The Year of the Flood
By Margaret Atwood
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall;
Featuring music and lyrics by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber
Ⓟ 2009, Random House Audio
The Year of the Flood is the second title in the MaddAddam Trilogy and a companion piece to Oryx and Crake. The story take place in the year 2050 in which the waterless flood, a viral pandemic, depopulates most of the earth. Toby, an older woman who had, years earlier, been rescued by the Gardeners – a granola-crunchy survivalists group, finds herself holed up in an organic spa when the human apocalypse hits; Ren, a young woman and erstwhile Gardener who came from one of the Helthwyzer compounds – a community fully dependent on science and technology, is quarantined in a room in a strip club and; Adam One, the leader of The Gardeners, finds himself expelled from his Eden – ironically the fringe lifestyle of his cult. Margaret Atwater creates characters with a past and a present in an uncertain future.
The characters’ lives are intertwined with each other and with characters from Oryx and Crake, though the treatment of the three major protagonists in The Year of the Flood are unequal. The lives of Toby and Ren are portrayed as dynamic as each of them attempts to move forwards and/or onwards in the aftermath of the human apocalypse and their pasts; but the life of Adam One is portrayed statically: his struggles are mainly philosophical as he tries to marry his suspect theology with reality. There are hints in his sermons as to what is going on in his life; but he is not grounded in the reality of the present the way the other characters are. His past is limited to the arc of the novel. The question becomes, do each or any of them have what it takes to move beyond the immediacy of the present and into the future? Toby is older, wiser and more experienced than Ren; but she is too old to procreate. Ren is young, fertile optimistic; but soft and still egocentric enough to place her feelings before pragmatic considerations. Adam One is strong in his convictions; but ultimately at what cost? What if being bigger, faster, stronger and smarter aren’t co-equal in the equation for survival? Which variable(s) will save you over the others? And what if it’s a faulty equation to begin with?
The Year of the Flood expands the world that was introduced in Oryx and Crake and there are crossovers that tie up some loose ends from the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy (Yes! We do discover what The Snowman did at the end of O&C!) There is a satisfying sense of closure at the end of TYOTF; though the novel as a whole didn’t “pop” the way Oryx and Crake did. Perhaps it is because the novelty of the world that Margret Atwood first introduced, one of color and exotic forms wore off, only to be replaced my images of squalor. Or maybe it was the narration.
Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNicol and Mark Bramhall narrate from the point-of-perspectives of Toby, Ren and Adam One respectively. Bernadette Dunne gives a solid performance, though one wonders if a couple of the characters wouldn’t have benefited from some ethnic flavor. Katie McNicols shines as a young woman undaunted, though unprepared for the future ahead; but her voicing of other characters seems underdeveloped (e.g. her voice for Zeb seemed at odds with the physical descriptions of him – a bear-like Russian. He came across as sounding not like a bear-like Russian at all.) Mark Bramhall took all his textual cues, performing the role of Adam One with decreasing optimism and certainty; but often sounded more like a charlatan than a charismatic guru. There is performed music after the Adam One sermons, performed by Orville Stoeber. The voices of Mark Bramhall and Orville Stoeber are a close match so there is a sense of continuity; but the music overall is of a 1970’s Church folk style, which if you’re not keen on it, can be irritating. The casting was well-conceived; but somehow each of the narrators fell a little short of completely inhabiting their respective characters. The result is that the listener is reminded that they are listening to a narrative, not experiencing the story.
Not withstanding the narration and the sense that one could stop with the MaddAddam books now, it should be interesting to see where Margaret Atwood takes us in the final installment.
Other Stuff: The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics written by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber) qualifies for:
I borrowed a library CD edition of The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics written by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber) from The Ashland Library (Jackson County Library System in Southern Oregon.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons, companies or organizations that are or may be implied in this post.