Published in 2009, The Year of the Flood is the second novel in Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam trilogy. In this speculative fiction trilogy, Atwood vividly describes a possible future created by ruthless corporations, disregard for the environment, and growing economic inequality.
The Year of the Flood offers another perspective on the timeline of Oryx and Crake, the trilogy’s original novel. In Oryx and Crake, the mysterious narrator, Snowman, describes his role in the events leading up to the “dry flood”, an airborne disease that obliterated the vast majority of Earth’s population. In The Year of the Flood, Atwood describes the flood’s consequences for two pleebs, members of the lower class, who find refuge from the flood in wildly different places. It introduces the God’s Gardeners, an eco-conscious cult that predicted the environmental disaster. Atwood even intersperses hymns and homilies from the God’s Gardeners within the novel.
The narrative shifts between Toby, a member of God’s Gardeners hiding out in the cult’s refuge, and Ren, a child raised by the God’s Gardeners who becomes a dancer in the sex club Scales and Tails. Both women struggle to survive while attempting to make sense of the disaster’s origins. Like the other two novels in the Madaddam trilogy, The Year of the Flood receives acclaim for its creative and chilling take on near-future environmental disaster. As Jane Ciabattari of NPR writes, Atwood, “has an uncanny ability to spin timely, very plausible and sometimes even terrifyingly prescient tales.” Her plot echoes many concerns about bioengineering and chillingly predicts the environmental and social consequences of unrestrained corporations with little regard for moral and official regulations.
Fellow novelist Ursula K. LeGuin describes Atwood’s work as a “near-future that's half prediction, half satire,” though she criticized Atwood for categorizing The Year of the Flood as speculative fiction, a genre more likely to win literary prizes than science fiction.