Like her earlier novel Oryx and Crake, published in 2003, Margaret Atwood’s new book is about a global pandemic that wipes out almost the entire world population. But The Year of the Flood is not a sequel to Oryx and Crake. Instead, it explores the pandemic from the perspective of two women, Ren and Toby, who – like Jimmy, the protagonist in Oryx and Crake – are miraculously saved from infection. As in the earlier book, the story backtracks from the present, with its problems of survival in a world without power or easily available food, to trace the biographies of the central characters.
The novel takes place somewhere in North America, possibly in the late twenty-first century, in a society in thrall to scientific innovation. The wealthy live in gated compounds owned by top secret agricultural corporations and biotech companies with names like OrganInc Farms and HelthWyzer, protected by the dreaded