The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood (2009) is not a sequel to Oryx and Crake, but the story takes place in the same period with some of the same people (who are minor characters in the other book). I loved Oryx and Crake, especially the setting, and looked forward to The Year of the Flood.

It didn’t disappoint, but I didn’t find it as good as Oryx and Crake (I think a direct comparison between the books is warranted). Oryx and Crake was the story of Jimmy, who is (maybe) the only survivor of a virus epidemic. In that book, there is a bit about Jimmy in the current time, but a lot of the story is about Jimmy growing up and meeting Crake and Oryx, and about the events leading up to the epidemic.

The Year of the Flood refers (biblically) to the epidemic, as it is seen as a waterless flood by God’s Gardeners, a religious sect that is opposing the environmentally destructive consumerism of their era. They grow vegetables in roof gardens and are against killing (and eating) animals.

I am not keen on reading about religious groups, although the main character, Toby, wasn’t really a believer. She joined the sect to be safe from her boss at SecretBurgers (that sells cheap burgers with secret (i.e., dodgy) ingredients).

The other main character was Ren (Brenda), whom we follow from being part of the sect, to living in a Corporation area. People who work for the Corporations (such as Ren’s father) get protection, housing and are considered rich.

The book alternates between Toby and Ren and I found that a bit confusing. Their characters weren’t different enough so I sometimes had to check whom I was reading about. Also, the time period in which a chapter took place confused me – for instance, originally I thought Ren and Toby were of similar age, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know, I got confused.

In both stories we read about the current time, when the Flood has happened not so long ago, and go back in time to get a background on both women, and to find out how they ended up where they were when the Flood happened.

Towards the end of the book, things get more familiar, when characters from Oryx and Crake are mentioned, and the book ends just a little bit (a day or so) after the ending of Oryx and Crake, with some clarity about what was happening there in the end.

It was a good book, but sometimes confusing, and I wasn’t interested to read about the sect much (especially the preaches from Adam One and the songs they were singing). And a few too many of the characters we read (and care) about stay alive after the Flood whilst not many others do. A little too convenient. Rating: 4/5

The Crysalids by John Wyndham

The Crysalids by John Wyndham This book from 1955 is the original YA dystopian novel, at least in my eyes. It is just as good as the modern books and it reminded me a bit of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

After an apocalypse many hundreds of years ago, the world of David and his friends and family is very small. They live in Labrador, and only know that beyond the world they live in are the Fringes where the Deviations live, and further away are the Badlands, which are so bad, that no one could live there. The people from the Fringes sometimes come to raid for food.

David’s father is a very religious man. He is a farmer who is very careful to check that his crops and animals (and children!) are exactly as God wanted them to be. If any deviations are found, crops are burned and animals killed. Humans should be the exact image of God, with 10 toes, 10 fingers, 2 hands, etc.

One day David meets Sophie, a girl he doesn’t know. She’s got her foot stuck between some rocks and when David helps her by removing her shoe, he sees that she has 6 toes on each foot. Back in the cottage, her parents swear him to silence, as Sophie would be dropped into the Fringes if her deviation was made public.

Then David realizes the trouble of being different. He himself can talk with his cousin by thought images (like mind reading), which is not standard either. Some more kids turn out to be like that and when they grow up they find that they have a serious problem. They try and live with the norms but fear they will be found out. Then one day the decision of whether to stay or go is taken for them…

I found this a great book! It was only short and that was a pity, I would have loved to learn more about the world David and his friends live in. The story ended a little too well, maybe. Rating: 5/5

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake

This book (2003) is a re-read for me. I want to read Atwood’s newest book The Year of the Flood but since it is related to (but not quite a sequel of) Oryx and Crake, I decided to read that one again first.

Last time I liked the book, but didn’t love it. This time I loved it! I think it’s brilliant, a clever story, interesting, full of good ideas.

In the story, Snowman, who was called Jimmy before he got into the current situation, tries to survive near the sea as the only human that is still alive. Every day, some creatures who seem to be mutated humans, come and talk to him about Oryx and Crake, whom they consider a sort of deities. They see Snowman as a mediator between them and Crake in particular.

The world is empty of people with only some remnants of the past, such as sunglasses, a knife, a rare tin of soy sausages and very little else to eat. Snowman is starving and he knows it.

He thinks back of the past, when he became friends with Crake and later also with Oryx. During the story he leaves the area he lives in to go looking for food. So, the story is a combination of what happened in the past and what’s happening in the current time, which come together towards the end of the book.

What is especially interesting about the book is that the current situation is the result not just of a recent disaster but also of climatological changes that have been taking place over a number of years. In fact, when Snowman was young, already the world looked different from ours. However, the actual apocalypse only took place more recently.

If you like dystopia, this book is a must. It’s quite an easy read (not like YA-dystopian books, but compared to other books for adults). I found it very interesting to read. 5/5 stars!

The Running Man by Stephen King

The Running Man by Stephen King A dystopian novel (1982) in which society has almost totally been split between the haves and the have-nots. The latter live in squalor, on the “other” side of the river, are generally unemployed with very little state benefit and living in areas where gangs rule.

Ben Richards has a sick daughter. They can’t afford medicines for her and she gets more and more ill every day. Although his wife is willing to prostitute herself for some extra income, Richards has other ideas.

For weeks he has been watching Free-Vee, a government tv channel that almost constantly broadcasts quizzes and other shows where ordinary people can win money. Against the wishes of his wife Richards decides to become a candidate for one of the shows.

The show he is selected for is called The Running Man and were he to win (which no one has so far managed) he would earn one billion dollars. Losing means ending up dead. In the show, he is set on the loose with a team of hunters going after him. They, as well as any other officer of the law, have the authority to kill him when the find him (without being provoked). He has to survive a set number of days to win the game.

An interesting chase follows, in which Richards meets other marginals of society.

I found the book very compelling as well as an easy read. The story was well thought-out and the choices Richards made during his run mostly seem to make sense.

There was maybe a little more violence than I would have liked but that was unavoidable given the plot. A good read for my dystopian challenge. Rating 4.5/5.

Extra: See also my review of Duma Key by Stephen King.

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