Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Year of the Flood


If you regularly read my blog then you know how much I loved Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (see my review). In fact, I listed it as one of my ten best of 2009. I was eager to read the second part of this Maddaddam trilogy, The Year of the Flood. I was expecting to love this book but surprise, surprise,...I didn't. 

The book can very well stand on its own as it's not a sequel. It takes place at the same time as Oryx and Crake and actually runs parallel to the latter but this time focusing on a different cast of characters. Jimmy, Oryx and Crake are very minor players in this one and we soon realise that the stars of The Year of the Flood also had bit parts in Oryx and Crake. Although I completely forgot who they were. Both books are about a futuristic world where a global man-made virus leads to millions of deaths thus leaving very few people left in a devastated world.

The Year of the Flood tells the story of this global disaster in flashback form from the points of view of Toby and Ren, both members of the ecological and vegetarian cult, the Gardeners. In fact most of the book is set in the Gardeners world, where we learn about their customs and beliefs, their saint days, their hymns. I didn't find Toby and Ren to be particularly interesting characters and I found some of the habits of the Gardeners to be quite tiresome. Atwood also places several hymns in the book and while at first it was interesting it became tedious after a while. It also seemed a bit unbelievable that most of the people left on the planet knew each other at some point in their lives before the catastrophe. Everyone seems to be an ex-lover, ex-friend or ex-Gardener. This was too much of a coincidence even for a novel.

I'm so disappointed that I didn't like this book as much as the first though of course I will definitely look out for part three of the trilogy. I hope that it will all somehow tie together in the end or will it just be from the point of view of another cast of characters? I wonder. Don't get me wrong...Atwood is still a brilliant and amazing writer and her prose is completely engaging. This just isn't one of her best.

21 comments:

  1. I hadn't realised that this was a sequel to Oryx and Crake. I have mixed feelings about Atwood - some of her books I love, and the other ones, mainly the sci-fi I am less keen on. So I'm not sure that this one hugely appeals.

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  2. I'm sorry you didn't like this one. I attempted to read it earlier this year but didn't get very far before I put it down. I figured it was because I hadn't read Oryx and Crake. It's still on my list of books to try again one day.

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  3. I wouldn't consider myself Atwood's biggest fan, but I will say that I actually like this one better than Oryx & Crake. I found the story more human, which I appreciated, and I just felt it was more coherent as a whole. That said, I often think that Atwood sometimes drops her narrative thread in order to preach to her readers about the various ills plaguing our world, and that I find extremely tiresome.

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  4. So sorry to read that you were disappointed. i have not read this yet but an a huge Margaret Attwood fan generally.

    thanks for sharing

    Hannah

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  5. I'm sorry you didn't like it all that much :( I hope the third installment will tie it all together for you. I can't wait for it to come out!

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  6. That's disappointing. I have Oryx and Crake on my shelf waiting to be read; and I won a copy of The Year of the Flood, so I can read it afterward. Hmmm. I'm thinking I might wait until this summer to read them both. I love Atwood's work, so I'm glad you mentioned that though this book was disappointing, it was still engaging. Thanks for the honesty! Cheers!

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  7. I really loved Atwood's The Hand Maidens Tale-I have looked all over the GMA for Oryx and Crake with no luck-might have to order it-great review

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  8. I am sorry you didn't like the book, I hope no.3 works for you :)

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  9. It is so disappointing when you grab a book by an author you love and that you are expecting to read and fall in love again, and it turns out to not be a good read. But as you said Atwood is still a fantastic author. Guess they can't always be on their game.

    Loved your review though.

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  10. Isn't it always such a disappointment when an author you enjoy doesn't deliver what you wanted? I felt the same with A S Byatt and The Children's Book. I tend to enjoy Margaret Atwood but haven't read Oryx and Crake yet so I'm not sure how I'll fare with these more 'sci fi' plots.

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  11. I'm so sorry to hear this was a bit of a let down for you. I adore Atwood, but I've yet to read either this or Oryx and Crake. I'll do my best not to approach this one with too high expectations.

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  12. I felt very similar to you about this one. It's good , just not great. I was not aware this was to be a trilogy! Any information on Book 3?

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  13. It has been SO long since I read Oryx & Crake so I am glad this on works as a stand alone. I definitely plan on reading it.

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  14. @Steph - It did seem like Atwood was preaching in The Year of the Flood and that's what I found quite tiresome. It seems that she shares many of the beliefs of the Gardeners.
    @Nadia - I would definitely start with Oryx and Crake if I were you.
    @Nymeth - I think you will love Oryx and Crake.
    @Tara - No information on Book 3 yet but it took quite a number of years between book 1 and 2 so I don't think it's appearing anytime soon.

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  15. I have Oryx and Crake on my shelf to read first since I like to read things in order if I can. I've definitely heard mixed reviews of The Year of the Flood.

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  16. I felt very similar to you with this one - really loved O&C but this one just didn't hit the mark for me. Like you though I will still read the third one when it comes out.

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  17. Mrs. B: First let me state my bias: I love Margaret Atwood. Would would you agree that this Atwood, which disappointed you on some levels, is still worth reading and shouldn't put off someone contemplating reading it? (How's that for trying to put words in your mouth?)

    Also, in general I do not like science fiction, but find Atwood writes her "speculative fiction" so well that I get over my challenges with the genre.

    If you can't already tell, I might be somewhat irrational when it comes to people not loving Atwood unconditionally.

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  18. @Thomas - of course I still think this Atwood is worth reading (anything by Atwood is)... but I think it would be best to start with Oryx and Crake. I found that more accessible and much more captivating...in fact I loved it. And I do love Margaret Atwood in case you didn't already know. Please check out my review for Oryx where I gush about Atwood. She is indeed brilliant and deserves a Nobel prize.

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  19. Hear that, all of you that haven't read Atwood yet, or Oryx and Crake...Mrs B loves her!

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  20. I actually responded very differently to this one and think that I would rather have read this as my introduction to this world than O&C (although, having read TYOTF now, I do want to re-read O&C).

    The characters in O&C were harder for me to connect with although I know they had to be that way given their experiences.

    I did get the sense that the author shares *some* of the Gardeners' beliefs, but because some of the group's members question and challenge their belief system, and point out the inconsistencies and gaps in some of their theories and philosophies, I never felt as though I was being preached to.

    I think I'll wait to re-read O&C for the release of the third book; by then it'll be time for a re-read of TYOTF too, because I have a terrible memory so I'll have forgotten most of it as well by then!

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  21. Blimey. Having read them both i have realised that I am a Gardener. Totally get where all that stuff came from and found myself nodding appreciatively throughout Year of the Flood.

    Loved both books but found myself puzzled reading YOTF - found myself going back to O&C to find out about Ren....and where she was mentioned in that

    Cannot wait for the 3rd installment

    Agree with other commenters that it is too far fetched that the only surviviors all knew each other! of course the end of YOTF must be Adam One or the MaddAdams marching towards them?

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