“In the early morning Toby climbs up to the rooftop to watch the sunrise.  She uses a mop handle for balance: the elevator stopped working some time ago and the back stairs are slick with damp, so if she slips and topples there won’t be anyone to pick her up.  As the first heat hits, mist rises from among the swath of trees between her and the derelict city.  The air smells faintly of burning, a smell of caramel and tar and rancid barbecues, and the ashy but greasy smell of a garbage-dump fire after it’s been raining.  The abandoned towers in the distance are like the coral of an ancient reef – bleached and colorless, devoid of life.”

Skipping back and forth between time and narrators, “Flood” tells the story of the end of the modern world.  We travel alongside Toby and Ren – two girls from very different backgrounds who both end up in The Gardeners.  One of a plethora of religious/political groups at the end of organized civilization’s timeline, The Gardeners are strict vegetarians who will only eat meat to save their lives.  They live in small communes throughout the remainder of the world’s cities, growing their own gardens on rooftops and in basements, running their own schools, and practicing their own religions.  Toby and Ren play very different roles in their commune, but when a virus breaks out and decimates the world’s population, they are two of the spared.  Both find themselves trapped in semi-safe buildings but forced to make a choice between hiding and dying where they are or fighting for their lives out in the open among genetically-engineered animals, psychotic prison escapees, and things which they can not even imagine.

This is supposedly sort of a prequel to “Oryx and Crake” (who do make appearances, along with Snowman), but since “Oryx and Crake” is supposedly an alternate dimensional option to “The Handmaid’s Tale”…I’ll just let you figure out how they all fit together.  The events in “Flood” happen intermixed with the events in “Crake”, only to different people.  At any rate, I enjoyed this book much more than I did “Crake”.  Possibly because Toby and Ren were both simply trying to survive rather than trying to destroy the world like Crake was.  Much more personable.  And I empathized a great deal with Toby.  Not because she and I have anything in common, but because her character was so beautifully honest about everything she went through – whether it was her lack of faith in the Gardeners or being forced to challenge all her morals about killing another person.  Ren I did not enjoy reading about as much, but I still liked.  Her relationship with Jimmy seemed a little forced, and her relationship with Jessica was uncomfortable and confusing.

Still, I think I would have liked reading “Crake” a lot more had I read this book first.  “Crake” was convoluted and high-toned, while “Flood” was personable and clarified so many things about this dystopian world which would have helped me understand what happened in “Crake.”  I enjoyed this book far more, not only for the characters but for the story and the paths it took.  It’s format is in books and years, told from the head Gardener, Adam One’s, point of view at the beginning and then shifting from Ren to Toby or vice versa.  If you plan on reading “Crake”, I would highly recommend you reading this book first, as it will make a lot of things more clear.  (Although, if I had read them in the opposite order I may be saying the opposite).  They both are wonderful dystopian reads, with “Crake” having a bit more of a preachy tone simply by being about Crake.

“The Year of the Flood” was written by Margaret Atwood and published in