My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It wasn’t until I actually started reading Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood that I found out it was in fact a sequel to Oryx and Crake, which I am told is actually a better book. This I didn’t find a hardship, because I did actually like The Year of the Flood. And thankfully, it stands alone from Oryx and Crake since it’s less a true sequel and more a covering of the same events from the points of view of different characters.
Make no mistake, Atwood’s renowned aversion to being associated with the genre aside, this is definitely an SF novel. We’ve got a futuristic setting of indeterminate timeframe, in which a decadent civilization is about to fall. Its apocalypse is, I’m given to understand, covered in more detail in Oryx and Crake; here, instead, we have a character study of two women involved with a religious sect who preach the coming of the Waterless Flood and who are taking steps to try to survive the disaster along with stores of foodstuffs. Toby is one of the so-called “Eves” of God’s Gardeners, drawn into their company despite her own lack of personal conviction, and finding purpose in teaching the children; Ren is one of those children, whose mother eventually flees with her back to the society they’d come from, where Ren eventually becomes an exotic dancer. What happens to both women as the Flood finally occurs forms the overall pattern of the book, winding back and forth between their backstories and on up to the Flood itself.
A lot of this book’s character-driven rather than plot-driven, though, which resulted in the overall plot being rather thin. There are decent sequences all throughout, with interesting periodic bursts of outright action as the Gardeners schism in the years leading up to the Flood. Ultimately though things don’t so much resolve as meander to a halt. I didn’t mind this so much since Atwood’s language and worldbuilding were lovely, but others may find that a problem.
Since this book focuses on a religious sect, be prepared for that to drive a lot of the character motivations; they’re especially forthright in their abhorrence of eating meat, for example. It fit well with the characters for me, though, and seeing how different members of the Gardeners reacted to their own tenets provided a substantial amount of the character conflicts.
Overall I found this a good, solid read and am looking forward to checking out Oryx and Crake. Four stars.