Monday, September 21, 2009

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

I'm really happy that Atwood has revisited the dystopian future she described in Oryx and Crake. The Snowman and Crake are on the periphery this time. Her new novel is even better because the central characters are likable women: Toby, a cynical herbalist, and Ren, an innocent exotic dancer. Both were members of the God's Gardeners cult for a significant portion of their lives.

God's Gardeners base their teachings on the Christian bible. They are vegan environmentalists. The Gardeners have a long list of saints: people like Dian Fossey, Rachel Carson, Jacques Cousteau and David Suzuki.

Atwood's sly humour is evident in Adam One's sermons to the Gardeners: "Some say that the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a fig, others prefer a date, yet others a pomegranate. It would have made sense for this foodstuff to have been truly evil - a meat object, such as a beefsteak. Why then a Fruit? Because our Ancestors were fruitivores, without a doubt, and only a Fruit would have tempted them." When a certain Gardener is said to have backslidden, she had "joined an entirely different religion called the Known Fruits, who claimed it was a mark of God's favour to be rich because By their fruits ye shall know them, and fruits meant bank accounts."

Atwood's wit is also seen in the names she creates for products and things, like Anooyoo Spa (where non-surgical beauty treatments like "iguana-based hue changes" are offered) and Mo'Hair sheep (genetically engineered to provide replacement hair transplants for humans). The Secret Burgers! Because Everyone Loves a Secret! franchise keeps costs low by grinding up any animal protein, including the two-legged kind.

The tale is absorbing and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

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