SciFi Discussion – The Year of the Flood

On Tuesday 20th November we discussed The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.

Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science, religion, and nature – has long predicted a disaster. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women remain: Ren, a young dancer locked away in a high-end sex club, and Toby, a former God’s Gardener, who barricades herself inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived? Ren’s bio-artist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy policing force of the ruling powers… As Adam One and his beleaguered followers regroup, Ren and Toby emerge into an altered world, where nothing – including the animal life – is predictable.

Did We Like It?

The Year of the Flood Book Cover depicts a sheep perched on a stool

Overall we had a very positive opinion of The Year of the Flood and everybody liked it.
We liked the way in which the characters were surviving in life both before and after the waterless flood.

The mispelt names of the business and research labs were fun, for example the heath spa called AnooYoo and the corporate sponsored police called CorpSeCorps.

The colourful Mo’Hairs were a firm favourite and we particularly liked the description of Croze dressed like Jesus shepherding the Mo’Hairs

We felt that The Year of the Flood was a bit too open ended with a few loose ends untied. Presumably to set up the sequel, called MaddAdam, which is due to be published in 2013. Whilst this book can be read on its own, there is another book, Oryx and Crake, which parallels The Year of the Flood but from the perspective of the characters Jimmy and Glenn.

Hymns from The God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook were featured in the book and can be bought on CD. We weren’t impressed. It was suggested that the Margaret Atwood was having a joke with the hymns. On reflection we decided that there was quite a bit of dark humor in The Year of the Flood, such as the horrific but plausible “Secret Burgers” which it was suggested contained meat from murder victims.

God’s Gardeners

A lot of the story was about the domestic life of the God’s Gardeners, who we saw as a evangelical cult. The leader, Adam One, is very clever and pragmatic often bending the rules when necessary. The other main male character in God’s Gardeners was Zeb, the fit bloke, who had different views to the other God’s Gardeners and was there to get the job done. The focus of the book was on the females however, and the males did not have strong characters.

Toby had an inner calm which we thought made her a strong character and we liked the way in which she developed during the story. She doesn’t see herself as extraordinary, but she was particularly good at surviving after the Waterless flood.

It seemed somewhat strange to us how Ren managed to survive as prostitute since we didn’t really think she was that tough.

We liked Amanda and the way that was able to work other people. Some of the older God’s Gardeners could also see her ability to manipulate.

The Waterless Flood

The Waterless Flood itself was not really discussed that much. The spread of the pandemic was rapid and the story was really about people and survival than about gory details. The disease was not a natural phenomenon, but engineered by renegade scientists and delivered through the BlyssPlus pills. The God’s Gardeners predicted the Waterless Flood as if it were a natural inevitability, but we suspected that Adam One knew what was really going on.

Is it SciFi?

Margaret Atwood claims that she doesn’t write SciFi since her novels do not include “talking squids in outer space.” And there I was thinking that only books about robots were real SciFi!

Whilst The Year of the Flood is mainly about people, it does have a reasonable amount of science in it. This mostly revolves around gene-splicing of two different animals to create a new hybrid animal, for example the Liobams and Mo’hairs. There were also pigs that were said to contain human genes. Perfect humans were also created, however these were not really mentioned much in the story.

How did we rate it?

Instead of using the traditional 1 to 5 approach we rated The Year of the Flood based on the gene splicing of the liobam. At one end of splice is the lamb, a prey animal, in the middle is the liobam splice and at the other end is the lion, the predator. The result was a gene splice containing nearly all lion!

We thought that The Year of the Flood represents a very plausible future.

What do you think of The Year of the Flood? Leave a comment!

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

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Next Sci-Fi Book:

  • January 15th – Reamde by Neal Stephenson

SciFi Books for Following Months:

  • February 19th – Behold the Man by Michael Morcock
  • March 19th – Neverness by David Zindell
  • April 16th – Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  • May 21st – The Truth (Discworld Novel 25) by Terry Pratchett

SciFi Comic

It has been suggested that we read SciFi Comic Y:The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, in collaboration with the Mad Graphic Novel Group.

See you next book!

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