The earth as we know it no longer exists.
The world is an empty place, destroyed by the Waterless Flood. It is a world where gene spliced animals now roam free; animals like liobams (a lion and lamb hybrid) and Mo’Hairs (multi-coloured sheep used for growing hair replacements) and rakunks (racoon and skunk hybrids).
It is no longer a world for humans.
But yet, two people have survived the Waterless Flood: Toby is holed up inside of AnooYoo, a health spa that catered to the rich and Ren, locked inside a safe room inside Scales and Tales, a high end sex club.
While both continue to fight the land and the animals in order to survive, they both reflect on how they arrived at their places in life. Through a series of flashbacks, we’re shown Ren and Toby’s story and we learn about the Gods Gardeners.
Both were involved with The Gods Gardeners, a religious sect that preached love for everything, every plant and every animal. They are a religious sect that is separated from regular life and shunned by society at large.
But The Gods Gardeners is also a sect that hides secrets. People do not have a past, only a future. But secrets, even if they are not spoken, have a way of breaking free, despite our wish to keep them silent…
My meagre plot summary in no way comes close to covering the entirety of the plot in The Year of the Flood. It is an epic, sprawling novel that moves back and forth between past, present and future effortlessly.
There is no way I could convey to you everything that is in this novel. The Year of the Flood touches on a multitude of subjects including science, religion, the environment, love, desire, cannibalism, war and so on. It would at first glance that there is too much that is covered in The Year of the Flood, that Atwood has filled it too full.
But it is not too full; Atwood manages to pull of the impossible and creates an incredible novel that speaks to the heart, to the mind and to the spirit.
I was incredibly excited when I learned that Atwood’s new novel would be a sequel to Oryx and Crake, perhaps my most favourite of Atwood’s novels. I wondered if she’d be able to write as good a novel as Oryx and Crake a second time. Thankfully, The Year of the Flood is better.
Though the future she presents is grim, there is a dark humour present. Her characters are also incredibly realized and well developed. You care about these people from the first page. It is almost impossible not to.
In the end, though, The Year of the Flood wasn’t a sequel. It is more of a companion book to Oryx and Crake. In fact, The Year of the Flood covers the same time period and overlaps with the plot of Oryx and Crake.
Also, there is a balance between the two. In Oryx and Crake, we focused a lot on the relationship between men: between Snowman and his father, Crake and his father, between Crake and Snowman themselves. In The year of the Flood, the characters that Atwood focuses on and develops are female: Toby and Ren, Amanda Payne and more.
It is a story of the love between daughters, between young girls and elder women, a story of friendship between girls that grow into women. Where Oryx and Crake was inherently male, The Year of the Flood is inherently female.
Though The Year of the Flood is told from Ren and Toby’s point of view, the novel is really about the story of three women (Ren, Toby and Amanda) and their will to survive in a cruel and harsh world. It is a story of hope, despite all odds. A story of the power of love.
Once again, Atwood presents us with a dark novel tinged with humour that is unclassifiable. Despite the darkness, I did not want The Year of the Flood to end. Part parable, part science fiction, part speculative fiction, part literary tale, part cautionary myth, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most dark and her most incredible.
Atwood shows us that even in the darkness there is light. And even in the most cruel of situations, there is beauty.