Year 25October 20, 2009
Look, the first time I read this serious misconception in a review of The Year of the Flood, I sighed and moved on. But then last night, I read the exact same wrong thing, and I literally lost about 25 minutes of sleep over it. I can’t find the first review anymore (I could have sworn it was in the New York Times, but I can’t find it), but the second was in the New York Review of Books. (The article is online, but it’s subscription only.) In the NY Review, Diane Johnson explains that “The narrative alternates between the present story of Toby and that of Ren twenty-five years after the onset of the Waterless Flood, told in flashbacks.”
I’m going to say it right here: NONE of Atwood’s new book takes place 25 years after the disease that wiped out humanity. Year 25 IS the year of the flood. Year 0 was when the God’s Gardeners were founded. What really gets me is that in the NY Review article, Johnson also makes a crack about how difficult it is to follow the timing, and how it’s not really worth it in the end. It’s not that hard. Atwood explains it, right on page 60:
Year One, Garden just began; Year Two, still new; Year Three, Pilar started bees; Year Fou, Burt came in the door; Year Five, Toby snatched alive; Year Six, Katuro in the mix; Year Seen, Zeb came to our heaven.
Given that all of these events took place before the waterless flood, what we know is that Year 25 just happens to occur 25 years after the founding of the Gardeners. The “present day” action that occurs in the book occurs a few months after the flood.
Plenty of other reviewers have gotten this right, so it just seems so weird to me that two people have gotten this wrong. Also, we meet Jimmy again in this book! At the same state that he was in at the end of Oryx and Crake! Do you really think that he could have survived for twenty-five years? Dude lives in a tree.