The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood in the second book within the MaddAddam trilogy which is a dystopian series of which I read the first book, which is Oryx and Crake for college last year and posted about here; https://emlinian.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/oryx-and-crake-margaret-atwood/ a year ago. This post is going to have spoilers for that book throughout as I first want to start talking about the end of Oryx and Crake; the book finishes with Snowman/Jimmy finding more humans and wondering what to do which was a massive cliffhanger and made me want to read the next book. Due to this I was pretty disappointed when the second book did not follow on from this point but instead explored the background of the other humans, I don’t know if it was purely because of this but I didn’t really enjoy the first section of this book, it wasn’t bad but I wasn’t really invested in the story, I just wanted to know what happened next with Jimmy so it wasn’t quite as interesting. I felt the book picked up when there was the event with Pilar, which I think you should know what I’m talking about if you have read it as this was the introduction of us really getting inside Toby and Ren’s heads as Ren grew up and things changed for Toby as well as the idea that even this community of which they are a part of is flawed and corrupted in some ways.

I thought the whole idea of their rooftop community was strange and I’m not really sure if I like it or not, I love the idea of them hiding out on a rooftop garden and staying out of the corrupted world other than to make use of things such as how they recycle the alcohol into vinegar but as you read on they seem more and more fake; with the leaders keeping secrets from everyone else. It’s going to get into actual spoilers for this book now as a large reason I felt it seemed very faked was because of the computer that the Gardeners had and how it seemed like this then led onto Jeb and the others playing around with Extinctathon and how by extension they led themselves to their own downfalls. I am curious as to how the other Gardeners got on when the rooftop garden was evacuated and how much of a part Jeb had in the ‘water-less flood’ as that was a pretty big jump. I am also curious about Crake and everything that went on inside his head as his character is developed, and as he is such a mystery.

I loved the link of Ren to Crake and Jimmy within this book and how this affected the story as I didn’t make any connections with the names straight away but to see how Ren fitted into the story of the first book and getting a different viewpoint on Crake was really interesting. The thing is that this book is showing a world so bad that even the purest Gardeners can be bad and so you have to actually question whether what Crake did was so bad after all; he killed so many and ruined the lives of those who did survive by tearing them away from their communities, their loved ones and their lives but is this new world worth it in the end? Obviously it’s not a good idea or something anyone wants to happen but seeing how the Gardeners act and what their decrees are, it makes you at least understand and that is pretty amazing in writing terms. I am hoping there is more of Crake’s motives and justifications within the last book but I also really want to see what comes next after them Jimmy meeting up with Ren, Toby and co. I would recommend this book but I’d say you want to be aware beforehand that it doesn’t carry on from the end of the last one as that was what I really wanted to see. I think that’s because the world within the MaddAddam trilogy is just a very much more corrupt version of ours, it is the idea of what we could become, and when given that you want to see the possibility of what could happen after all of that.

My next book post will be on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as I am now officially a university student and that is one of the books on my reading list for the year which I want to get ahead on so that I can have a chance to read some books off of the reading lists too but we will see how that goes!

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The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

I have no idea what to say about this one. Oryx and Crake was great when I read that and this one was good but not my preferred out of the two. The thing that I think was truly ingenious about the book though was the historical notes at the back, I did not realise that they were not exactly that. This is probably not even something that most people would fall for but after reading them part of me really wondered at the society being some messed up piece of history I had just missed out on ever hearing about. Yes, my history knowledge is terrible but still, I thought that was quite funny, especially as when reading I had actually thought ‘this is something that would never actually happen though’. So yes, I am gullible. But then who cares, I loved those little end notes, it just adds a whole new depth to the story.

Anyway! As for the actual story it was brilliant, the society was pretty creepy, as it’s a part of America cut off from the rest of the world in order to save its population by means of a very power orientated hierarchy, at which women are the bottom. It was creepy because of the way this was done though, through a weird classification of everyone into certain roles. For instance the story follows Offred, a handmaid, and you can see the kind of society this was just from her name, literally meaning of Fred. Her job? To give Fred and his wife a baby. I can’t really say any more on this without ruining the strangeness for anyone who hasn’t read it though.

The relationships between the characters was something that I loved; nobody liked the handmaids really, they were respected slightly because of what they were doing for society but they had absolutely no power, not even allowed to go out alone. How Offred and Ofglen form a relationship I thought was strange as Ofglen is a character who wants change, and yet Offred seems to, but then gradually seems to just accept how things are. The best part for me was Offred and her commander meeting up in secret though, it was strange and it was forbidden, and really it was just kind of crazy.

The whole book was odd. As I said I have no idea what to say about it, but it was good and I would recommend it. Definitely not for younger readers because of the swearing and certain scenes (ahem, chapter 16) but for anyone else go ahead it is very good. My favourite quote was ‘we lived as usual. Everyone does most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual now.’ Beautifully written, go check it out if you haven’t already.

‘Oryx and Crake’ – Margaret Atwood

This book was amazing! I have no idea what I was expecting when I picked this up but I know I was not thinking that it would be this good. The blurb was pretty weird but good, and I was told it was in a sort of hunger games style which is a series I loved and so I figured I would try it out. When someone says hunger games style I was thinking more of a brutal free for all survivalist killing spree, especially as the blurb mentioned the main character lived in a tree and wore just a bed sheet. This however was not quite right, the way that this is similar to hunger games is in the idea of a future dystopia  which at times can be a bit survivalist and slightly brutal. 

I’m struggling to explain how this book works as it is just such a strange read. Basically, there are two times that it flips between, distinguishable by the main character’s name changing between them, so in the first he is Jimmy, a young man living what is classed as an ordinary life in these times, and then there is an event which changes everything. This causes him to change as a character; becoming Snowman, which is the persona living in the tree wearing just a sheet.

The writing of this was amazing as you were made to sympathise with certain characters and turn against others, all while wondering what is was that happened, how everything fits together and how it is to end. It is not until the end of the novel that you find out what it was that happened, which is always a feature I really love in books as it builds up so much curiosity and tension that you don’t want to stop reading. The whole storyline was flawless and I would seriously recommend this to anyone from young adult and up, it was great. There are parts that mean it is aimed for adults but nothing too graphic just things that might make you feel a bit awkward.

My favourite quote was one talking about the events when Jimmy is Snowman but looking back at his life as Jimmy and was; ‘every moment he’s lived in the past few months was dreamed first by Crake. No wonder Crake screamed so much’. Another great quote was; ‘What could he have said or done differently? What change would have altered the course of events? In the big picture, nothing. In the small picture, so much.’