Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has gotten a lot of press lately since Oprah recommended it and it was made into a movie – and with good reason. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a while; it’s horrifying, yes, but amazing nonetheless. There are several scenes that are so absolutely wretched that I won’t likely forget them for a very long time.
The book is about a man and a boy who are on a journey towards the ocean after an unnamed (probably natural) disaster that killed off almost all of humanity and plant-/animal-life. For some reason they believe that they’ll be saved once they get to the ocean, and the whole time you’re thinking that there probably won’t be anything there, and they probably know it too, but it’s the hope that drives them so you keep telling yourself that it’ll be perfectly all right in the end. It’s an absolutely desolate, nerve-wracking journey that leaves you feeling as desperate as the man and boy.
So I was VERY excited to hear that Margaret Atwood was coming out with a new novel. She is one of my favourite contemporary novelists and I’ve loved almost everything I’ve ever read by her. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve read more of her works than anyone else’s (except maybe Shakespeare).
Anyway, as I said in my last post (over a month ago, yikes!) The Year of the Flood overlaps somewhat with Oryx & Crake. It’s the same scenario but goes back a bit to reveal some of the characters that are marginally important in Oryx & Crake. I especially liked Brenda’s role, which is expanded beyond the briefest of mentions in O&K.
And like O&K, I think The Year of the Flood is brilliant. Atwood simply is a master of language and she can really weave a tale. I think I actually liked Oryx & Crake better, but I liked learning about God’s Gardeners in depth and seeing what they were like. And of course I liked how everything ties in to some of the plot line of O&K.
To be perfectly honest, I love Margaret Atwood but had no intentions of reading Oryx and Crake until I found out her new book is somewhat related to it. I thought, “What a strange name for a book. I shan’t read it!” (Except I probably don’t use the word shan’t in my subconscious. Or outer conscious.) But I’m glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale had always been one of my favourite books of all time, and this was even more grand. There’s something about a good post-apocalyptic science fiction that just gets me.
Oryx and Crake is about a man, Snowman, who lives as a hermit after the initially unexplained destruction of civilization. He lives among (and yet quite separate from) genetically altered docile, human-like creatures, as well as vicious gene-spliced animals which run rampant through the remains of the city. Through a series of flashbacks we begin to learn more about what exactly happened, and about Snowman’s own involvement in the destruction of mankind.
Bottom line: it’s absolutely fabulous. Atwood is so gifted and sometimes really freakin’ scary. She really explores what we’re capable of doing and pushes the boundaries to the extremes – and yet it’s even scarier because her scenarios are never quite too extreme to be impossible. That’s the thing – she calls it speculative fiction because we’re already technically capable of doing a lot of what she depicts, or at least on the direction of it. She just imagines what would happen if we did follow this exact trajectory, and if we allowed ourselves to continue on this path of unhindered consumerism and technological advancements. Basically, Snowman’s world is really our world if we don’t continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is ethical.
Definitely read this book! I just started The Year of the Flood, which takes place in the same time frame as Oryx and Crake.