The Year of the Flood – Apocalypse Now

Margaret Atwood’s “Year of the Flood” focuses on the story of an environmentalist cult, many of whose members will ultimately survive the plague wreaking havoc, for a variety of reasons.  These people have anticipated this event for so long they’re more prepared than anyone else, or at least the ones that survived the initial epidemic are. This group of people has created their own ideology which melds science and nature woven into the nature of religion, which was really quite intriguing. The reader follows Ren and Toby, both members of the “green cult” called the Gardeners. These two women are from very different background, and have many years separating them. Atwood smartly uses alternating points of view to tell their stories, which was a welcome development as to not let us get confused between the women. Ren’s chapters are told in first person whereas Toby’s are told in third.

The reader can sense Atwood’s contempt for the companies featured (ie CorpSeCorps) utter disregard of the environment and health, just to prove their profit and loss statements. Gerry Canavan suggests in his article, “Apocalypse reminds us that the logic of consumer capitalism is not, in fact, timeless and eternal; there was a time before it, and there will be a time after it.” The constant reminders are throughout “The Year of the Flood” concerning this, creatively in fact, with the names for the companies in addition to the unprovoked opinions from the characters.  He goes on to say, “So-called ‘deep ecology,’ both in and outside science fiction, has long wrestled with precisely this fraught relationship with catastrophe and extinction in its push for a human race with so light an ecological footprint so as to (at the extreme end of its logic) be erased from the planet altogether.”

The world that Atwood created is ruled by corporations, a world that deals death and exhaustion regularly. She showcases how disconnected we are from the planet nourishes us. Atwood shows the reader what could happen if we continue on this course, living in inequality and greed. Canavan also cites Lawrence Buell, “who noted, ‘Apocalypse is the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal.’” This powerfully ties into climate change fiction, and whether or not it can have a change on the discourse the subject, and invoke passionate conversation from a wider audience. Due to the immense popularity of Atwood’s novels, I think this trilogy has a chance to bring these issues to the forefront of discussion.

Reference: Gerry Canavan, “Hope, But Not for Us: Ecological Science Fiction and the End of the World in Margaret Atwood’sOryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood

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