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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

The Year Of The Flood: By Margaret Atwood

I’ve just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s latest novel:

The Year Of The Flood
434 pages. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
New York /Toronto/ London /Sydney /Auckland
Copyright@2009 by O.W.Toad, ltd.
ISBN 978-0-385-528877-1

This book is not an easy read. To those of us who are science fiction aficionados, this is a work of science fiction. However, Atwood denies she writes sci-fi, but rather “speculative fiction.” Whatever we call it, the novel paints a picture of the future that is terribly bleak. The major characters are: Toby, Ren, and Amanda;  Adam One and the Gardeners;  and the CorpSeCorps, a brutal police-style organization, which controls society for the Corporations. There are male characters, but they are not developed well ––– they are brutal or ineffectual or evilly manipulative, and all unable to love. They play their roles, but nothing else.The three female characters ––– Toby, Ren, and Amanda ––– are fully portrayed. Their friendship and loyalties are what drive the story.
Genetic engineering has run amok in this time that Atwood creates. We are exposed to green rabbits, pigs with human brain tissue, sheep bred with human hair in many different colors to be used as whole-head transplants, rakunks, and liobams ––– a cross between a lion and a lamb who will willingly rip out anyone’s throat.
We don’t know where the story takes place, what the time is and what era, and other aspects of life such as whether there is any collective order other than the CorpSeCorps. A flood is to descend on humanity. We don’t know what it is, how it affects humans, and why it occurs in year 25 (whenever that is). But we know the flood is some kind of epidemic, that it is a “dry flood” and has been predicted for many years by Adam One and the Gardeners.
The novel is not a sequel to Atwood’s previous novel, Oryx and Crake. Rather, it is a prequel ––– what has gone before to produce the equally unappetizing dystopia of the earlier novel, which is later in time.
As usual, Atwood’s command of a flowing literary style helps overcome some of the stark images she invokes. The dystopia she paints for us is cold and brutal ––– but the friendships and loyalties of the three women, her main characters, allows us to hope that the future will not be so terribly bleak.
I highly recommend this provocative, highly imaginative book. It will challenge the reader. And that’s what a great novel will do.

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