In Oryx and Crake (2003), Margaret Atwood told the story of how Crake created a disease to wipe humans from the earth to make room for a new race of genetic hybrids called “Crakers.” Atwood continues the story in Year of the Flood (2009), which is perhaps better understood as a companion than a sequel to Oryx and Crake. Year of the Flood is told from the perspectives of Ren and Toby, who recount the story of their lives and how they survived the Crake’s apocalyptic pandemic, which they call the “waterless flood.” When Year of the Flood opens, Toby and Ren have both survived Crake’s flood, and it is the twenty-fifth year since the cult God’s Gardeners was formed.
Toby has found shelter in an AnooYoo day spa. She is quite resourceful and has managed to cultivate a garden and hoard supplies. However, her survival depends on her ability to continue feeding herself. Toby’s garden is under attack from pigoons, genetically modified pigs that are very intelligent. Toby must also concentrate to minimize the effects of cabin fever, especially after she sees the hybrid Crakers from Oryx and Crake. Although readers of the companion novel know these beings are a reality, Toby determines that she is hallucinating.
Meanwhile, Ren is trapped in the Sticky Zone, a sealed-off control room at the upscale strip club Skins and Tails. Ren spends the days eating food that is refrigerated, thanks to the club’s solar energy panels. Although she is passing the time exercising and listening to natural sounds outside, she will not be able to escape until someone arrives to enter the password on the door. Considering that all but a few human beings have died from the waterless flood, her salvation seems unlikely. However, she hopes that her childhood friend Amanda Payne has survived.
Toby has not had an easy life. Her father was unable to pay for her mother’s medication and hospital care, and he kills himself after his wife’s death while Toby is at home. Toby is afraid of the corporate police, CorpSeCorps, and buries her father and his rifle in the backyard and goes underground. Unfortunately, there are few places to work without proper identification. Toby soon finds herself selling her hair and her eggs (a process that leaves her barren) before ending up in Secret Burgers, a mob-run chain of restaurants selling burgers that contain secret animal protein—the secret animal ranging from rats to cats to humans. At Secret Burger, Toby is sexually abused by her boss, Blanco, and it is only when a group of God’s Gardeners come to the restaurant that she is able to escape him.
Toby joins God’s Gardeners. Although she is at first put off by their creed, she makes a home for herself. The Gardeners seem to have strange beliefs, and their religion strives to unite ecological and scientific knowledge with the teachings of the Bible. In fact, their leader, Adam One, was once a scientist who studied epidemics. He and his followers predict that a “waterless flood” will drown the human population, so they prepare “Ararats” that contain food and supplies for after the flood hits. Over time, Toby discovers that the Gardeners have a great deal of knowledge about how to survive.
Two years after Toby’s arrival, Ren comes to the Gardeners because her mother leaves a corporate compound. Ren’s mother begins dating Zeb, one of the Adams on the Gardener’s council of Adams and Eves. Although his official designation is “Adam Seven,” the kids call Zeb “Mad Adam.” Although Toby does not subscribe to every aspect of the Gardener’s creed, she comes to understand its benefits in a way Ren does not. Ren finds life with the Gardeners dull, and she envies children who are living in poverty for their shiny, stolen clothing.
Ren befriends one of these...
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