Margaret Atwood’s “Year of the Flood” is sort of a sequel to “Oryx & Crake”, but it follows a (mostly) different group of people during the same time frame. I read “Oryx & Crake” last year so I had some idea what to expect coming into this one. And that’s about all I got. Which is not a great thing.
Normally I’m a sucker for a good apocalypse story, but this one hasn’t really captured my attention. There’s a lot about it that makes it seem fake. All the names of future companies and technologies sound like they come straight from bad 1950s sci-fi. Why does every single company name itself with odd phonetic spellings of regular words? Names like “AnooYoo”, “SeksMart”, and “Rejoov” are not clever, they’re tacky, and spoil the world Atwood tries to build.
Even worse, I don’t see much meaning here. There’s nothing that really shows me why everything in the world has gone so poorly, or why everything gets destroyed. I mean, yes, I know why it gets destroyed because of Oryx & Crake, but this side story doesn’t really tell me anything new about this world. It doesn’t give me any insight into why it deserved to be destroyed or how it got to that point, nor is there any interesting exploration on how people in these extreme situations.
Sure, you could read it as a damnation of genetic engineering. But what does that really have to do with anything? Yes, genetic engineering is common and easy in this world. So what? It hasn’t done anything more to destroy the world than anything else. There’s nothing that tells me that its the genetic engineering that went wrong and pushed society to the brink. Sure people used it to create weapons, but it would be much more interesting if the well-intentioned engineering is what went wrong. The pigoons are an interesting nemesis, but they’re only there because of the breakdown; they didn’t contribute to it. I suppose this is the basis upon which the idea that this book could change Canada is built, but it will support no weight there.
So really I guess my problem with this book is that I just don’t see the point. It’s poorly written as far as speculative fiction goes, in that it doesn’t create a believable future scenario, and it’s poorly written as far as motivation or purpose goes too. It is not clever in the least, nor is it funny or thrilling (all three adjectives appear on the back of the book).
I am unsure which of this or Cockroach fails more spectacularly. If I had to read one again, though, it would probably be this one, since at least there was a lot more going on here and I might get more out of it a second time through. The Orenda is still the book to beat, though.