The Year of the Flood

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The Year of the Flood
The Year of the Flood-cover-1stEd-HC.jpeg
First edition cover (Canada)
AuthorMargaret Atwood
Cover artistMaria Carella
GenreSpeculative fiction
PublisherMcClelland & Stewart (Canada)
Bloomsbury Publishing (UK)
Publication date
September 2009 (first edition, hardcover)
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages448 (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN978-0-7475-8516-9 (first edition, hardcover)
Preceded byOryx and Crake 
Followed byMaddAddam 

The Year of the Flood is a novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the second book of her dystopian trilogy, released on September 22, 2009 in Canada and the United States, and on September 7, 2009, in the United Kingdom.[1] The novel was mentioned in numerous newspaper review articles looking forward to notable fiction of 2009.[2][3]

The book focuses on a religious sect called the God's Gardeners, a small community of survivors of the same biological catastrophe depicted in Atwood's earlier novel Oryx and Crake. The earlier novel contained several brief references to the group.

It answers some of the questions of Oryx and Crake, develops and further elaborates upon several of the characters in the first book, and reveals the identity of the three human figures who appear at the end of the earlier book. The final book of the trilogy is MaddAddam.[4]


The Year of the Flood details the events of Oryx and Crake from the perspective of the lower classes in the pleeblands, specifically the God's Gardeners. God's Gardeners are a religious sect that combines some Biblical practices and beliefs with some scientific practices and beliefs. They are vegetarians devoted to honoring and preserving all plant and animal life, and they predict a human species-ending disaster, which they call "The Waterless Flood". This prediction becomes true in a sense, as Crake's viral pandemic destroys human civilization.

The plot follows two characters, Toby and Ren, whose stories intertwine with each other and, at points, with major characters from Oryx and Crake. Much of the story is told through flashbacks with the two main characters separately surviving the apocalypse described in the previous novel, each reminiscing about their time in the God's Gardeners religious movement and the events that led to their current situations.

Toby is a young woman who loses her parents under tragic circumstances that may or may not be due to the corporations, and is forced to live off of the grid in a shady meat burger joint. She soon encounters the unwelcome attentions of Blanco, the psychopathic manager of the chain who has a reputation for sexually assaulting and murdering the women in his employ. The leader of God's Gardeners, Adam One, is looked up to as a charismatic holy man but perceived by outsiders as a cult leader. He saves Toby from Blanco and takes her to the sanctuary of his rooftop garden. Toby becomes an influential member of the gardeners and encounters Ren, a child member of the gardeners.

Ren eventually grows up to become a prostitute and trapeze dancer in the sex-club Scales and Tails, and happens to be locked in a bio-containment unit in the club when the pandemic occurs. Similarly, Toby is barricaded within a luxury spa where she has begun to work following a raid on the gardeners by Blanco and his brutish pals.

Main characters[edit]

  • Ren, a trapeze dancer and prostitute who works at the brothel Scales and Tails, who survives the plague by being isolated in the club's biohazard containment chamber. She previously dated and fell in love with Jimmy (Snowman) in school.
  • Toby, a God's Gardener who goes into hiding, escaping a dangerous stalker by working in a high-end spa.

Oryx, Crake (aka Glenn) and Jimmy appear in minor roles over the course of the book, with the protagonists Ren and Toby unaware that these characters are responsible for the pandemic. While the first book in the series, Oryx and Crake, is told from the perspective of Jimmy/Snowman, The Year of the Flood is told from the point of view of two women, Ren and Toby. [5]

God's Gardeners[edit]

  • Pilar, Eve Six ("the Fungus") – Instructor: Bees and Mycology (Mushrooms)
  • Nuala, Eve Nine ("the Wet Witch") – Seamstress; Instructor: Little kids, Fabric Recycling, Buds and Blooms Choir
  • Rebecca, Eve Eleven (“the Salt and Peppler”) – Cook; Instructor: Culinary Arts
  • Adam One – the charismatic leader of the cult
  • Zeb, Adam Seven ("the Mad Adam") – Instructor: Urban Bloodshed Limitation, Predator-Prey Relationships, Animal Camouflage
  • Burt, Adam Thirteen ("the Knob") – Bernice’s father; Veena’s husband; in charge of Garden Vegetables; Instructor: Wild and Garden Botanicals
  • Bernice – Veena and Burt’s daughter
  • Shackleton (Shackie) – (oldest brother) – named after explorer Ernest Shackleton
  • Crozier (Croze) – (middle brother) – named after explorer Francis Crozier
  • Oates – (youngest brother) - named after explorer Lawrence Oates
  • Lucerne – Ren’s mother
  • Katuro (“the Wrench”) – Water Systems Maintenance; Instructor: Emergency Medical
  • Philo (“the Fog”) – Shackleton, Crozier, and Oates’ stand-in father; Instructor: Meditation
  • Surya – Instructor: Sewing
  • Mugi (“the Muscle”) – Instructor: Mental Arithmetic
  • Marushka Midwife (“the Mucous”) – Instructor: Human Reproductive System, former gynecologist
  • Stuart (“the Screw”) – Furniture maker
  • Veena – Bernice’s mother; Burt’s wife
  • Amanda – Pleebrat that Ren brought home to live with her; Ren's best friend


  • Pleebs: Any non-Corp or non-"affluent" area
  • HelthWyzer Compound: A Corps location where HelthWyzer and its employees reside
  • EdenCliff Rooftop Garden: Home to the God's Gardeners, located in Sewage Lagoon
    • Wellness Clinic
    • Cheese Factory: Where Ren, Lucerne, Zeb, and eventually Amanda live
    • Buenavista Condos: A dilapidated former "luxury" condo where many God's Gardeners (including Bernice and her family) live
  • AnooYoo: A health spa of sorts where women receive "improvements"
  • SecretBurgers: Cheap hamburger chain. The name reflects the fact that the ingredients of the burgers are unknown, and may include human flesh
  • ChickieNobs: Fast food chain. (Chicken meat sliced from a transgenic organism).
  • Happicuppa: Coffee chain.
  • Painball Arena: A facility for condemned criminals, both political and non-political, where Red and Gold teams competed to kill members of the other side
  • Sewage Lagoon: A pleeb area formally known as Willow Acres
  • HelthWyzer High: A high school attended by Ren, Jimmy, and Glenn (aka Crake)
  • Watson-Crick: College for technical "brainiacs" where Glenn attended
  • Martha Graham: A less-competitive humanities college attended by Toby (did not graduate), Ren, and Jimmy
  • SeksMart: A legal brothel corporation
  • Compounds: Where the Corps people live and work (scientists, businessmen, etc.)
  • Tree of Life Materials Exchange: A farmer's market of sorts
  • Scales and Tails: A club where prostitutes, covered in scales, dance and perform trapeze acts for customers
    • Sticky Zone: A quarantine area within Scales and Tails that temporarily houses women suspected of being biologically contaminated
    • Snakepit


  • CorpSeCorps: Corporation Security Corps (notoriously-corrupt private police force)
  • Corporation: In the world of the novel, society is controlled by a small number of powerful corporations
  • NatMart Net: A loose collective of natural producers of goods (the God's Gardeners are a part of this "Net")
  • Pleebmob: Organized criminals that operate within the pleebs
  • God's Gardeners: A pacifist vegetarian cult led by Adam One
  • "affluents": The bourgeoisie
  • Various Street Gangs: Asian Fusions, Blackened Redfish, Lintheads, Tex-Mexes
  • Various Religious Groups: Pure-Heart Brethren Sufis, Ancients of Days, Hare Krishnas, Wolf Isaiahists and Lion Isaiahists (cults who were "at odds over whether it was the lion or the wolf that would lie down with the lamb once the Peaceable Kingdom had arrived)
    • "Rich People Religions": Known Fruits, Petrobaptists


  • Sea/H/Ear Candies: Electronic music player worn inside the ears
  • Carbon Garboil: Source of biofuel that is constituted from biological matter of dubious origin, similar to the way the ingredients used by SecretBurger are unknown
  • Poppy: An opiate used by the God's Gardeners; addictive
  • Bimplants: Breast implants
  • Jellyfish Bracelets: Bracelets with tiny aquariums inside
  • Gro-Op: Growing operation, where skunkweed (a powerful, genetically engineered recreational drug) is produced
  • Violet porta-biolet: Composting toilet
  • Nose cone: A mask worn by the Gardeners to protect from airborne contaminants
  • Wage-slave: Term used in modern day to denote an individual bound to a low-wage occupation
  • Mo'Hair: Multicolored sheep bred to be shorn for use in human wigs
  • Liobam: Lion/lamb hybrid created to fulfill the prophecy of the lion laying down with the lamb
  • Pleebrat: A child living in the Pleebs; usually up to no good
  • Ararat: stockpile of food and supplies, made in preparation for the Waterless Flood
  • SecretBurger: a chain of burger restaurants that serve burgers made from an unknown but dubious mixture of meats
  • Rarity: a chain of restaurants that specializes in serving meat from rare and endangered animals



Atwood's tour to promote the book included choral performances of 14 religious hymns that appear in the book.[6]

Naming rights[edit]

For both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Atwood donated naming rights to characters in the novel to charity auctions. One of the winning bidders was journalist Rebecca Eckler, who paid $7,000 at a benefit for the magazine The Walrus.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The novel was generally well-received; reviewers noted that while the plot was sometimes chaotic,[8] the novel's imperfections meshed well with the flawed reality the book was trying to reflect.[9] The Daily Telegraph commented that "Margaret Atwood is genuinely inventive, rather than merely clever".[8]

In 2010, the novel was longlisted as a candidate for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award,[10] and shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Book Award.

The novel was selected for inclusion in the 2014 edition of CBC Radio's Canada Reads, where it was defended by Stephen Lewis.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood". FantasticFiction. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  2. ^ Pellegrino, Nicky (2009-01-09). "Books to watch for in 2009". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  3. ^ Healy, Madeline. "Smorgasbord of titles awaits readers in 2009". The Courier-Mail. Queensland Newspapers. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
  4. ^ Bromwich, Kathryn (2013-07-14). "Heads Up: MaddAddam". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  5. ^ The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. Guardian. Retrieved 23 July 2013
  6. ^ Heather Mallick, "Here comes the flood"., September 27, 2009.
  7. ^ Rebecca Eckler, "Margaret Atwood didn’t kill me". Maclean's, September 23, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Moore, Caroline (2009-09-10). "The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood: review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2010-12-06.
  9. ^ Winterson, Jeanette (2009-09-17). "Strange New World". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-06.
  10. ^ "A week of literary awards". Edmonton Journal. 2010-11-21. Retrieved 2010-12-06.

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