Unexpectedly, Atwood does not pick up in Year of the Flood where Oryx and Crake ended. Rather, she covers the same time-line as she did in her first novel, only this time she gives us a different viewpoint with which to greet the end of the world. In her first book, we learned that the world’s corporations had hired brilliant men—Crake among them—to bioengineer humanity in their own image—materialist, hedonistic, narcissistic. The profits have never been so good, the disparities between rich and poor never so vast, the environmental, cultural and moral damage never so horrific. When Crake’s conscience leads him to create both a deadly and unstoppable virus and a genetically “perfect” replacement for the doomed human species, we are left with nothing but speculation as to whether there are any survivors but the child-like Crakers species and their caretaker Jimmy (aka “Snowman”)
The flood in the 2nd book’s title refers to the same bio-engineered plague unleashed—like Noah’s flood—to wipe the earth clean of what Crake had determined to be an unsalveagable civilization. But in her second volume, Atwood re-tells the story of the flood from the standpoint of two desperate survivors who are counting down their days in isolation while watching the jungle, the genetically-altered pigoons and liobams and rampaging Painball killers come ever closer. We also learn about God’s Gardener’s, a pacifist cult which worships nature and has predicted the flood all along. We become intimate with the many Adams and Eves which lead the cult and who include a variety of non-believers with necessary survival skills.
Our survivors Toby and Ren get lots of billing in this novel, and have histories with a constellation of other colorful characterss, including the “lusty” Zeb, the wise old Pilar, the tough street-wise Amanda, and so on. When everyone crosses paths at the end of volume two, we are at the end of Oryx and Crake again. Jimmy is near death and the Crakers are as strange as ever with their blue penises, luminescent eyes, eerie singing and anti-predator urine. The ground is laid for the end-game novel, in which Atwood can get into more backstories, introduce more violence and romance, and horrify us even further with the potential consequences of our own stupidity.
Looking forward to book three, in hope of spying a future for mankind after all.