” writing to be a challenging novel worthy of note.
The Year of The Flood is set amid the same disaster which wipes out the human race and quite a few of the minor characters in this novel were major characters in Oryx and Crake. It also ties up the first novel’s cliff-hanger ending. Set in the near future, science has crossed many of the taboo boundaries we are on the verge of at the minute, such as xenotransplantation (the growing of tissue in one animal before it is transplanted to another e.g. pig to human) and the genetic engineering of humans. The world is ruled by ruthless Corporations, driven by money and civilization has generally fallen to become a cesspit of sex, drugs, violence and corruption. Suddenly the world finds it’s self in the grip of a new virulent and horrific pandemic which eradicates the majority of the human race, nicknamed The Waterless Flood by the survivors. Oryx and Crake follows one man, who, unbeknownst to him, was pivotal in the downfall of the human race as he struggles to survive however The Year of The Flood follows two woman who also survived the pandemic.
The power of Oryx and Crake was that it’s message was hidden beneath a fantastic plot, witty writing and ideas just zany enough to grab you but believable enough for you to see the parallels between Atwood’s dystopian future and today that you didn’t feel she was forcing you to agree with her, leaving you to draw your own conclusions as to what Atwood set about achieving with the book. The Year of The Flood’s plot is a little more thin on the ground and as such I felt at times that, at times, the message and themes where much more blatant and a little less stylistically woven amongst the plot. I also feel the lack of plot meant that she relied on vulgarities and “shock tactics” to lash the sparse plot together. That said, it was another riveting read. It allows us to explore the world we got to know in Oryx and Crake much more. We meet some of the characters who were glimpsed in the first novel and find out what happened to them throughout The Waterless Flood.
Atwood is a master of satire, and the book is riddled with it. She knows exactly when and how to use it, but then will straight away oppose it with a really horrific phrase or passage which will force you to pay attention to her message and hook you to carry on reading. It can sometimes be a little disorientating, but it’s a hallmark of Atwood’s recent writing and I love it. The Year of The Flood is at points utterly horrific. Some of the things the characters have to go through is terrifying and gave me nightmares (...aged 21...how sad!) At points it feels justified, but at others I really did feel like it wasn’t required and was either there as a filler, or to distract us from the fact that we are essentially reading a book about exactly the same thing as Oryx and Crake with different characters.
That said, there is a huge difference between the first and second novels for me and that is character development. Most, if not all, of the characters in Oryx and Crake serve little more purpose than to drive the plot. You’ll find it very difficult to attach yourself to any of them, and Atwood will deliberately make sure you can’t, but in The Year of The Flood she takes a different route. As I mentioned before, this novel is less about plot and more about characters. There is still a lot of guess work and sparse detail, as with both of Atwood’s other dystopian novels The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake but the two central female characters seemed much more rounded than normal Atwood creations and, in my opinion, saved this novel from being a sell-out on the back of what is one of the most phenomenal novels I have ever read.
Overall, The Year of The Flood was a good read. It gripped me 90% of the time and it had a real message (if a somewhat repeated one from Oryx and Crake) and I did end up caring for the two main characters and really wanted them to survive. Annoyingly it ends on another cliffhanger, a plot device which I have to say I despise. I do hope that doesn’t mean that she intends to write a third novel in The Oryx and Crake universe to tie up The Year of The Flood. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Handmaids Tale, 1984, Brave New World, Fatherland or Catch 22. It’s a good read, and really interesting. It caught me off guard on quite a few occasions and I didn’t see the end coming but the power of both The Year of The Flood and Oryx and Crake really does come from Atwood’s wit and the ability to construct an outrageously fanciful yet utterly believable, moving, terrifying, funny and thought provoking novel which is also a solemn warning to humanity as a whole; Carry on as we are, not caring for the earth or each other and we could soon find ourselves in this situation.
Not sure if we're allowed to review novels on here, but I felt it was worth sharing! Has anyone else read either this or Oryx and Crake? What did you think?
Last edited on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 12:07 pm by JosephSinclare