The Year of the Flood is a dystopian novel that follows two main characters that are connected through a religious group called The God's Gardeners. The group anticipates the coming of a waterless-flood that is going to come and wipe out the human race so that the Earth can heal and rebuild from the destruction and unbalance that humans have caused it. This book is the second in the MaddAdam series though you do not need to read the first book (Oryx and Crake) to read this one. This story has two main characters: Toby and Ren. The plot details different areas of their lives in different time-frames, including what happened to them before they came apart of a religious group called The God's Gardeners, their time in The God's Gardeners and where they are after the waterless-flood has hit the Earth. Each chapter opens with the characters name, what year they are in and usually the corresponding religious name and context that The God's Gardeners have given to the date.
The Gardener's believe that humankind has strayed away from how God wanted us to live on the Earth. Especially with the way the world has become. Corporations now rule everything and are less than moral. They are called the CorpSeCorps. They have used up almost all of the Earth's resources and have erased most of the animal species on the planet. The animal genes that remain are spliced and used to create horrible hybrids that serve human purposes. Food is highly processed and people have stopped asking where it comes from. The most notorious example of this is the burger chain, Secretburger. They will use any protein that they come across to use in their burgers. Even human protein. Hence, the name of the establishment, as you don't ever really know what you're eating. As a result, The God's Gardeners choose to separate themselves and live in the pleeblands, the slums. The pleeblands and are inhabited by some very desolate people: homeless, refugees and criminals which make living there very dangerous. The God's Gardeners are strict vegans and condemn anything material made. They recycle everything, grow their own food and teach their children how to live in one with God. The children takes courses and learn essentials skills in classes taught the leaders of the groups, the Adams and Eves (Bees & Mycology,Culinary Arts, Wild and Garden Botanicals, Urban Bloodshed Limitation, Predator-Prey Relationships, Animal Camouflage, Fabric Recycling, Emergency Medical, Meditation). They all wear the same garb, which is a blue dress of recycled material. They also do not use any technology and refuse to write anything down because anything that is written can be used against them. They stay under the radar from the CorpSeCorps because they pose no real threat and the The God's Gardeners have nothing that the CorpSeCorps want.
Members of The God's Gardeners are given ranks once they have been with group long enough. The creator is Adam One. In between the chapters of Ren and Toby, are some of Adam One's sermons followed by a hymn from The God's Gardeners Oral Hymn book. Other important characters in the book are Pilar (Eve Six), who will teach Toby about bees and mushrooms. Toby will eventually take Pilar's place when she passes away from cancer. Zeb is Adam Seven, "Mad Adam", who will eventually stray off and start his own group just before the waterless-flood hits which, takes The God's Gardeners passive teachings and makes them more active and forceful. Lucerne, is Zeb's partner and Ren's mother. Rebecca is Eve Eleven who Toby initially meets when working at SecretBurger. Bernice, is Ren's childhood friend. Amanda, is a pleebland that Ren finds as a child and brings her back to The God's Gardeners to join them.
The book opens with where Toby and Ren are in the year of the flood, 2025. Toby has camped out in what used to be spa called Anooyoo. Ren is stuck inside a strip and prostitute joint she used to work at called Scales and Tails and she is the only person alive there. She is inside the “sticky zone” which is a locked down area when girls are being tested to ensure that they are clean of STI's. The next chapters detail their past.
Toby is twelve years old and living in a small house with her mother and father. Her father teaches her how to shoot a gun, which is risky, as the CorpSeCorps have outlawed all firearms. Many people still keep one stashed away in the dirt of their backyards like Toby's family. Toby's mother works for HelthWyzer, which is a pharmaceutical company owned and run by CorpSeCorps. Despite talking all of their supplements and vitamins, Toby's mother becomes very sick and eventually dies despite all of the effort and sacrifice that Toby's father made. At the point of her death, Toby is old enough to be in college. Her death brings her home to be with her father and mourn her mother. Toby discovers her father in the garage of their family home, dead. He has shot himself. Toby knows that this situation looks terrible as it shows that they own a firearm, which can have dire consequences so she decides to bury her father and rid herself of her identity to protect herself. Those without identities cannot get standard or respectable work, so she finds herself as an employee of SecretBurger.
At SecretBurger she meets Rebecca, who warns her about their manager, Blanco. He likes to select pretty girls from his staff and make them his personal sex slave. He is also known for his violence and ensuring that no one ever escapes him. Rebecca warns her that she should leave as Blanco has his eyes on her but she does not listen. Rebecca disappears shortly after this. Blanco begins to torment Toby. One day a group of Gardeners come in and start preaching about the sins of eating meet. The leader, you learn later is Zeb. Blanco threatens them and demands that they leave but Zeb and the group refuse. Zeb beats up Blanco and asks Toby to come with them. Toby smashes Blanco in the head on her way out with the Gardeners, an action Blanco is not likely to forget. None of his girls ever gets a way.
Zeb and his group were sent by Rebecca to save Toby, as when she disappeared it was to join the Gardeners. This is how Toby comes to be a part of the Gardeners. At this time Ren, who is 10 years old at the time, is also a part of the Gardeners and is with her with her mother Lucerne, who left Ren's father to be with Zeb. Lucerne is clingy and prone to jealously with Zeb and their relationship is not stable. Ren dreams about the life she lost when her mother took her to the Gardeners and is still very interested in some of the things that are a part of that world. One day when she is out collecting wine to turn into vinegar with Bernice, she meets Amanda. Amanda at this point is a refugee living in the pleeblands. Amanda's dress attire and material things intrigue Ren. Ren invites her to come back to become a Gardener and Amanda agrees. The two of them become very good friends, much to Bernice's dismay.
Toby is constantly worried that Blanco is going to find her one day and kill her after what she did to him. Adam One assures her that he is in Painball now after murdering a woman associated with CorpSeCorps. Painball is a place CorpSeCorps puts their criminals. The prisoners are forced on teams, Red and Gold, and are made to fight each other in order to survive. The people that survive and make it out of Painball end up becoming fairly messed up individuals. Blanco is released and reinstated back into Painball several times throughout the book and Toby only feels safe when he is in there.
The climax of the novel comes when Amanda and Ren believe the Bernice's dad is having an affair with another woman. Bernice's mother, believing the affair to be true, turns her husband into the CorpSeCorps for illegally growing marijuana and tells the Adams and Eves that he was doing this behind their back to earn money. Around the same time, Lucerne decides that she has finally had it with Zeb and she decides to leave the Gardeners to return to her old life. Ren does not want to leave Amanda but she goes with her mother. Ren is a teenager at this point.
Once reintegrated with her old life, Ren finds it difficult to leave the Gardener ways. She struggles to eat meat and her father is distant. She does however enjoy certain material things and gets on well in her new school. She meets Jimmy and falls in love with him but he does not return her love. Jimmy breaks her heart and Ren finds it difficult to move forward. At graduation, she finds out that she is, unfortunately going to the same college as Jimmy. Jimmy proves to be a sleaze and spends his time drinking and sleeping with a lot of women and breaking their hearts with the same sob story he told Ren back when they were in high school.
Back at the Gardeners, Blanco notices Toby in the pleeblands one day after he was released from Painball and attempts an attack on her and the Gardeners. At this point Adam One decides that it is safer for Toby and the Gardeners to go to one of their safe houses. This process includes changing Toby's skin colour and hair to hide her. She is then placed as an employee at the AnooYoo Spa and told to wait until she hears from the Gardeners about what to do next. Shortly after Zeb contacts her and lets her know about the MaddAdam group that he has started and that he would like her to be a part of.
After the incident with the grow-op and the attack that Blanco made on the Gardeners the CorpSeCorps start to pay attention to the Gardeners and the group has to disperse and leave their homes. At this time Amanda runs off to become an artist and Bernice is killed in a protest.
Lucerne decides to leave her husband and re-marry. By doing so, she tells Ren that she is no longer responsible for her and can no longer look after her financially. Ren knows now that she is on her own and cannot stay in college any longer. She ends up finding work at the same spa as Toby, though she does not recognize her at first. Once Toby reveals herself, she says that she can get Ren in contact with Amanda, whom she has not seen in years now. Ren and Amanda meet up and it is a joyful meeting until Ren learns that Amanda is now dating Jimmy. Ren does not let Amanda know about her feelings or that Jimmy had broken her heart previously but she is extremely distraught. It is at this time that she knows she needs to go out on her own and leave her past behind. She quits the spa and goes to work at Scales and Tails as a dancer and prostitute.
This is when the waterless-flood hits; a disease wipes out most of the population. Ren is safe because she is in the sticky zone when it happens and Toby is safe as she is alone at the spa. The two of them do not know that the each other are alive or if they are the only people left on Earth. Amanda finds Ren, along with some remaining friends they had at the Gardeners. They set out in search of food, safety and to see if Toby or any of the other Gardeners are still alive.
The conclusion is reached when the main characters finally find peace with their past, Toby with Blanco and Ren with Jimmy. They stand united as group in hopes of rebuilding the human race as God intended.
Best part of story, including ending:
This book depicts some very real issues that we currently face in the world and because of this that added a huge sense of reality to this fictional dystopian novel. I really enjoyed the idea of the Gardeners. Some of their basic teachings have some great value.
Best scene in story:
The scene where Toby finally gets revenge on Blanco. It's graphic and her choice interferes with the teachings of the Gardeners but she goes through with it anyway.
Opinion about the main character:
The main characters are so far from perfect. They have deep flaws that shape the conflicts and outcome of the novel.