On the Cover: In a world driven by shadowy, corrupt corporations and the uncontrolled development of new, gene-spliced life forms, a man-made pandemic occurs, obliterating human life. Two people find they have unexpectedly survived: Ren, a young dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails (the cleanest dirty girls in town), and Toby, solitary and determined, who has barricaded herself inside a luxurious spa, watching and waiting. The women have to decide on their next move–they can’t stay hidden forever. But is anyone else out there?
Why I Chose It: I have always wanted to try reading a Margaret Atwood novel, so when I saw this book at a book sale I snatched it up to give it a try!
What hooked me right away was the world that Atwood created. This world is a futuristic version of our own, but is heavily corrupt and falling apart. The rich spend their days injecting their bodies with various chemical beautifying serums and profiting from corrupt scientific experimentation while the lower classes are left to distract themselves by stealing glittery merchandise and roaming the streets in showboat gangs. The world is not so exaggerated that it becomes mocking, but remains a believable, failed version of our own world. I was caught up in the feel of the setting and really enjoyed being immersed in this world.
An interesting part of the book is that it centers around the idea of religion, with the “Flood” drawing its roots from the Genesis narrative found in the Bible. What intrigued me about Atwood’s story is the role that religion plays in her world. Religions are not often found in Dystopian works, so having main characters be part of a religious group was definitely new to me and kept me interested. It makes sense that various religious groups would emerge as people try to deal with their crumbling society, so I appreciated this element being added in to the story.
I wasn’t entirely happy with the structure of the story. While the pandemic “Flood” takes place at the beginning of the novel, the first three-quarters of the novel is actually back stories for Ren and Toby. On one hand, I really appreciated digging in to these characters and learning so much about them. It added a lot of character development and created really great depth for the two main characters. But in terms of plot, there wasn’t much happening. While the pacing of the story remained solid – it was never slow or dragging – it didn’t really speed up and grab at my attention with intensity. The story simply plodded along through the back story as I awaited the moment where the narrative finally reached the Flood. So while I found the structure of the book interesting, I’m not sure it was the right format for me.
Overall, this was a really great introduction to Margaret Atwood’s writing. There are some really great qualities to her writing, and she’s very creative with her settings and characters. I will definitely be checking out more of Atwood’s work to see what else she can create! Check this one out if you like Dystopians with a science focus, or are curious about the role of religion in a Dystopian setting.
Overall Rating: 3 / 5
World Building: 5 / 5
Setting/Atmosphere: 5 / 5
Plot Development: 2 / 5
Movement/Pacing: 2 / 5
“This was not an ordinary pandemic: it wouldn’t be contained after a few hundred thousand deaths, then obliterated with biotools and bleach. This was the Waterless Flood the Gardeners so often had warned about. It had all the signs: it travelled through the air as if on wings, it burned through cities like fire, spreading germ-ridden mobs, terror, and butchery. The lights were going out everywhere, the news was sporadic: systems were failing as their keepers died. It looked like total breakdown.” p 20
“A massive die-off of the human race was impending, due to overpopulation and wickedness, but the Gardeners exempted themselves: they intended to float above the Waterless Flood, with the aid of the food they were stashing away in the hidden storeplaces they called Ararats. As for the floatation devices in which they would ride out this flood, they themselves would be their own Arks, stored with their own collections of inner animals, or at least the names of those animals. Thus they would survive to replenish the Earth. Or something like that.” p 47
“Toby couldn’t remember being hugged by a child. For the children it must have been a formality, like hugging a distant aunt, but for her it was something she couldn’t define: fuzzy, softly intimate. Like being nuzzled by rabbits. But rabbits from Mars.” p 42