By Margaret Atwood. Published in 2009.
I’ve read Oryx and Crake several times, and never once did I think, This book needs a sequel. Without question, there are ambiguities, story elements implied but not confirmed, and an unresolved, open conclusion, but those all work aesthetically. They aren’t holes. They don’t cry to be filled any more than do the rests, the silent beats, in a piece of music. Absence and uncertainty are part of what makes the book so striking and memorable. It’s beautiful on its own.
So as excited as I was to see that Margaret Atwood had written a sequel, of sorts, to Oryx, I couldn’t help wondering why she felt the need to return to that universe. Did she think something was missing from Oryx? Was there somewhere new she wanted to take the characters? Was there something else she wanted to explore? And the thing is, even having read the new novel, The Year of the Flood, I don’t know the answers to those questions. It’s an immersive story, and Atwood’s writing is always enjoyable, but I don’t see the point here. I doubt Year stands alone, and Oryx doesn’t need a companion, and whenever Year pauses to connect dots from Oryx or underline an idea from Oryx, I feel slightly insulted, as though I’m being condescended to. The Year of the Flood is a good book, but it’s superfluous.