Sunday, January 10, 2010

Margaret Atwood's All-Wet Science Fiction

I love a good apocalypse novel, but from reading the first few dozen pages of Margaret Atwood's new The Year of the Flood, this doesn't make the grade.

Toby is the young girl protagonist who watches out from her building at an abandoned wasteland years after some sort of flood has removed most of the humans from earth (although the animals and plants seem to have done alright). She dreams of other kids she once knew and wonders if she is the only person left on the planet. Apparently, for a time, she worked at a "SeksMart," although I'm not sure if this was before or after the "flood." Actually, I'm not sure if she was a prostitute, a trapeze artist, or a worker at a human-meat burger joint. She could shoot a rifle though, and nails a boar when it encroaches on her garden.

The Year of the Flood seems to be written in a style that captures the current moment of intense environmentalism that society is caught up in, but it's awfully slow and meandering from the start. Apparently, it later details an eco-cult called God's Gardeners, but I didn't have the patience to read on. And, unfortunately, just because Atwood, a member of the Green Party of Canada, has written some good sci-fi over the years (the Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi award winner The Handmaid's Tale) doesn't give her a free pass. She needed to add a little fun to this apocalyptic mix.

Give me Kim Stanley Robinson's end-days fiction any day instead.


  1. So, just so we're clear, you're posting a 'review' of a book you haven't read. Nice.

  2. Why would I continue if the first 30 pages stink? Are you saying it gets considerably better and I should continue on?

  3. I would suggest that either you finish, or you don't post on something that you're ignorant about. Also, if you haven't read Oryx & Crake, this sequel will never make much sense. Judging a book on the first few pages is like judging a movie on the opening scene. Sure, perhaps you get a sense of the direction the director wants to move, but you still have no idea whether or not it is a "good" film. While I think there are parts of "Year of the Flood" that seem forced and are shoehorned to coincide with Oryx & Crake, overall it's a wonderful commentary on a world we're all too close to. We are developing technologies before we're schooled in their use and ethics; we're allowing corporations to control more and more of our lives. If you enjoy Atwood, you'll love this book. If you like a nice post-apocalypse story, pick up Oryx & Crake, and then pick this one up.

  4. I wouldn't say I'm completely ignorant on Atwood, but that's subjective. Anyways, LitnerdinPA, many thanks for your recommendation. Perhaps I'll pick up Oryx & Crake, after I get done with some Jennifer Egan novels, which I'm completely mesmerized by at the moment.