The Year of the Flood: A Novel

By Margaret Atwood
Publisher:Nan A. Talese, (9/22/2009)

Average Rating:
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3.71 out of 5 (7 Clubie's ratings)

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The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers . . .

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away . . .

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.
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Sam's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:12/9/2009

I wish I had one tenth of the imagination of Margaret Atwood. She's created a post-apocalyptic environment that covers all grounds, from microorganism to genetically superior humans, and the way she describes it is dismal and humorous at the same time. The story does not come in chronological order, so it doesn’t give anything away to those who haven’t yet read it to say that a waterless flood wipes out most of the world. That’s right, a WATERLESS flood. There’s an environmentally-friendly, vegetarian religious cult rebelling against a politically corrupt consumer world. There are animals that have been scientifically spliced together, like liobams and rackunks. There are all kinds of new plastic surgery available. In short, it’s the future you hope we won’t actually have to live. Atwood has developed a dialect that is reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. It’s easy to catch on to, and elevates the story to a new level. You can’t help but remember that the story takes place in the future, when neighborhoods are called “pleebs,” and riffraff from the pleebs are called “pleebrats.” I loved figuring out Atwood’s new terminology, and thought that it really completed the story. I loved this book, and really found myself rooting for Toby and Ren, the main characters. Regardless of their eccentricities, I wanted them to survive, and I couldn’t wait to see how the book would end. The Year of the Flood is a page turner for sure!


Unscribbler's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:12/7/2009

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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:11/11/2009


Nick's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:11/1/2009

It's been described as a "dystopic" masterpiece... so I looked up "dystopic" (Not in, so I did not feel as bad), but "dystopia" was. It means: a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding. After reading that, I have to agree that it is a "dystopic masterpiece" after all. After the first 200 pages I could not wait for the stinkin flood to come and kill them all off!... But perhaps that was the point? But then it got better. As you know I like any book that makes you think, and this book does do that. Made me think: could I survive without all my little luxuries - like electricity, is this really where society is heading, would I be as kind to an enemy as Toby, was that kind? And the list went on and on. So for that reason I liked this book. However, do I want to spend 400+ pages reading about a dystopic world? Aghh, not so much. Yet at the same time I'm kind of curious about that "Oryx and Crake" novel that rumor has it ties in. So to sum it up: if you are reading for pleasure - skip this book. For a book club though - great discussion point and conversation can result. But bring the wine to book club too, as you will need to shed the depressing heebie and jeebie you get from the book and get your laugh on instead.

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Reese's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:11/1/2009

The last book I read by Margaret Atwood was the Handmaid’s Tale, which I really enjoyed. It was the talk of the moment for young girls. Since that was forever ago it seems, I was excited to read another futuristic book from Atwood, one being touted as a dsytopic classic. I was disappointed. The title, The Year of the Flood is misleading as the first 3 quarters of the book is mostly back story that Atwood laid out in a very jumpy and mostly boring fashion. While I’m all for information and development….I always felt I was waiting for something to begin or be explained to connect it all together. I will say that I did like the two main characters Toby and Ren. The two female survivors that went beyond their plights to show real strength. Though again, I didn’t fully realize this until I got to the last part of the book when there was a focus on them surviving the “flood”. The God’s Gardeners group had some fascinating parts to it, some good things for discussion…religion, pacifism in a time of turmoil, preservation…but it got watered down with the “ho-hum” of Adam One. There were some other very likable characters (and many not so) that helped keep me reading, a few (some key) who were apparently introduced in her previous book , Oryx and Crake. The Year of the Flood has a descriptor as “not a sequel” but for all the references and mentions that show the level of connection, I think that reading both books would have made The Year of the Flood more enjoyable for me. The good news is, my thoughts on this book are the very reason it is a good book to discuss as I know my fellow Clubies found it more enjoyable!

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Ceci's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:10/31/2009

What if all those “twisted fanatics who combine food extremism with bad fashion sense and a puritanical attitude towards shopping” are correct – what if society and the world as we know it really are on a path towards destruction? The Year of the Flood presumes, “yes” to that question and provides a glimpse into such a future. The future is not as someone once said, plastics. But it might be maggots (not as gruesome as you might think, and also something folks debating the current high costs of health care might want to look into). If you have read Margaret Atwood before, you will recognize many of her trademark touches here – multi-dimensional female characters with sometimes questionable judgment, men who cannot be counted on (though you still cannot help but like them), a sharp eye for the arbitrary nature of societal stratification, and a strong sense of humor that’s used just as often to make a point as it is to make you laugh. I like all of those things. Especially enjoyable in Flood are the complex, imperfect characters and their relationships with each other. The main narrators, Toby and Ren, could easily have been caricatures of female empowerment or victim-hood, but they rarely come across that simple. I loved, for example, that after displaying feats of self-reliance and heroism to save herself and others, Toby learns that a past unrequited love is still alive and can’t help but think, “Did he look for me?” One disappointment I did have, is that about 20 pages in, I realized that Flood was related to Atwood’s previous novel, Oryx and Crake, and after reading on, I realized it’s not just related to that book, it is deeply interconnected with it. While Flood is a satisfying read in itself, I think that the two together provide a richer development of several of the characters, as well as a more fulfilling exploration of questions raised in each book about science, nature and spirituality. I wish that Flood had been explicitly identified as a companion to Oryx and Crake, because I ended up feeling a bit misled, which needlessly undermined my overall enjoyment of the book.

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Book Junky's thoughts on "The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
updated on:10/30/2009

Holy thought provoking, Batman! It's a read that fries the noodle and could make anyone look for a hallucinogenic afterwards. A transportation into a world that is an amazing commentary on life and a disturbingly realistic vision of where we could be headed. There are some interesting interpretations of religion that may turn some people off, but even if you skip all the Adam One rants (I did at the end just cause they were a tad boring), the book's core thoughts are interesting and make this a bewitching read. It is absolutely mesmerizing what a complete and well thought out - down to the details - world Ms. Atwood has created.

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"The Year of the Flood: A Novel"
By Margaret Atwood

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.71 out of 5 (7 Clubie's ratings)

The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

Reader's Guide from BookBundlz

With the recent outbreaks of H1N1 (Swine) Flu, the books theme of the "waterless flood" seems all the more plausible. How did the current events and flu outbreaks effect how you interpreted the writings of the book? Did it make you feel like you need to prepare in any way as the Gardeners have? If so, how?

p. 20 With the Gardeners, "Where you came from, what you'd done before - all of this was irrelevant... Only the Now counted." Although functional for the Gardeners, philosophically there is a lot to take away from that. How would YOUR life change if you did not take into account other's (or your) past, and only interacted with people based on the present?

Bart is able to run a whole pot growing operation under the noses of the Gardeners. Toby surmises he is able to do this because the Gardeners TRUST him. p. 166 "The Gardeners mistrusted everyone in the Exfernal World, but they trusted their own." Has blind trust ever mislead you? Is it blind trust, or denial?

P.166 "At least Burt hadn't done any choirboy molesting, or at least as far as they know. There had been gossip among the children - crude remarks of the kind children made - but they hadn't been about boys. Just girls, and just groping." What the #$&? Just girls? Like somehow that makes it sort of ok!? Is this a commentary on society that it is deemed more acceptable to assault girls/women then it is to assault men/boys?

p. 217 In order to fit in, Ren, offers up stories of her time with the Gardeners for the HelthWyze kid's enjoyment. Mocking the thoughts and ways of the Gardeners that she herself still holds on to - but it makes her liked and popular. Was that a survival skill or was she selling herself out to fit in? Often during adolescence "trying to fit in" can often turn one-time BFFs into hurtful SOBs. Are the teenagers of the world surviving, or selling out the allure of popularity? If it's the fame & popularity they are after, is there anything wrong with that? Is that their way to feel loved?

In this "dystopic world" corporations seem to be running everything and government... I'm not sure where they are? If this book is a foreshadowing of possible things to come, are we seeing the seeds of this kind of existence now? If so, how?

After the flood, Toby decides to cut her nails, then ponders a full on manicure. "But why bother to polish or plump or shed? But why not bother? Either choice is equally pointless." Are they equally pointless? It does not say what she finally decided. What do you think she did? If you were in Toby's shoes, what would you do? Now, being back in our time, is it still pointless either way?

p.239 Toby thinks back to before the flood. To her childhood, when "I'd seen them on the news. But the wrong things were wrong somewhere else. By the time she got to college, the wrongness had moved closer... If other people began to discuss it, you tuned them out, because what they were saying was both so obvious and so unthinkable. We are using up the Earth. It's almost gone." Was that childhood innocence lost, or the inevitable awareness as the problems creep closer and closer to home? What signs have you seen where we may be using up the Earth, or is it just happening somewhere else?

Both Ren and Toby dream of leaving the Gardeners, then both are forced to leave only to find they don't necessarily want to go. Did they just become accustom to their lives and resist change, or is it just appealing to always want what you don't have?

After the flood, Toby hears Adam One like a conscious guide in her head at times. Have you ever met someone who has become your "conscious voice in your head" of sorts?

p. 279 Stuck in the sticky zone, Ren recalls Adam One saying, "If you can't stop the waves, go sailing. Or else, what can't be mended may still be tended. Or else, Without the light, no chance; without the dark, no dance. Which meant that even bad things did some good because they were a challenge and you didn't always know what good effects they might have." Have you found this thought to be true in your life? Do all bad things come with some good?

Ren is given a chance (and does) say she is sorry to Bernice. If you were Ren, given the chance to hide from the person you hurt, or apologize, knowing you would be dredging up the past and you had no desire to be friendly with the person in the future, what would you do?

Ren tries to forget about Jimmy, but somehow could not, as "beating myself up over Jimmy had become a bad habit, like biting your nails." Have you ever had someone in your life that you could not seem to let go of like a bad habit? What advice would you give to Ren to drop the "habit" of thinking about Jimmy?

HelthWyze decided to let the kidnappers kill Ren's dad, vs. buying his freedom with their formulas. Saying, they could stop the bad publicity at the source since, "the media Corps controlled what was news and what wasn't. And the Internet was such a jumble of false and true factoids that no one believed what was on it anymore, or they believed all of it which was the same thing." Is there a ring of truth to that today?

Toby gives her enemy, Blanco, a peaceful death. Was that mercy, or just a killing?

With the reemergence of Jimmy in a demented state, it seems both Ren and Toby's have both been given closure of sorts against those who have wronged them. Is closure necessary to move on? How would it change their lives if Blanco lived, and Jimmy as his old self? Could they still get closure?

There was Saint Jacques Cousteau's Day and Saint Dain Fossey day. If you could make someone a saint, who would it be?

reader's guide from the publisher

1. How does the friendship between Amanda and Ren grow, despite their differences and the restrictions they face? They meet as children. Who was your greatest ally when you were that age? What do you think of Ren's treatment of Bernice?

2. What survival skills do the novel's female characters possess? Do they find security or vulnerability at Scales and Tales, the AnooYoo Spa, and within the community of Gardeners? What strength does Pilar find in nature, while Lucerne is drawn to artificial beauty?

3. How do Adam One's motivations compare to Zeb's? In their world, what advantages do men have? Are they really “advantages”?

4. Discuss Toby's parents and their fate. What does their story illustrate about the dangers of an unregulated and corrupt drug industry? What motivates Toby to become a healer?

5. How does Adam One's explanation of creation and the fall of humanity compare to more standard Judeo-Christian ideas? What does he offer his followers, beyond an understanding of the planet and the creatures that inhabit it?

6. Discuss the father figures in Ren's life: her stepfather, Zeb; her biological father, Frank; and eventually Mordis. What did they teach her about being a woman? How did they shape her expectations of Jimmy?

7. As a refugee from Texas, Amanda is an outsider, facing constant risk. Would you have harbored her? Why is Ren so impressed by her?

8. What is the result of a penal system like Painball? How does it influence the citizens' attitude toward crime?

9. Should Toby have honored Pilar's deathbed wish that she become an Eve? How did the lessons in beekeeping serve Toby in other ways as well?

10. Crake's BlyssPlus pill offers many false promises. What are they, and what was Crake really striving for (chapter 73)? If human beings are the greatest problem for the natural world, could they also provide solutions less drastic than Crake's? How?

11. In what ways do the novel's three voices—Toby's, Ren's, and Adam One's—complement one another? What unique perspective is offered in each narration?

12. Explore the lyrics from The God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook. What do they say about the Gardener theology and the nature of their faith? Adam One does not always tell the truth to his congregation. Is well-meant lying ever acceptable?

13. Margaret Atwood's fiction often displays “gallows humor.” Can a thing be dire and funny at the same time? Must we laugh or die?

14. The Year of the Flood covers the same time period as Oryx and Crake, and contains a number of the same characters — (“Snowman,” a student at the Martha Graham Academy and “the last man on earth”) and Glenn (“Crake,” who studied at the Watson-Crick Institute), as well as Bernice, Jimmy's hostile college room-mate, Amanda, a live-in artist girlfriend, Ren (“Brenda,”) whom he remembers briefly in Oryx and Crake as a high-school fling, Jimmy's mother, who runs away to become an activist, and the God's Gardeners, whom he mentions as a fringe green cult. Re-read the final pages of both books. What do you predict for the remaining characters? Should the Gardeners execute the Painballers? Why? Why not? Would you?

15. What parallels did you see between The Year of the Flood and current headlines?

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions

We are used to hearing about issues like global climatechange and genetic engineering debated by scientists and politicians. Whatrole can fiction like Atwood’s have in helping to inform the choices we makeabout our future?

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Book Description
The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners--a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life--has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers...

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away...

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

Margaret Atwood on The Year of the Flood

I’ve never before gone back to a novel and written another novel related to it. Why this time? Partly because so many people asked me what happened right after the end of the 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake. I didn’t actually know, but the questions made me think about it. That was one reason. Another was that the core subject matter has continued to preoccupy me.

When Oryx and Crake came out, it seemed to many like science fiction--way out there, too weird to be possible--but in the three years that passed before I began writing The Year of the Flood, the perceived gap between that supposedly unreal future and the harsh one we might very well live through was narrowing fast. What is happening to our world? What can we do to reverse the damage? How long have we got? And, most importantly--what kind of "we"? In other words, what kind of people might undertake the challenge? Dedicated ones--they’d have to be. And unless you believe our planet is worth saving, why bother?

So the question of inspirational belief entered the picture, and once you have a set of beliefs--as distinct from a body of measurable knowledge--you have a religion. The God’s Gardeners appear briefly in Oryx and Crake, but in The Year of the Flood, they’re central. Like all religions, the Gardeners have their own leader, Adam One. They also have their own honoured saints and martyrs, their special days, their theology. They may look strange and obsessive and even foolish to non-members, but they’re serious about what they profess; as are their predecessors, who are with us today. I’ve found out a great deal about rooftop gardens and urban beekeeping while writing this book!

Another question frequently asked about Oryx and Crake concerned gender. Why was the story told by a man? How would it have been different if the narrator had been a woman? Such questions led me to Ren and Toby, and then to their respective lives, and also to their places of refuge. A high-end sex club and a luxury spa would in fact be quite good locations in which to wait out a pandemic plague: at least you’d have bar snacks, and a lot of clean towels.

In his book, The Art Instinct, Denis Dutton proposes that our interest in narrative is built in--selected during the very long period the human race spent in the Pleistocene--because any species with the ability to tell stories about both past and future would have an evolutionary edge. Will there be a crocodile in the river tomorrow, as there was last year? If so, better not go there. Speculative fictions about the future, like The Year of the Flood, are narratives of that kind. Where will the crocodiles be? How will we avoid them? What are our chances? --Margaret Atwood

(Photo © George Whiteside)

“Profoundly imagined. . . . This is a gutsy and expansive novel, rich with ideas and conceits.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review 

"Atwood's mischievous, suspenseful, and sagacious dystopian novel follows the trajectory of current environmental debacles to a shattering possible conclusion with passionate concern and arch humor."
Booklist, starred review

“Iconic Canadian author Margaret Atwood has once again written about a distressingly near future in which mass murder may be the best way to save the world.”
Ms. Magazine

“Another stimulating dystopia from this always-provocative author, whose complex, deeply involving characters inhabit a bizarre yet frighteningly believable future.”
Kirkus Reviews 

Praise for Oryx and Crake:

Oyrx and Crake is a cautionary tale about humanity swept downriver on a raft.”
—Mel Gussow, New York Times

“The novel's tantalizing questions will have readers turning the pages of this extraordinary book as fast as humanly possible. . . . Like Orwell and Huxley before her, Atwood takes the world as we know it and suggests scenarios both frightening and all-too-probable . . . 
“Brilliant, provocative, sumptuous and downright terrifying, Oryx and Crake is a sharp-edged down-and-dirty page-turner with a deftly wrought message in Atwood's smart electric language.”
—Victoria Brownworth, Baltimore Sun

“A dystopian novel is not intended as a literal forecast, or even necessarily as a logical extension of our current world. It is simply, and not so simply, a bad dream of our present time, an exquisitely designed horror show in which things are changed from what we do know to a dream version of what we don't. . . . Atwood does Orwell one better . . . A “towering and intrepid new novel.”
—Lorrie Moore, The New Yorker

“A landmark work of speculative fiction, comparable to A Clockwork OrangeBrave New World, and We. Atwood has surpassed herself.” 
Kirkus Reviews

“Chesterton once wrote of the 'thousand romances that lie secreted in The Origin of Species.' Atwood has extracted one of the most hair-raising of them, and one of the most brilliant. . . . A potential dystopian classic.” 
Publishers Weekly 

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Who is it tends the Garden,
The Garden oh so green?

’Twas once the finest Garden
That ever has been seen.

And in it God’s dear Creatures
Did swim and fly and play;

But then came greedy Spoilers,
And killed them all away.

And all the Trees that flourished
And gave us wholesome fruit,

By waves of sand are buried,
Both leaf and branch and root.

And all the shining Water
Is turned to slime and mire,

And all the feathered Birds so bright
Have ceased their joyful choir.

Oh Garden, oh my Garden,
I’ll mourn forevermore

Until the Gardeners arise,
And you to Life restore.

From The God’s Gardeners Oral Hymnbook




In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise. She uses a mop handle for balance: the elevator stopped working some time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, so if she slips and topples there won’t be anyone to pick her up.

As the first heat hits, mist rises from among the swath of trees between her and the derelict city. The air smells faintly of burning, a smell of caramel and tar and rancid barbecues, and the ashy but greasy smell of a garbage-dump fire after it’s been raining. The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef — bleached and colourless, devoid of life.

There still is life, however. Birds chirp; sparrows, they must be. Their small voices are clear and sharp, nails on glass: there’s no longer any sound of traffic to drown them out. Do they notice that quietness, the absence of motors? If so, are they happier? Toby has no idea. Unlike some of the other Gardeners — the more wild-eyed or possibly overdosed ones — she has never been under the illusion that she can converse with birds.

The sun brightens in the east, reddening the blue-grey haze that marks the distant ocean. The vultures roosting on hydro poles fan out their wings to dry them, opening themselves like black umbrellas. One and then another lifts off on the thermals and spirals upwards. If they plummet suddenly, it means they’ve spotted carrion.

Vultures are our friends
, the Gardeners used to teach. They purify the earth. They are God’s necessary dark Angels of bodily dissolution. Imagine how terrible it would be if there were no death!

Do I still believe this? Toby wonders.

Everything is different up close.

The rooftop has some planters, their ornamentals running wild; it has a few fake-wood benches. It used to have a sun canopy for cocktail hour, but that’s been blown away. Toby sits on one of the benches to survey the grounds. She lifts her binoculars, scanning from left to right. The driveway, with its lumirose borders, untidy now as frayed hair-brushes, their purple glow fading in the strengthening light. The western entrance, done in pink adobe-style solarskin, the snarl of tangled cars outside the gate.

The flower beds, choked with sow thistle and burdock, enormous aqua kudzu moths fluttering above them. The fountains, their scallop-shell basins filled with stagnant rainwater. The parking lot with a pink golf cart and two pink AnooYoo Spa minivans, each with its winking-eye logo. There’s a fourth minivan farther along the drive, crashed into a tree: there used to be an arm hanging out of the window, but it’s gone now.

The wide lawns have grown up, tall weeds. There are low irregular mounds beneath the milkweed and fleabane and sorrel, with here and there a swatch of fabric, a glint of bone. That’s where the people fell, the ones who’d been running or staggering across the lawn. Toby had watched from the roof, crouched behind one of the planters, but she hadn’t watched for long. Some of those people had called for help, as if they’d known she was there. But how could she have helped?

The swimming pool has a mottled blanket of algae. Already there are frogs. The herons and the egrets and the peagrets hunt them, at the shallow end. For a while Toby tried to scoop out the small animals that had blundered in and drowned. The luminous green rabbits, the rats, the rakunks, with their striped tails and racoon bandit masks. But now she leaves them alone. Maybe they’ll generate fish, somehow. When the pool is more like a swamp.

Is she thinking of eating these theoretical future fish? Surely not.

Surely not yet.

She turns to the dark encircling wall of trees and vines and fronds and shrubby undergrowth, probing it with her binoculars. It’s from there that any danger might come. But what kind of danger? She can’t imagine.

In the night there are the usual noises: the faraway barking of dogs, the tittering of mice, the water-pipe notes of the crickets, the occasional grumph of a frog. The blood rushing in her ears: katoush, katoush, katoush. A heavy broom sweeping dry leaves.

“Go to sleep,” she says out loud. But she never sleeps well, not since she’s been alone in this building. Sometimes she hears voices — human voices, calling to her in pain. Or the voices of women, the women who used to work here, the anxious women who used to come, for rest and rejuvenation. Splashing in the pool, strolling on the lawns. All the pink voices, soothed and soothing.

Or the voices of the Gardeners, murmuring or singing; or the children laughing together, up on the Edencliff Garden. Adam One, and Nuala, and Burt. Old Pilar, surrounded by her bees. And Zeb. If any one of them is still alive, it must be Zeb: any day now he’ll come walking along the roadway or appear from among the trees.

But he must be dead by now. It’s better to think so. Not to waste hope.

There must be someone else left, though; she can’t be the only one on the planet. There must be others. But friends or foes? If she sees one, how to tell?

She’s prepared. The doors are locked, the windows barred. But even such barriers are no guarantee: every hollow space invites invasion.

Even when she sleeps, she’s listening, as animals do — for a break in the pattern, for an unknown sound, for a silence opening like a crack in rock.

When the small creatures hush their singing, said Adam One, it’s because they’re afraid. You must listen for the sound of their fear.




Beware of words
Be careful what you writeLeave no trails.

This is what the Gardeners taught us, when I was a child among them. They told us to depend on memory, because nothing written down could be relied on. The Spirit travels from mouth to mouth, not from thing to thing: books could be burnt, paper crumble away, computers could be destroyed. Only the Spirit lives forever, and the Spirit isn’t a thing.

As for writing, it was dangerous, said the Adams and the Eves, because your enemies could trace you through it, and hunt you down, and use your words to condemn you.

But now that the Waterless Flood has swept over us, any writing I might do is safe enough, because those who would have used it against me are most likely dead. So I can write down anything I want.

What I write is my name, Ren, with an eyebrow pencil, on the wall beside the mirror. I’ve written it a lot of times. Renrenren, like a song. You can forget who you are if you’re alone too much. Amanda told me that.

I can’t see out the window, it’s glass brick. I can’t get out the door, it’s locked on the outside. I still have air though, and water, as long as the solar doesn’t quit. I still have food.

I’m lucky. I’m really very lucky. Count your luck, Amanda used to say. So I do. First, I was lucky to be working here at Scales when the Flood hit. Second, it was even luckier that I was shut up this way in the Sticky Zone, because it kept me safe. I got a rip in my Biofilm Bodyglove — a client got carried away and bit me, right through the green sequins — and I was waiting for my test results. It wasn’t a wet rip with secretions and membranes involved, it was a dry rip near the elbow, so I wasn’t that worried. Still, they checked everything, here at Scales. They had a reputation to keep up: we were known as the cleanest dirty girls in town.

Scales and Tails took care of you, they really did. If you were talent, that is. Good food, a doctor if you needed one, and the tips were great, because the men from the top Corps came here. It was well run, though it was in a seedy area — all the clubs were. That was a matter of image, Mordis would say: seedy was good for business, because unless there’s an edge — something lurid or tawdry, a whiff of sleaze — what separated our brand from the run-of-the-mill product the guy could get at home, with the face cream and the white cotton panties?

Mordis believed in plain speaking. He’d been in the business ever since he was a kid, and when they outlawed the pimps and the street trade — for public health and the safety of women, they said — and rolled everything into SeksMart under CorpSeCorps control, Mordis made the jump, because of his experience. “It’s who you know,” he used to say. “And what you know about them.” Then he’d grin and pat you on the bum — just a friendly pat though, he never took freebies from us. He had ethics.

He was a wiry guy with a shaved head and black, shiny, alert eyes like the heads of ants, and he was easy as long as everything was cool. But he’d stand up for us if the clients got violent. “Nobody hurts my best girls,” he’d say. It was a point of honour with him.

Also he didn’t like waste... 

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MARGARET ATWOOD is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Her novels include The Handmaid's TaleCat's EyeAlias GraceOryx and Crake, and The Blind Assassin, which won the Man Booker Prize. In 2008 she was awarded Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature. 

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The Year of the Flood

November 2009’s BB Book Club Book Pick:
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

In the Spirit of the Gardner's in the book, we have chosen three organic wines for our "wine off." Though the Gardners did not partake in wine, we hope they will forgive us, as we can not evaluate psychodelic mushrooms or wacky weed legally right now.


Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2007 icon
($15 category)
This easy drinking wine exhibits dark plum, chocolate and a hint of oak. Its a delicious wine that is great by itself but also pairs well with lamb, grilled steak and dark chocolate. Yum!

It barely elbowed its way into the number one spot. But since it was so good on it's own we decided to choose this as the winner. Plus the hints of chocolate really seemed to appeal to the ladies that were helping with the taste testing.

Uncorking Rating:
"Very Uncorkable"


Zaca Mesa Santa Ynez Valley Syrah 2005 icon
($20 or more category)
This dry full-bodied wine exhibits smoky oak, blackberry and espresso and finishes with a long silky finish. We thought this wine tasted better with the accompaniment of food. If the winner was decided on how it paired with food, THIS would get the top vote of the three.

Uncorking Rating:
"Very Uncorkable"

Yalumba Y Series Shiraz + Viognier 2007 icon
($10 category)
A medium bodied Australian wine that has a juicy red fruit flavor with interesting aromatics on the nose. A fruit driven wine has a bright, youthful and slightly earthy taste. An easy drinking wine for any pallet. Bloody good, Mate!

Uncorking Rating:
Uncork it"

No alternates were chosen this month, as none were needed. They were all yummy!
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