'The Year of the Flood': Margaret Atwood returns to a post-apocalyptic future
Margaret Atwood's new novel, "The Year of the Flood," takes place in a dystopian future in the post-apocalyptic world she first envisioned in "Oryx and Crake." Atwood will appear at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall Seattle.
Special to The Seattle Times
The author of "The Year of the Flood" will read from her book at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Town Hall Seattle. Tickets are $5 — co-sponsored by the Elliott Bay Book Co. (206-624-6600; www.elliottbaybook.com).
"The Year of the Flood"
by Margaret Atwood
Doubleday, 448 pp., $26
In "The Year of the Flood," Canadian author Margaret Atwood returns to the visionary territory of the post-apocalyptic world she first envisioned in "Oryx and Crake" (shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize). That book was a prime example of speculative fiction, with invigorating characters and intriguing situations. Though technically not a sequel, this follow-up companion piece shares some of the same characters and some of the same situations, without being as compelling or engaging as the first novel.
The problems begin with the narrative structure. It takes some effort to work out who is who, what is what, and what's going on, as well as when and where. The story begins in the "derelict city" of a "rearranged world" in the "Year Twenty Five." The rest of the novel is presented in a series of flashback episodes which provide biographical information about two main characters — Toby and Ren — going back to Year Zero, and moving ahead again to Year Twenty Five. Because the story is slow to start, it takes a great deal of time to discover essential details of the plot.
In addition to the tales of Toby and Ren, there are a number of narrative voices scattered throughout. These include an opening oration by Adam One in which he intones about "the Creation, and the Naming of the Animals" in Year Five. Later, he sings about "God's Methodology in Creating Man" (in Year Ten), then "Of the Life Underground" (Year Twelve), and "Of the Fragility of the Universe" (Year Twenty Five). These sermons are often preceded by poems — 14 of them from the God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook (a kind of Common Book of Prayerful Verse or "instructive rhymes" for the community at large). Interspersed throughout the novel, the poems function like a choral commentary on the narratives that follow them.
Toby and Ren may be the only two characters who have survived the "waterless flood" of the title, some undefined cataclysmic event. Neither one knows the other exists. Getting their biographies in alternating chapters becomes a maddening exercise trying to puzzle out if they will ever find out that someone else is alive. Toby, one of God's Gardeners, is trapped in a luxurious spa while Ren, a trapeze dancer, is holding out in an upscale sex club called Scales, known for having the "cleanest dirty girls in town." What suspense is generated by the novel depends on when and whether their destinies intertwine.
As with "Oryx and Crake," Atwood introduces a vocabulary that suits the nature of the novel. There are gene-spliced animals called liobams (lions and sheep) and rakunks (raccoons and skunks). There is an Exfernal World, the BlyssPluss Sex Pill, a SeksMart and CorpSeCorps, and a delectable beverage known as Happicappuchino.
If "The Year of the Flood" is the second in a planned sequence of novels, perhaps it will take its proper place once the series is completed. As it stands, rather than building something new from the world created in "Oryx and Crake," it becomes another cautionary tale warning of the dangers of a "demolished" Human Species if the "spraygunned" planet is not tended to properly.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment