Saturday, November 07, 2009


I really adored The Handmaid's Tale, and I thought Negotiating With the Dead was an excellent book about writers and writing. But I despised Cat's Eye, and was indifferent to Oryx and Crake. After slogging trough her latest, I might be done with Margaret Atwood.

After the Flood is, like its predecessor, just ok, and though it was often quite interesting I can barely gin up the enthusiasm to blurb about it here. I think the book works best when Atwood is being silly--a religious cult of Greenies who venerate Euell Gibbons as a saint?--and the only-slightly exaggerrated tendencies of crass consumerism in her book are its best points: fast-food chains which use roadkill and human murder victims in their burgers, third-world style oases of wealth surrounded by restless masses of cut-throat humanity, the privatization of everything for profit, including the military. But the structure of the book is too complex for its simple plot. Had she simply started at point A and gone to point Z, Atwood could have written a troubling book about an all-too-believable future pandemic. But by twisting the narrative up into multiperspective flash-backs and flash-forwards, Atwood attempts to make arty what needs a more straightforward treatment. Think of Cormac McCarthy's The Road as a more stream-lined and effective model.

If you're a devout fan of apocalyptic fiction, or if you're nuts for pandemics and Island of Dr. Moreau genetic manipulation tales, you might want to add After the Flood to your stack. Otherwise, save some time and rent Children of Men and watch the extras on the DVD instead.

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