Reviews for Year of the Flood

Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1
*Starred Review* Toby goes up on the roof to survey the still and empty city. Birds are singing, but have any other humans survived the "Waterless Flood," a swift and devastating pandemic? Ren, a younger woman alone in another abandoned building, wonders the same thing. Atwood returns to the decimated world she first explored in Oryx and Crake (2003), paralleling and intersecting the story line. Toby and Ren had found sanctuary among the God's Gardeners, a resistance group that grows their own food and medicinal plants and keeps bees, while perched precariously on the ragged edge of a tyrannical corporate empire dispensing synthetic food, deliberately induced illnesses, and dubious hybrid creatures, such as the liobam--half-lion, half-lamb. Atwood's villains are despicable, while her heroes are thorny, resilient, and contemplative, and their adventures hair-raising. Add to that Atwood's playfully brilliant infusion of scientific knowledge and ecological and ethical insights into the Gardners' lively theology. The holiness of nature is celebrated and the precepts of sustainable living taught in funny and righteous hymns, while saint days honor Rachel Carson, Jacques Cousteau, and Dian Fossey. Atwood's mischievous, suspenseful, and sagacious dystopian novel follows the trajectory of current environmental debacles to a shattering possible conclusion with passionate concern and arch humor. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2009 September
Fall fiction heats up as the temperatures drop

While the end of summer marks the conclusion of the beach-reading season, publishers are saving some of the year’s biggest books for the cooler months. From the return of Robert Langdon and another novel from Nicholas Sparks to the newest novels from literary powerhouses like Audrey Niffenegger, Margaret Atwood and John Irving, this fall is shaping up to be the season of the next big book.

Dan Brown is back

When Dan Brown’s publishers announced the title and on-sale date of the long-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code this spring, fans went absolutely wild. You couldn’t check an online bookseller without being cheerfully encouraged to “Pre-Order Your Copy Today!” And for good reason. To be released on September 15 with a first printing of five million copies, The Lost Symbol is the follow-up to Brown’s record-breaking international bestseller. The new book will once again feature symbologist hero Robert Langdon, this time in a thriller that revolves around the Freemasons, an organization that Brown has called the “oldest fraternity in history.” The book jacket features the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., lit up against the background of a large red wax seal. Embedded in the wax is an unidentifiable symbol. There have long been theories tying the Freemasons to our nation’s capital—including speculation that the streets of Washington, D.C. were planned to physically mirror important Masonic symbols. Does the jacket offer clues to the plot? “Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel,” says Jason Kaufman, Brown’s longtime editor at Doubleday. “This book’s narrative takes place in a 12-hour period, and from the first page, Dan’s readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. The Lost Symbol is full of surprises.” Since the books will no doubt be under lockand- key until the on-sale date, all we can do is wait and wonder. And pre-order, of course.

Familial love and loss

Considered the reigning champ of the contemporary family drama/love story genre, Nicholas Sparks seems to churn out a new bestseller every year. After last year’s The Lucky One, Sparks is back this month with The Last Song. In this, Sparks’ 15th novel, we meet troubled teen Veronica “Ronnie” Miller as her world is falling apart. Still heartbroken and angry about her parents’ divorce three years earlier, Ronnie is furious when her mother decides she should leave their home in New York City and join her now-reclusive father for the summer in Wilmington, North Carolina. Readers who dive into Sparks’ soon-to-be bestseller should count on equal doses of raw emotion, young love, family angst and— ultimately—sweet resolution. A movie version is due in early 2010, and sources say Sparks wrote the novel (and co-wrote the screenplay) with teen queen star Miley Cyrus in mind.

More from The Time Traveler

Six years (and a reported $5 million advance) after her debut smash The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger is back with the September 29 release of Her Fearful Symmetry. The story begins as Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer in London. She has long been estranged from her twin sister, Edie, but nevertheless leaves her London flat to Edie’s twin daughters—Julia and Valentina—who never knew their Aunt Elspeth. Twenty-year-old Julia and Valentina have lived in America their whole lives, and they are intrigued by their aunt’s generosity and a chance at an exciting new life in London. But their inheritance has specific conditions: the twins must live in Elspeth’s apartment together, and they must stay for at least one year; even stranger, Edie and her husband Jack are forbidden to set foot in the flat. The twins will have another roommate in their new London home—the ghost of Aunt Elspeth. While early reviews have not been entirely favorable, readers will have to make up their own minds about this much-hyped spooky story.

Apocalypse now

Another big-name author to return to bookstores in September is the brilliant and inventive Margaret Atwood. Her first full-length novel since 2003’s Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is being hailed as another “dystopic masterpiece.” Of returning to the desolate landscape she mined in Oryx, Atwood explains: “In the three years that passed before I began writing The Year of the Flood, the perceived gap between that supposedly unreal future and the harsh one we might very well live through was narrowing fast. What is happening to our world? What can we do to reverse the damage? How long have we got?” Looks like we’re in for another fascinating—and important—literary treat from the incomparable Atwood.

From father to son

Many John Irving fans were unsure what to make of the author’s last offering, 2005’s Until I Find You. Supposedly his most personal work to date, the novel received mixed reviews and didn’t come close to hitting the sales marks of Irving’s beloved bestsellers. But early readers are buzzing about his October 27 release, Last Night in Twisted River, a dark father/son story and Irving’s 12th novel. In 1954, in a small New Hampshire town, a nervous 12-year-old boy mistakes the local sheriff ’s girlfriend for a wild animal. Tragedy follows, and the boy and his father start a life on the run, traveling from Coos County, New Hampshire to Boston, Vermont, Toronto and back again. At nearly 600 pages, Last Night is being compared to Irving classics like The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany. But as with all pre-publication hype, the proof will be in the literary pudding.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2009 October
Atwood revisits the apocalypse

Oryx & Crake fans rejoice! Margaret Atwood triumphantly returns with The Year of the Flood, in which readers are once more catapulted into the smoking embers of a world that faintly echoes our own. After centuries of rampant moral and environmental exploitation, the Earth has been decimated--perhaps beyond repair--by a "waterless flood," one that comes in the form of a plague and leaves few survivors standing.
The Year of the Flood occurs in parallel with Oryx & Crake, meaning the two books can be read in any order. This time, we trace the fall of the human race through the eyes of two female narrators, Toby and Ren. When the flood hit, these two women were members of God's Gardeners, an organization focused on sustainability, its principles founded in early Christian scripture updated with a modern-day vegan twist. Through interwoven, retrospective narratives, Toby and Ren share how they each came to join the Gardeners, and how they witnessed the eventual crumble and collapse of civilization. Living as they do in a world where healthcare corporations are actively spreading disease so they can profit from providing the cures, prisoners are sentenced to Battle Royale-style death matches in which winners get their freedom, and losers are brutally slaughtered, and the only animals to walk the Earth are genetically engineered splices, it is only too easy to appreciate Atwood's indictment of our own 21st-century world.
At times this skewering can feel heavy-handed, as if the storytelling has taken a backseat to environmental and corporate whistle-blowing, but even so, no one can deny that Atwood's message remains chilling, timely and necessary. For all the portents of doom and destruction caused by our own hands, Atwood is at her very best when she is focusing on the human struggle to survive, despite the odds. Above all else, readers will be moved by Toby and Ren's story; in a strange land, these women feel like family. The Year of the Flood is sure to thrill fans of speculative fiction, while also converting an entirely new wave of Atwood devotees. 
Stephenie Harrison writes from Nashville. 


Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 August #1
Atwood returns to the post-apocalyptic world she imagined in Oryx and Crake (2003, etc.).In the futuristic year Twenty-Five, the world is run by corporations; genetic experiments include splicing animals like lions and lambs; and the environment is increasingly a wasteland. When the viral "waterless flood," long predicted by Adam One of a religious/environmentalist cult called The Gardeners, decimates the world's human population, there are only a few survivors. At the AnooYoo spa, which she has been managing under a pseudonym to hide from a psychopathic sexual stalker, Toby stays alive using the skills she learned as a longtime Gardener, conserving, foraging and hunting when necessary. Across the city, sex worker Ren survives because she happened to be locked in an isolation room at the Scales and Tales strip club when the virus hit. As Ren and Toby each wonder whether she is the only human left alive, both relive the last 15 years, which shaped their individual fates and led to the apocalypse. Ren knew Toby as one of the Eves, female leaders of The Gardeners, with whom she lived as a child while her mother was having an affair with mysterious renegade member Zeb. Eventually Ren and her mother returned to the HelthWyzer Compound; there teenage Ren fell in love and had her heart broken by Jimmy, protagonist of Oryx and Crake. Ren's best friend Amanda, a street kid adopted by The Gardeners, has also survived. She makes her way to Ren, the two join up with members of a splinter group of Gardeners headed by Zeb, and they all head toward AnooYoo. Unfortunately, not only Gardeners have survived. The women confront evil as well as a demented version of perfection developed by Jimmy's crazed-genius friend Crake. Atwood wears her politics on her sleeve, but she doesn't shy away from showing the Gardeners' tendency toward self-righteous foolishness. Another stimulating dystopia from this always-provocative author, whose complex, deeply involving characters inhabit a bizarre yet frighteningly believable future.Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Miami Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 June #1
After ecological disaster hits, trapeze dancer Ren and Toby, leader of a group called God's Gardeners, are the only survivors-except for some scary gene-spliced life forms. No one does dystopia like the author of The Handmaid's Tale; with a ten-city tour and reading group guide. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Reviews 2009 August #1

Never one to rest on her laurels, famed Canadian author Atwood redeems the word sequel with this brilliant return to the nightmarish future first envisioned in Oryx and Crake. Contrary to expectations, the waterless flood, a biological disaster predicted by a fringe religious group, actually arrives. In its wake, the survivors must rely on their wits to get by, all the while reflecting on what went wrong. Atwood wins major style points here for her framing device, the liturgical year of the God's Gardeners sect. Readers who enjoy suspense will also appreciate the story's shifting viewpoint and nonlinear time line, which result in the gradual revelation of key events and character relationships. Atwood's heroines seem uniformly grim and hollow, but one can hardly expect cheerfulness in the face of the apocalypse, and the hardships of their lives both pre- and postflood are moving and disturbing. VERDICT Another win for Atwood, this dystopian fantasy belongs in the hands of every highbrow sf aficionado and anyone else who claims to possess a social conscience. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]--Leigh Anne Vrabel, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 July #3


Reviewed by Marcel Theroux

In her 2002 speculative novel, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood depicted a dystopic planet tumbling toward apocalypse. The world she envisaged was in the throes of catastrophic climate change, its wealthy inhabitants dwelling in sterile secure compounds, its poor ones in the dangerous "pleeblands" of decaying inner cities. Mass extinctions had taken place, while genetic experiments had populated the planet with strange new breeds of animal: liobams, Mo'Hairs, rakunks. At the end of the book, we left its central character, Jimmy, in the aftermath of a devastating man-made plague, as he wondered whether to befriend or attack a ragged band of strangers. The novel seemed complete, closing on a moment of suspense, as though Atwood was content simply to hint at the direction life would now take. In her profoundly imagined new book, The Year of the Flood, she revisits that same world and its catastrophe.

Like Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood begins just after the catastrophe and then tracks back in time over the corrupt and degenerate world that preceded it. But while the first novel focused on the privileged elite in the compounds and the morally bankrupt corporations, The Year of the Flood depicts more of the world of the pleebs, an edgy no-man's land inhabited by criminals, sex workers, dropouts and the few individuals who are trying to resist the grip of the corporations.

The novel centers on the lives of Ren and Toby, female members of a fundamentalist sect of Christian environmentalists, the God's Gardeners. Led by the charismatic Adam One, whose sermons and eco-hymns punctuate the narrative, the God's Gardeners are preparing for life after the prophesied Waterless Flood. Atwood plays some of their religion for laughs: their hymns have a comically bouncing, churchy rhythm, and we learn that both Ren and Toby have been drawn toward the sect for nonreligious reasons. Yet the gentleness and benignity of the Gardeners is a source of hope as well as humor. As absurd as some of their beliefs appear, Atwood seems to be suggesting that they're a better option than the naked materialism of the corporations.

This is a gutsy and expansive novel, rich with ideas and conceits, but overall it's more optimistic than Oryx and Crake. Its characters have a compassion and energy lacking in Jimmy, the wounded and floating lothario at the previous novel's center.

Each novel can be enjoyed independently of the other, but what's perhaps most impressive is the degree of connection between them. Together, they form halves of a single epic. Characters intersect. Plots overlap. Even the tiniest details tessellate into an intricate whole. In the final pages, we catch up with Jimmy once more, as he waits to encounter the strangers. This time around, Atwood commits herself to a dramatic and hopeful denouement that's in keeping with this novel's spirit of redemption.

Marcel Theroux's most recent novel, Far North, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in June.

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