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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood [b:Oryx and Crake|46756|Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)|Margaret Atwood|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327896599s/46756.jpg|3143431], the first volume of the MaddAddam Trilogy is one of the best books I read this year (top 5 probably) so reading this "sequel" is a no brainer. The Year of the Flood is not exactly a sequel though, you could read it as a standalone (though I recommend that you read Oryx and Crake first for max enjoyment).The timelines of the two books overlap in most of this volume but it extends a little further by the end of the book. Two of Oryx and Crake's protagonists make cameo appearances here but The Year of the Flood is not about them.

The story is told mainly from two female protagonists' point of view Toby and Ren (yes, Toby is a lady), with the occasional chapters told as announcements by a cult reader called Adam One, always followed with a hymn from "God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook"

Civilization is already in decline at the beginning of The Year of the Flood, with corporations running the country* instead of the government. In contrast to the more privileged central characters of Oryx and Crake both Toby and Ren are plebeians living in the shabby "pleeblands". Soon after they are introduced to the readers they find themselves in the hippy-ish environmentally very friendly God's Gardeners cult (or religious order). The God's Gardeners are preparing for a "waterless flood" which they believe God will cleanse the world with much as he did during Noah's time but without water, so building an Ark would be a complete waste of time and unkind to trees.

The story is narrated in the first and third person presumably to aid the readers in distinguishing the narrative voices. It is also fitting that the more talkative younger character (Ren) should want to narrate her own story. However, Ms. Atwood is such a skilful writer that the entire book could have been told in the first or third person narrative without any confusion. The time line during most of the book is non-linear, the narrative seems to jump back and forth in time until I noticed the pattern of how Atwood has structured her book. In any case her narrative never caused any confusion because the author is well in control of what she is doing (and the year is indicated in the chapter headings).

While reading the book I made a mental note to mention that the characters of Oryx and Crake are much more compelling, but by the end of The Year of the Flood I have come to love the two protagonists and some of the supporting characters (except the villains who we are supposed to hate so I duly hate them). I love how the two main narrative threads start of separately, intersect a bit, separate again and intertwine towards the end. It is an often seen narrative structure but Ms. Atwood did an elegant job of it here.

For someone who claims not to write sci-fi** Margaret Atwood is no slouch at world building and imagined technology and species. I won't describe any of them, they are better discovered while reading the book. Atwood's writing is as beautiful, eloquent and witty as ever; I can't begrudge her wanting to be known as a literary fiction author when she writes like this. My only complaint are the hymns from "God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook" which I lack the faculty to appreciate and I found that they play play hell with the pacing of the book. However, they are very short so they should not deter any potential readers. Hopefully that includes you.

Notes:

* Name of country not indicated.
** Already mentioned in my Oryx and Crake review so I won't carp on about that again.

Rating is probably about 4.5 stars (rounded up to 5 because I'm having a good day), while I think it is very good I find it less compelling than Oryx and Crake. That said the stars rating should not be taken too seriously by reviewers and review readers, they are by nature somewhat arbitrary. We are after all assigning a numerical value to something that can not be accurately measured in units.