When picking up a book by a well-known writer, there is a certain amount of pressure for a reviewer. I WANT to love this book, because I'm SUPPOSED to love this book. What if I don't? Does that mean I don't get it? Could it mean that it's over my head? Does that mean I had better take up blogging about photography?
I was panicking during the first 100 pages of Margaret Atwood's new book, which was being praised as a masterpiece before it was even released. What is this? Is it science fiction? Is this an alternate universe? What is dystopian literature anyway? Was Atwood high when she wrote this book? Should I be high while reading this book? What the hell is a "violet biolet"? I took a deep breath, put my note cards down, and just let myself fall into this book. Once I did that, I really enjoyed it.
One thing I figured out is even though The Year of the Flood is not the second book of a series, there are characters who make an appearance from her earlier work, Oryx and Crake, which took place in a section of the world in which The Year of the Flood is set. I am told, if you have already read and enjoyed Oryx and Crake, you'll love The Year of the Flood.
For those of you who, like me, have not read Oryx and Crake, this book was a mind freak. There were so many layers to this book, I could write a dissertation if I had the space. I am new to dystopian literature, and it was a fascinating introduction.
The actual Year of the "waterless flood" is Year 25. Our two main characters are Ren, who is the narrator of her chapters, and Toby, whose story is told from the 3rd person. Atwood not only flips back and forth between these two characters' perspectives, she also takes her readers between Year 25 and the years leading up to Year 25. Eventually, the stories of the two women, and the world they are in, are intertwined and the full story comes together.
The method in which the story is written was masterful, but the actual story is what I found so compelling. It's not that far off from what could actually happen in our world. There is a "waterless flood" or massive epidemic that kills off most of the population. Whether or not the epidemic was created in a lab is unknown, but assumed. Even if the epidemic was not intentional, certain illnesses were purposefully given to test subjects who had thought they were taking vitamin supplements. (Just a thought like that could make a person a little paranoid in the year 2009.) Within this story is a cult of sorts, God's Gardeners, which believes in a pure way of life, not using too much energy, eating only from the earth and not from the Corporation's labs and they somehow survive. Years and years earlier, they would have been considered a part of the "green" movement. Since the majority of the early world had ignored that green movement, the world they are left with is polluted, society is collapsing on itself, and many of the animal species are extinct.
Makes you think.
So, The Year of the Flood was unlike anything I had ever read before. Good or bad? I think I have to fall on the side of good. Really good. This was a cool book, I am thrilled to have been introduced to another amazing writer. It's never too late, and you're never too far out of the loop as a reader to try out a new writer or a new genre.
One more thing: A "violet biolet" is the futuristic term for a toilet.
About the Book:
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Printing edition (September 22, 2009)