Category: Short Review

Michael Bay Presents, In Association with John Woo, Hurricane Fever-Cruise Control

Hurricane Fever is one of the largest literary disappoints I’ves suffered through in a long while. To be clear, the book is perfectly acceptable, action oriented, fast paced, and the setting and plot are solid if not exceptional in some parts. The focus on more action driven, pragmatic characters even manages to shield the novel from the preachy exposition of most other climate related works. The Caribbean setting and the boat centric travel of the book, show a world that is both geographically and socially adapted to a new climate which brings me to the disappointment.

This is how all climate related literature should start .
This is how all climate related literature should start .

Everything in this book is palpable and vibrant. The land masses the movements, even the buildings are easily internalized and projected, allowing the reader to place the characters in an environment that feels natural. With all of this close and intricate detail any well written character could be made fascinating with minimal effort. The smallest amount of personality would echo off of each new situation eventually filling the space with one phrase that is large enough to carry that character’s existence within the story. Basically, any regular character can be made interesting by this world. Even one note character would be memorable due to an infinite amount of unknowable changes and situations that can be provided by the book’s universe.

Sadly, the characters of Hurricane Fever sort of miss the singular note they were intended to play and become either plot fodder or props. I didn’t feel anything towards any of the book’s central figures, I didn’t hate them, I didn’t like them; they weren’t unique, bad, or funny. They were just words, descriptions without any emotion. Normally, I hate exposition, or long breaks in the plot where the characters spend hours discussing the most boring aspects of their lives as a means to be accessible, but Hurricane Fever needed something endearing to happen and for sincerity to result.

Artist's Rendition of Every Character In this Book
Artist’s Rendition of Every Character In this Book

The Year of the Flood- Joining Cults Is Fun Except for the Brainwashing

51laS3uWcYL

Is it possible to be a benevolent and powerful leader? Does acting against something evil automatically make the actions themselves good? When we rebuild from rubble to sky while we use the same designs. These are my mild Atwood induced philosophical questions. The Year of the Flood, from its title to one of its most memorable characters, floats in allegory. /

The question that keeps gnawing at my brain is how much freedom is there in religion and how much freedom can we give it? If the routine and life of a garden and a charismatic leader allow you to fend off the pain of everything else and provide you with both security and perceived safety do the sources’  intention matter? And most importantly, does a man’s allegiance fall to his kin or to his god. It’s the idea of separation and individualism that strikes me about both religion and by extension Atwood’s The Year of the Flood.

 

It is my belief that the Atwood doesn’t think that the God’s Gardeners are to be ridiculed. They are people facing an unbelievable challenge by trying to structure their world in some way. Adam One is a man who believes that he is providing this structure by means of divinity. However, there is no question of who is in charge and whose views are to be agreed with, so the structured area becomes more sanitarium than sanctuary. The religious answers become doctrine, and sentiments of caring become lessons and warnings.

Now the themes of religion, influence, and maturing may seem better suited to a low-budget indie film, but they are the backbone of the climate debate. More accurately they are the reason that we are having a debate about a fact as if will power can change physics. The immediate des ri

Adam One is obviously a descendant of the incredibly conservative Kebler Elves
Adam One is obviously a descendant of the incredibly conservative Kebler Elves

community, and acceptance creates a vacuum of doubt and defensiveness. In a way our cult is one of denial, many of us worry about our immediate goals and them. We build our arks to transport only our ideals. However, we build arks with mud because we despise the effort of fashioning wood and why we can’t argue our boats afloat.

Final Audit

I’ve had one other class where blog posts and comments were a large aspect of the course. I think these posts allowed for deeper discussion that bounced back between classes and online writings. However, the written weekly reviews we had to complete was a new experience for me. I think I’ve mentioned before how I don’t really read all that much, and even when I do, I tend to read things very shallowly. Knowing that I had to write the reviews forced me to think about the story and character dynamics more than I usually would, which I appreciated. I also liked that I didn’t have to necessarily have a positive view on the books that we read and that there was freedom to share any and all feelings we had while reading the assigned books.

When I got time, I did skim over what other people thought about our readings for the week. I will admit that I often enjoyed reading Bobby’s reviews just because his writing style is so lively and has a clear voice (and also because 4 out of 5 times I agreed with what he thought). I found that most of our class generally had the same opinions over the books we read though, so there wasn’t much reason to read the details of each and every review each week.

This course itself wasn’t what I expected. I know I’m going to sound naïve for saying this, but I honestly didn’t think we’d be reading as much as we did. I mean, a book a week is a lot for somebody who doesn’t read too often in the first place! But I generally enjoyed being exposed to [most of] these different novels. I got to find out what I did and didn’t like, and I was actually excited some weeks to go back and tell my friends about some of the discussions we had in class. It obviously wasn’t the best class I’ve had at Temple since I’m not an English major and have little interest in science-y things, but it really wasn’t bad at all for what it was. I think a lot of that has to do with the class atmosphere. We had a good balance of funny, serious, and tense moments, which I think is necessary for any proper class.

A Storm is Approaching

When first starting Hurricane Fever I couldn’t help but laugh due to the fact that two characters you meet in the beginning chapters are named Roo and Seneca which just happens to be two characters from the movie The Hunger Games. Straying from that, I felt that Hurricane Fever was definitely one of the best books we read this semester. I thought Tobias S. Buckwell was successful in his efforts in creating an engaging, action-packed thriller with the seriousness of climate change constantly on the back burner, never fizzing out and being a constant issue in the story-line. Hurricane Fever is definitely a simple and quick read. I felt that the only parts of the story that generally confused me were one, being able to visualize the exact locations of the characters and two, being able to visualize his boat Spitfire. Ultimately I guess that just comes back to my own lack of knowledge of the Caribbean Islands and boats in general, but it still would of been nice to have better descriptions in the story. Overall, compared to the some of the other novels we read this semester such as The Collapse of Western Civilization, it was refreshing to read a book that was written in more a simplistic fashion that focused on intensity in the sense of action rather than overwhelming and often confusing science.

We follow Roo, an ex secret agent for Caribbean Intelligence, on an engaging adventure to get down to the bottom of his ex partner and friend Zee’s murder. Before this we are informed that Roo lives a simple life and has no family except for his nephew Delroy. All of this changes when he receives a call from “beyond the grave” from Zee informing Roo of his death and what Roo now needs to do. I found this book to just overall be fun and entertaining. It was pretty much the only book this semester that I truly could not put down. I personally feel that this book would benefit greatly as an action-packed film.

I’m Not Really Feeling The Fever

After finishing Hurricane Fever I have to say that this book was just…okay. I think it was an interesting, fast paced, action packed book that left me only slightly entertained. It felt more like a movie and less like a book. I found myself enjoying the overall story, but I also wanted more details overall. After reading posts from other people I can see that they really enjoyed that it was a story that wasn’t focused on climate change, but I found that I really wanted there to be more on climate change. The most important issue that the book discussed about climate change was the increasing amount of storms that they faced.

What I found to be interesting was the way that the characters were handling the climate change, especially in countries that were practically underwater. One of the more common facts about climate change that people know about is the rising water levels and how parts of countries will be under water. I thought it was interesting that in the book these countries still tried to survive and make life work in these areas that are halfway underwater and constantly hit with storms.

One thing that I really did like about the book was the fact that the book was set in the future, but it still felt like a world that I could understand and relate to.  I also like the futuristic and upgraded things in the book, like the concrete houses to brave the storm, the quick healing first aid kits, and the wet suits that help people survive in the water. I thought these were really awesome touches to the story that made it futuristic, but still keep it grounded in a world that I recognize.

Overall this was not my favorite book, but I think it was successful in creating a realistic version of the world after climate change.

Man v. Everything

After reading Hurricane Fever and looking at some of the posts from my fellow classmates, I found I could relate the most to James’s post. Hurricane Fever was by far my favorite book simply because it focused on other themes separate from climate change while also coinciding with climate change. By developing a story that revolved around Roo, an ex spy, Tobias Buckell, was able to focus on not only man v. nature as is such with the constant hurricanes in the Caribbean but also man v man. Man v. Man in a sense that the story follows Roo as he tries to unravel the mystery of why his friend was killed. This also allowed the reader to get an insight into a number of issues coinciding with the human condition. What I mean by this, is how certain events have a strong influence on us as people and affect the way we act and live our lives. For Roo, he is influenced by the death of his friend and how he must discover what actually happened. Out of all the books we’ve covered, I think this one would do the best as a film because climate change is not the primary issue but rather a minor issue that affects how the story unfolds. Basically, climate change and more specifically the hurricanes stand as an obstacle for Roo and others throughout the novel. I’m actually surprised something like this hasn’t already been produced as a cinematic feature but I hope to see the likes of it in the future.

Hurricane Fever…Not just about Hurricanes

Glad that this was the last book because it focused not just on climate change in terms of nature but also on the human condition in regards to human viruses that have also been at the forefront lately.

Roo was a interesting character, he reminded me of a James Bond or Matt Damon type of guy. He lived on the edge and was not afraid of facing challenges that others probably would not take. He was able to get out of situations while others died or were badly injured. The type of weapons that he and Kit used I was surprised he was able to get away with firing and it all seemed like a private affair (no police, etc). Beauchamp was ruthless in his pursuit to rid society and to  create a plaque to destroy the poor people on the earth.  The idea to kill people so that the population can be reduced because as he states “We just breed with no acceptance of the consequences” speaks to a much larger idea of how we look at society, especially our poor.

My question is are there man made plagues, if so, are they being used on humans to help or hinder?  Overall I thought this was a good book and would recommended to others.

 

Hurricane Fever

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from Hurricane Fever when I picked it up and started reading. I was very confused when the second chapter switched over to Roo’s character and thought it was going to be switching back and forth between Roo and Zee (boy, was I in for a shock at the end of chapter two). I honestly didn’t think there was enough back-story explained before all of the action started, but perhaps it would’ve helped to read Arctic Rising prior to this work? I also thought it would’ve been extremely helpful if there was a map provided just because I’m a very visual person and have very little knowledge about any of the Caribbean islands. Besides those details, I didn’t find that much enjoyment from this novel.

I’ve read many other books where I felt the written depictions of action scenes are detailed and sufficient enough that I’m able to create a vivid scene in my mind, but this was certainly not the case for Hurricane Fever. The action scenes are very plainly written, in my opinion. I would’ve much rather preferred to view the depicted fight and chase scenes rather than read them, and that has all to do with the author’s writing style. I was bored with the cliché spy-like scenes and dialogue, especially with the corny ways most of these chapters ended. I almost thought that this work was a spoof of other spy and action novels (am I being too harsh yet?). The “twists and turns” of the novel were pretty predictable and overly dramatic. The whole arc of seeking revenge for a murdered family member only to find yourself in the middle of a much larger and more serious situation complete with the rich, powerful villain who truly believes he is helping the world, but is actually just crazed by the murder of his own family member, is so completely unnecessary and not enjoyable at all. The author tries so hard to keep the action scenes engaging and the plotline interesting, but his efforts are futile.

The only parts I slightly enjoyed were Kat’s/Kit’s and Jacinta’s remarks and comments which I found broke tension and were humorous, though I’m not even sure they were intended to be funny. For example, when Kat comments on Roo’s gold bars in his ship: “You have bars of gold in your ship […] who does that?” (167). However, Kat’s character was revealed to be just as cliché as the rest of the novel when her true identity is uncovered, disappointing me yet again. This novel really did just try way too hard to be interesting, and it ended up being corny and poorly written (unless you’re totally into the predictable spy novel type, in which case you should ignore this whole review and all of my biases).

Hurricane Fever Review

Overall, I thought Tobias Buckell’s Hurricane Fever was an okay read. The plot wasn’t extremely complex and was a bit predictable, which isn’t always a bad thing, depending on your mood and what you’re looking for in a book. I didn’t mind guessing what happened next, because it propelled me further throughout the book (i.e. helped me finish it faster). Some of the writing was a bit choppy. Sometimes characters would have whole paragraphs of dialogue without being properly introduced, and other times we’re left to infer what’s going on, when a simple line of exposition could’ve helped connect the dots. Another semi-small part of the book that tripped me up were the mechanics of sailing, since I’m not in any way familiar with it, but luckily that wasn’t the focus. And yes, some parts were cheesy and cliche, but most action novels are, so…

The genetic terrorism, and the racial motive to the plague was an interesting twist. It was like Beauchamp’s twisted version of a racial cleansing, though I’m still confused as to how it only targets people of color, or people with even the slightest amount of melanin. Zee died from it, but it’s repeatedly said that he could pass for white? I read Buckell’s acknowledgements where he said he purposefully left that part out so no crazies would get any funny ideas, but I’m still curious as to how something like this would even succeed.

Roo as a main character still feels like a bit of an enigma to me. And I think it’s because he’s missing some interiority. I get that he’s fueled by vengeance for Delroy, but I feel like his pain is never really addressed? He just jumps in headlong and goes on this kill-or-be-killed mission (and makes SUPER big mistakes) all in the name of his nephew. It’s a valiant effort, but the vengeance arc gets tiring after a while, especially since I think adding some of his feelings would’ve made the reader even more sympathetic for him. Buckell does an excellent job describing the physical pain Delroy is in, but I found that the emotional part was severely lacking about Delroy’s death, about the racial angle of the genetic terrorism, and also about the microaggressions he repeatedly faces from (white) people assuming that he’s the help at all those fancy functions.

One thing that really amazed me were Roo’s resources. I know he was in the CIG, but it’s never really discussed how much he was paid for being a part of it (or maybe I missed that part?). He promises Jacinta heavy metal (did he ever come through on that? If not, God help him). And he also promises Elvin (RIP) three years worth of income and shows him all the gold he has, which he says was a gift. I know there was a book before this one, but I’m still wondering where in the world he’s getting all these resources and money from.

Would love to see this as a movie on the SyFy channel.

Hurricane Fever – Fast and Fun

“Hurricane Fever,” the fast-paced action/thriller written by Tobias Buckell, was certainly an entertaining quick read. The novel focuses on “Roo” bent on revenge, investigation and a nothing to lose mentality. The hurricanes themselves could very well be another character in the book, and cause much chaos to the islands/boats that Roo, and others inhabit. I am perhaps bias in the fact that my favorite novels, are indeed this type. Anything action, suspense and tension driven enthralls me. I enjoyed the setting, (present-day) in this novel, more so than a future that I can hardly envision (ie “The Wind Up Girl”). “Forty Signs of Rain”, having the same (more or less) ‘present day’ pretense, was realistic, and also effortless for me to conceptualize. Combining climate change and a revenge story worked well together for this conspiracy Roo set out to unearth in the novel. As the LA Book Reviewer (Nisi Shawl) says, “Weaponization, genetic targeting – it’s not giving too much away to say that such dangerous concepts are fleshed out easily enough here that readers will readily understand how chillingly close they are to becoming real.” In this type of novel, the reader is able to get easily engaged with the plot, characters and their overall purpose, along with seeing the devastating effects of climate change that envelop the story, even if it’s just to move the story towards its conclusion. I believe Shawl sums it up nicely saying “So this book can be read as a liberating re-visioning of the spy and near future ecothriller genre in addition to as a story falling comfortably within their boundaries.” Shawl goes on to say if “Hurricane Fever” were made into a movie, “that movie would earn even more than the book could…” I feel that is quite true of this type of story, action plays well on screen, even with climate change and ‘ecoterroism’ at the forefront. Would more people pay attention to it? Maybe. I do think this type of novel could be a good segway by bringing some larger issues to the forefront of people’s minds.

Reference: LA Review of Books – Nisi Shawl – The Shock of the New Normal

 

Hurricane Fever

Every once in a while you find a book that plays more like a movie in your head. Hurricane Fever wasn’t the typical cli-fi book that we’ve read in class. It was packed with adventure, secrets and an all-too-real depiction of something that could actually happen in the world. Everyone likes to think about the possibility that there are spies somewhere out there doing crazy things with even crazier circumstances surrounding them, and I thought that this book did a really good job of portraying that. One of the most incredible non-standard things about this book were the different protagonists we saw. Usually when you follow any spy-saves-the-world type movie or book, the main character is almost always white. But that wasn’t the case with this, and I think that that in itself opened up a lot of different doors audience wise. It wasn’t the typical type which in turn will make a lot of different people want to read it. Aside from that, the subtlety of climate change made the book better because of the small things here and there. Islands sinking, waves crushing people, rising sea levels and the threat of hurricanes are things that are happening now. We can see these things getting worse too. It’s not impossible to imagine them and that’s going to be a real eye opener. Us being so close to something that we can almost taste it. Lastly, I noticed in a lot of reviews that people didn’t like that they pretty much knew what was going to happen next. I thought that Tobias Buckell did a fantastic job of letting the characters choose where they were going, and although that may make it somewhat predictable it also makes it that much more real.

Hurricane Fever in Review

I really enjoyed this book. Hurricane Fever is actually a fast paced, well written book. It is full of obvious twists and turns, but it costs a different kind of cli-fi than anything else we’ve read so far. This book did not feature cli-fi as the most prominent aspect of the book, and that made it rather excellent. The writing is not as great as perhaps Kim Stanley Robinson’s writing, but it is very well written for its purpose, it is very interesting. I really like the way that the book is actually a spy novel, not a climate awareness book. This makes it significantly more bearable to read. I think this book is a great ending to a long class full of books that were not always the best. This book definitely tied into the rest of the themes of the class by obviously being about the climate, but also just by being interesting and engaging. This is one of the things that this class really focuses on, how engaging is cli-fi literature? The literature needs to be relatable enough that anyone can read it, but that it makes sense as a work of credibility.

The part about this book that I didn’t like was its predictability. There was nothing about this book that I couldn’t see coming, and I actually found it to be ridiculous at some times. I wish the book had been written by a better writer, then perhaps it would have had more hope as a novel. It is disappointing, and impressive at the same time. I wish that it had been more interesting, but it is what it is.

Fast, Furious, and Lazy

The problem with Tobias Buckell’s Hurricane Fever is that at every little twist and turn, I found myself cynically muttering: “Of course.” Of course the mysterious Kit is never who she says she is. Of course there’s a character named Katrina in a novel about hurricanes. Of course Roo’s nephew, Delroy, dies. (His barely fleshed out character could never have been more than an awkward third-wheel). Of course Roo is an ex-spy with a lust for revenge and nothing left to lose. Of course Beauchamp cannot stop calling Roo “Mr. Jones.” Of course Beauchamp has a maniacal evil plan that would actually be pretty scary if it was not so ridiculously cartoonish. Of course his henchmen are all neo-nazi goons. (Oh wow, mild foreshadowing! They remind me of something like this.) Of course whenever Roo’s luck seems to have just run out, Kit magically appears to save the day. (Hey, at least there’s a feminist angle in there somewhere, right?). Of course every other chapter is a near cliff-hanger. (Spoiler alert: everything is, of course, always fine.)

Okay, okay… I know what you are probably thinking: “Why do you have to be such a hater, Alessandro?” Fair enough. Maybe (definitely) Hurricane Fever is not my cup of tea. Thrills for the sake of thrills do not excite me. I prefer novels that are slower and more pensive, and even when Hurricane Fever’s 100mph narrative winds do manage to suck me in, I still cannot look past the shallowness of it all. I am not asking for realism, and Buckell sure as hell is not providing any, but is it so much to ask more interesting characters?

As far as reading the novel for its cli-fi setting goes, there is not that much new material worth looking at. Yeah, climate change is there. Constant hurricanes are the new normal. Some islands have sunk. True, there is nothing wrong with the anti-drama of it. Buckell may even be on to something by planting these scenarios into the backgrounds of our consciousness, making us more aware without realizing it. With so many guns, and explosions, and cheesy plot twists, however, will anyone really have the attention span to care about the climate change?

Darkly Ironic Summer Reading

I read Hurricane Fever while sitting outside on a beautiful 85 degree Saturday in Philadelphia in the middle of April. The conditions felt perfect, as Tobias Buckell’s novel initially seemed to be a light, breezy (lame pun-intended) bit of summer reading. Yet, as I watched the ice cubes in my iced coffee quickly melt away, something began to feel amiss. April 18th is not summer, and Hurricane Fever sure as hell isn’t the sort of summer reading it initially appears to be.

One of my main criteria for gauging the success of a piece of “cli-fi” literature is its accessibility. In other words, does the novel have the potential to reach and inform a wide audience? Some stabs at the genre such as Squarzoni’s Climate Changed or Oreskes’ The Collapse of Western Civilization are far too intellectual and esoteric to reach a mainstream audience, while others such as Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain will only be appreciated by those who can withstand a 500 page work of hard science fiction. Hurricane Fever, on the other hand is just about perfect in this regard. Buckell’s thrilling piece of cli-fi has all of the fast-paced action and intensity of a mainstream thriller novel of the ilk of James Patterson or Dan Brown, while also bringing issues of anthropogenic climate change to the forefront of the novel. Thus, while I concede that this novel certainly has the ability to become a New York Times bestseller, I think it is appropriate to judge Hurricane Fever through two distinct lenses: cli-f novel and action novel.

As a cli-fi novel, I believe that Hurricane Fever truly succeeds. Buckell does an extraordinary job of subtly building a not-so-distantly futuristic world without burdening the reader with too many superfluous details. While the characters may intersperse details about now-sunken islands and post-gasoline transportation into their dialogue, these details never slow down the plot. In fact, I found this details helped to tie up some of the novel’s points which were initially confusing such as the excessive amount of boats or the minor characters’ jaded reactions to cataclysmic weather events. Additionally, Buckell created a pretty interesting way of directly connecting the main villain Beauchamp’s evil scheme to climate change. I thought that his plot to use the “natural” disaster to spread the lethal disease he had harnessed was a brilliant authorial choice by Buckell. It allowed Buckell to explore the issues of class and race and climate-change. Much like the film Snowpiercer in which the rich will live in luxury in the drastically altered world while the poor are killed off, the rich party attendees in Buckell’s novel would be able to survive and prosper as the storm which is laden with a melanin targeted disease wipes out all of the poor dark-skinned people in the Caribbean. I found that Buckell’s treatment of class-related issues in a climate-changed world were handled with enough subtlety and expertise to still be interesting and incorporate well into the plot (and also allowed him to implement such a cool title for the novel).

While I believe Hurricane Fever to be a great accessible piece of cli-fi literature, it suffers from a problem in that I just don’t think it is well-written. Of course this is my own opinion, but what a look for in a blockbuster film is not quite what I look for in a novel. All of the scenes of Roo walking around parties wearing tuxedos with a grenade tucked under his suit coat or of him passing out and awaking in a haze only to be awakened by Kit just felt like hackneyed Ian Fleming rip-offs. My main critique of the novel was that a lot of the dialogue just felt quite stiff and bland. While I am glad that Buckell, a Grenadian himself, did not go overboard with the stereotypical Caribbean accents one might expect from a novel set in this region, I just wish that some of the characters had a lot bit more character and individuality in their voices. At points, it could even be indecipherable to tell who was talking. Furthermore, Buckell’s use of stock characters who must die in order to fuel the plot was a little tiresome. I understand the importance of Zee’s death, but creating Delroy just so he could inevitably die and advance the revenge arc of the story felt so predictable to me. This is another case of a book that could make a really great movie in the right hands! However, in book form it is just a typical action novel coated with a really nice layer of cli-fi. Ultimately, I am glad to see cli-fi literature expand into new genres such as crime fiction or thriller, but Hurricane Fever just had a few too many flaws to create the perfect bridge between the often-esoteric genre of cli-fi and the mainstream thriller genre. However, Buckell is a young promising writer and I do have some faith that he will one day put out a fantastic best-selling cli-fi novel.

Getting Through the Storm

I really enjoyed reading Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell. Unlike other cli-fi novels, I felt that this novel gave a positive impression of the futuristic world. The protagonist, Roo fully embraced dangers of the natural world such as the rising sea levels and the incoming hurricanes. The imagery in this novel of the massive waves crashing illustrates how Roo’s character literally had to face his obstacles head on. He embraces the chaos and enjoys the journey. As a reader I never got the feeling that Roo was scared about these dangers. For example, he would stop to get a drink and talk with the locals about the incoming storms like it was a normal occurrence. I believe that Buckell decided to make the main character so strong minded in order to convey the idea that as a society we should not let our fear or emotions disable us from acting on the issues that we are faced with. This is why I liked Roo’s character so much because he was the true definition of a character that refuses to give up. This theme of perseverance can also relate to the bigger issue of climate change. Many people in today’s society are pessimistic and have lost all hope in restoring our earth. Roo’s character proves to the reader that obstacles can be overcome and it does not have to be so scary.

This book was full of action, such as when Kit claims to be Zee’s sister and joins Roo and his nephew, Delroy on their journey to find shelter. In addition, the flirtation between Kit and Roo also made the book more entertaining. In addition, there was a mystery element to the novel because as the reader I was trying to gather more information about Zee and her death. There was also violence through out the novel such as at the end when Beauchamp shot Roo.

Therefore, this book was very much an easy read and light-hearted compared to other cli-fi novels. Buckell wrote a thrilling novel that made the reader less apprehensive about the future despite the chaos because it was presented in a way that was challenging because the characters had to literally and figuratively get through the storm.

The Year of the Flood

I have to say, leading up to this week, I had never read anything by Margaret Atwood. At first, I found her writing style to be somewhat confusing as the jumpy nature of her narration was slightly difficult to grasp in the beginning, but after about 50 pages I was able to jump right into the story. Much like some of the other books we have read this semester, the author jumps around from character to character. However, unlike all the other books we have read she leans heavily on the use of flashbacks as to allow the reader to get a fuller understanding of the characters. I found her writing style to be interesting, as I personally have never encountered an author who is able to jump from perspective to perspective while shifting time periods, and then effectively weave the stories together. From a literary standpoint, it is quite impressive. While this book did not stand out to me more than The Windup Girl, it is still nearly impossible for the reader to forget the characters and the world that Atwood creates, and in many ways this is the sign of a talented author.

 

The story mainly follows two women Toby and Ren in a dystopian world where corporate greed has destroyed the environment (thanks Gordon Gecko). Greed is good? Well apparently it is not in Margaret Atwood’s world. I think one of the most powerful aspects of this book is Atwood’s take on corporations. The companies in this book that do disgusting and unspeakable things comically parallel many corporations that we have today. Much like other effective works of science fiction, Atwood is critiquing and describing the world that we live in by simply giving things different names and making it clear to the reader that the story takes place in the future. Much like The Windup Girl, the effectiveness of the book comes from giving the reader just enough detail so that they can create the world in their own mind. Our main characters are members of an environmental cult/movement that correctly predicted an incoming waterless flood. Their preparedness for this plague allows them to be among the few who survive. I found that the book dragged at certain points, but, again, similar to The Windup Girl the part that made even the boring parts interesting was just how established and believable Atwood’s world was.

 

I really did not expect to like this book, but there is something indescribable about it that seems to stay with you. She supplies the reader with a powerful message, and I think she successfully conveys the selfish manner in which humans live on this planet. I am sure that many would say that she is simply another hippie liberal that loves trees, animals, and the environment, but she does make many eye opening points that in my mind cannot be argued. I definitely connected with the book, and I would certainly recommend it to people.

Post-Apocalyptic Feminist Vegetarian Heroines

I must start by saying that I have a lot of issues with Margaret Atwood’s world. I find her constant barrage of satirical portmanteau names for consumer products and bio-engineered animals quickly tiring. I likewise find Atwood’s emphasis on her novel as a work of “speculative fiction,” (as distinct from sci-fi), to be problematic, because while the technologies and much of the society present in The Year of the Flood are plausible enough, her actual narrative struggles to maintain her apparent commitment to realism. Why, for example, do all of these characters, who happen to know each other, also happen to survive the same devastating global pandemic that wipes out approximately 99.9% of everyone else? How does Bee-stings Blanco keep surviving Painball, when we see him disposed of by less rugged competition multiple times? Even if these events technically could happen, the insistence on “speculative fiction” seems dubious given how many coincidences are necessary to support Atwood’s plot.

But all of these issues aside, Atwood’s primary protagonists, Ren and Toby, are not only believable, they are also sympathetic and thoroughly admirable. After reading through the frustrating perspective of Jimmy in YotF’s predecessor, Oryx and Crake, it is refreshing to see the other side of the story. Likewise, Ren and Toby’s vegetarian moralism, while perhaps absurd to average (American) omnivore, is truly fascinating to think about for a real world vegetarian, (i.e. myself). It is tempting to imagine that in any post-apocalyptic world, all of its survivors will adhere to a strict pragmatism, (John Hay has some great thoughts about this in his essay, Shakespeare off the Grid,) but it is not unreasonable to think that people’s spiritual and moral beliefs will instantly dissipate as soon as their first pangs of hunger strike. (Toby and Ren may not take long to resort to carnivorism, but they certainly never feel good about it.) The Year of the Flood is at its best when it makes us consider the necessary compromises of its heroines and the determination of their convictions in the face of such a brutally indifferent and inhospitable world.

The Waterless Flood & More Interplay of Science, Religion, and Economy

In The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, the world has gone bad: the rich live as in castle towns while the poor eke out their livings in more-or-less lawless ghettos called “pleeblands,” which are run by street gangs, “pleebmobs,” controlled by the CorpSeCorp corporation which also owns the police. The corruption in government seems inextricable, and the violations of ethics are wholesale gruesome. For example, HelthWyzer purposely infects the poor with genetically designed illnesses, then profits from selling them the cures. In a world without accountability for big-enough businesses even for crimes as egregious as this, who cares about environmentalist concerns?

I am struck by the implicit relationship between Atwood’s fictional, oligarchic, feudal society and our real, modern trend toward less regulated, more out-of-control, more oppressively big business and wider gaps between rich and poor. It’s as if she is challenging our perspective, prompting us to take a wider, longer view—to consider how our day-to-day lives, our values and priorities, and our most fundamental beliefs might be affected by the onset of such a dreadful dystopia.

Atwood supposes that people who live deliberate, conservationist lifestyles will likely be seen as outsiders. In The Year of the Flood, they’ve assemble into persecuted cults, e.g. the militant Wolf Isaiahist or the pacifist God’s Gardeners. The book follows the God’s Gardeners, who are a bunch of hippies on Jesus, basically, who count prominent scientists among the saints for their secular contributions to humanity.  Their point of view is relayed through three narrators.

The youngest (and most fun, in my opinion) is Ren, who tells her story of move-around adolescent rebellion in the first person voice.

Toby is callused, stern, and unapproachable, an unwilling matriarch; true to character, her story of willful resistance is told in the third person.

The third and least frequent narrator is the spiritual leader of the Gardeners, Adam One. Through his sermonizing, Atwood manages to conflate Christianity, science, and socio-economic commentary into a worldview that is surprisingly cohesive—surprisingly especially because it is incomplete, as revealed by the unresolved debates over matters of doctrine and faith at the councils of Adams and Eves.  It makes me wonder, are our own worldviews any more cohesive?  What am I forgetting when I inform and adjust my own outlook upon the world?  What don’t I know?  What do I take for granted?  And also, why does it always sound silly, eccentric, or insane to attempt a new, holistic worldview?  Did we evolve as spiritual animals, like Adam One says, or as materialistic brutes who are naturally inclined to bully and discredit the peaceful, spiritual thinkers amongst us, like Zeb seems to believe?  “Wherever there’s nature, there’s assholes,” he says (186).  Either way, or both, we can be sure that we are struggling.  This existential struggle is what, I believe, Atwood is trying to evoke.  She gets it.

The book is chopped up into sections, oddly—by theme, by time? (Years pass)—and each section is introduced by a sermon from Adam One paired with a weird hymn.  It does cohere, but not right away. The structure makes the book off-putting early on, but ultimately works to convey a wider perspective, a range of viewpoints, all rich with Atwood’s unique insights into people, society, and religion.

So playfully presented, the plot is almost undetectable until well into the story, but the characters are so sympathetic, the book is gripping nonetheless. I would recommend The Year of the Flood to all readers over age 15, just for the experience of such a wild book, though it’s too full of peroration (blunt, however artful) to ever be a favorite of mine, personally. It is a vast, ludicrous, character-driven, good novel, which raises questions worth asking.

Too much Religion, Not enough Science

I have a love-hate relationship with Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and the themes it revolves around.  Mostly because there’s too much religion and not enough science.  At its’ foundation, the novel revolves around a religious group known as the Gardeners who anticipate the coming of a waterless-flood that will wipe out mankind therefore healing any damage done to Earth. Atwood also incorporates the notion that large corporations control everything especially in terms of the Earth’s economy and because of this, those corporations have depleted most of the resources and animals on the planet’s surface.

The idea of large corporations controlling everything is something I am able to relate to and is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because I find a lot of truth about our own society throughout Atwood’s work and writing. In today’s society, across the globe, thousands of large corporations rule over every aspect of not only the economy but society and therefore consume almost every resource or animal known to man. These corporations also have the power to dictate what sells and how much it sells for. Take the oil industry for example. Oil companies have been selling one of society’s most precious resources at astronomical prices. This in turn hurts society as a whole the majority of the time.

The one aspect that turned me off from the novel in some ways is how Atwood decided to revolve most of the story around the Gardeners. In this sense I felt as if she brought religious aspects into it too much and in a sense I felt that that took away the story and how she hoped it related to everyday life. All in all, I think the novel was good for the most part because it was easily relatable to today’s society and I always love making comparisons like that.

Atwood, I’m Impressed

I was deeply impressed with how engaging and interesting “The Year of the Flood” was from the very first chapter. And it’s not just because the characters of Toby and Ren are round and well developed (not going to lie, I was much more invested in Ren’s storyline than Toby’s), but also because Atwood writes such insightful and intriguing lines so fluidly. One thing in particular that struck me was the idea of writing being a dangerous action. According to the Gardeners, writings can be easily used by enemies to bring harm to yourself, an idea so different from what I’ve been taught all my life: Writings preserve knowledge and foster the development of communities and cultures, creating better futures. Writing has always been taught as a positive thing, but here it’s described as permanent in a negative way because it allows everybody to share knowledge that should only be possessed by few. This is just one excerpt that made me stop reading and think (I’m not much of a reader, so I don’t ponder over books very often).

Another part that impressed me was the depiction of Ren as a young child, it’s so accurate of children everywhere. She’s immersed in an environment which she had no real option to be in and there are many restrictions and rules which must be followed. Children don’t like rules, this is a common fact, which makes her encounter with Amanda so intriguing. She meets this flashy, knowledgeable Pleebrat, a member of the real world, full of danger and excitement. Her deep desire to impress this new character is completely understandable, and I’m not surprised that she even denies being part of the Gardeners when she’s questioned about it. People in general, but children especially, wish to gain acceptance and approval from their peers because they believe it will bring about connections and relationships with others, which is exactly what happened between Amanda and Ren. It’s also a very middle school situation that Amanda and Ren spread this rumor about Burt which gets wildly out of control and escalates very quickly. Atwood does such a wonderful job of depicting childhood habits and showing that despite the occurrences of this time period, these characters are still just kids.