In which I worry about my lack of post-apocalyptic survival skills and seriously consider becoming a vegan
Title: The Year of the Flood
Author: Margaret Atwood
What it’s about: The Year of the Flood is the story of two different women who have survived a catastrophic plague that has wiped out much of humanity. Both were members of the God’s Gardeners, a group somewhere between religion, cult, and underground resistance movement that has anticipated an apocalypse-like disaster they call The Waterless Flood. Toby barricades herself into the high-end spa where she once gave rich women herbal wraps and chemical peels. Ren, an exotic dancer, ends up locked in the nightclub’s safe room merely by chance. The two wonder about the fate of those they knew and loved, and try to survive as food runs short and other survivors become violent.
The book is the second in a series, following Oryx and Crake, which described how the plague came to pass. Atwood’s writing is extremely smart and she makes you feel as though this hypothetical world could easily exist. It’s almost frightening how convincing her vision of the future is. For example, let’s imagine that giant pigs were bred to grow human-compatible organs. It’s an idea that’s already floating around, right? Atwood takes it one step further by suggesting that the pigs might grow replacement neural tissue, too. We could use it to cure brain cancer or help a paralyzed man walk again. Ok, I’m with you so far. But, pig body, human neural tissue . . . aren’t we now talking about a new type of sentient being?? One that we’d slaughter to harvest their brain stem?
The book is packed with scary, but provocative ideas like this. In this speculative society, the real has run out, and pretty much everything has to be manufactured . . . hence my momentary consideration of becoming a vegan. The description of chicken meat being synthetically produced really made me want to start eating organic. I even bought organic chicken the last time I went to the grocery store, and it actually did taste better! I think I’m switching.
This book made me want to learn more about: Wild plants. One of the skills the God’s Gardeners cultivate is knowledge of edible and useful plants (in preparation for a Waterless Flood that they believe will renew the Earth). It made me realize that this is really a lost art, but it should be a fundamental survival skill. Currently I limit my foraging to the produce section of my grocery store. I’ve certainly never had to consider what I could eat that grows naturally in my area. But if you think about it, this is a potentially life-saving skill and the kind of knowledge that could very well die out in the next generation. Some might already consider it dead and gone.
If you are interested as well, check out Langdon Cook’s blog Fat of the Land, in which he details his adventures in modern-day foraging, complete with recipes!
Would I recommend? Yes! I love Margaret Atwood and I loved this book! She’s best known for The Handmaid’s Tale and this new book (2009) is very much in the same vein. I would recommend that you read Oryx and Crake first though, just for background information and some characters that appear in both.