Friday, January 03, 2014

Book: The Year of the Flood

I was looking at the CBC Canada Reads list the other day and noted that I had read none of the five 2014 contenders. This wouldn't do. And, since I'm aiming to read 13 Canadian books before Canada Day, I decided to read at least one on the list.

I started with Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood (2009), a dystopian novel whose narrative steps before and after the 'waterless flood' that at some point in the future has killed most of the world's population. The book's two main characters have survived this flood because they were barricaded from contagion - one in a deserted spa, one in a high-end sex club.

The novel is dark, although its satire is amusing and the narrative is engaging. Atwood hooks the reader in - primarily because you have to read more than two-thirds of the book to find out what this destructive flood is, and even then she is a little vague.

Fear is constant throughout the book - of the impending flood, and then of the chaos and desolation it wrought. There are strange species (i.e. rakunks - a mix of racoons and skunks) that were gene-spliced by mad scientists. There is anarchy in the streets and gated communities controlled by private companies. It is all rather grim and more than a little depressing. At times when reading this book I had the strong urge to move to the country, plant a large garden, and raise bees.

This book is part of a MaddAddam Trilogy, and takes place in parallel with Oryx & Crake (2003).  I haven't read that book and am not sure I want to - although I guess it explains the 'waterless flood' in more detail. But if it's anything like this one, reading it would be to fall down the rabbit hole of the dread that happens when I read too many articles about climate change and environmental destruction. I'm already scared enough, without needing Atwood to throw in crazy scientists and genetic manipulation.

Reading this book is not unlike driving by a road accident - you can't help looking, but feel a little unsettled for doing so.

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