The Year of the Flood
By Margaret Atwood
448 pages; Nan A. Talese/Doubleday

In the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood 's droll, cautionary novel The Year of the Flood , poor people get stuffed (along with all their belongings) into garboils to make fossil fuels, plank work (prostitution) runs rampant, animals of all kinds wind up in SecretBurgers, and violent criminals are given two options: get spraygunned to death instantly or hunted like game in the Painball Arena. Rich people live in sanitized compounds called HelthWyzer and CryoJeenyus, and belong to two main religions: the Known Fruits and the Petrobaptists, while gangs— Asian Fusion and Blackened Redfish —fight for dominance on the pleebrat -infested streets of the slums. And things, prophesies Adam One, leader of God's Gardeners, a pacifist-survivalist eco-religion that headquarters itself in an Edenic rooftop garden above a neighborhood known as Sinkhole, are about to get worse. The Waterless Flood is coming, in the form of a sexual enhancement pill called the BlyssPluss that will wipe out the human race and leave the Earth to the gene-spliced life forms corporate scientists have created…pigs with human brain matter, the multicolored Mo'hairs, and the liobams, a lion/lamb splice created by a fringe group keen to force the advent of the Peaceable Kingdom. But two women accidentally survive the plague: sad, tenacious Toby, barricaded inside a spa with a truckload of edible facial products, and hopeful, insecure Ren, a trapeze dancer locked inside a "cleansing" room at the high-end sex club Scales and Tails. In Hieronymus Bosch–like detail, Atwood renders this civilization and these two lives within it with tenderness and insight, a healthy dread, and a guarded humor.

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