Margaret Atwood's new novel is set in the same imaginary space as Oryx and Crake but told from the point of view of a minor character in the first book and of a senior member of the religious group "Gods Gardeners," mentioned only in passing in the first book. The Year of the Flood gives a rounder, fuller view of the imaginary but plausible future that Atwood has created for us. Having read Oryx and Crake first, it was easier for me to follow, although I think it would be a less confusing read, even without knowing the basic premise from the start.
Atwood has extrapolated on climate change, genetic engineering, privatization of government functions and corporate irresponsibility and immunity, all trends we can see today, to create the distopian future of The Year of the Flood. Her two narrators are Ren, the former girlfriend of Jimmy, aka Snowman from Oryx and Crake and Toby, a senior member of God's Gardeners.
Gods Gardeners are an eco-religious communal group, growing there own food in a rooftop garden on top of one of the buildings they occupy in the middle of the urban chaos of a "plebe," the word Atwood uses to describe a city outside of the walled and gated communities where the wealthy corporate executives live, under the protection of CorpSeCorps, the Corporate Security Corps, which has become the privatized police, army, courts and prison administration of Atwood's unnamed future nation.
Atwood goes to some length fleshing out God's Gardeners, their theology and rituals, including the words to hymns, which end each chapter. There is a CD of these songs available through Atwood's website. One amusing aspect is their saints days. Like Roman Catholicism, Gods Gardeners structure their calendar around a list of saints. Francis of Assisi is one, but most are people like Rachel Carson, Al Gore and Jacques Cousteau. Euell Gibbons gets a whole week.
Through the stories told by Ren and Toby, Atwood fills in the missing parts of Oryx and Crake. We learn that there is a connection between God's Gardeners and MaddAdam, the online game/eco-terrorist group and that Glenn/Crake, who formed MaddAdam and created the plague, known to the Gardeners as the Waterless Flood, was inspired by the Gardener's doomsday prophecy to create the plague and the genetically altered post-humans that he believes should inherit the Earth from us.
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