The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

4/5 stars.
ebook, 449 pages.
Read from April 20 to May 02, 2014.

Three down and two more to go for the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. At this point, I would have to say that this novel is my favorite out of what I’ve read thus far. While I admit I am already partial to Atwood as an author just because I’ve read more by her, I would still say that this one worked best for me as a reader.

The Year of the Flood is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy. While this book is the second in the trilogy, it is technically a prequel or rather a companion piece to Oryx and Crake, the first novel in the series. The third book is called MaddAddam which takes place after these two books. While it is not necessary to read them in order if you are going to take up the novels I would recommend doing so as you’ll experience a whole different  level of plot depth.

The novel follows two main characters, Toby and Ren that are connected through a religious group called The God’s Gardeners. The women are separated by at least a decade of age between them yet they are invariably connected. The  God’s Gardeners anticipates the coming of a waterless-flood that is going to come and wipe out the human race so that the Earth can heal and rebuild from the destruction and unbalance that humans have caused it. The book moves through different areas of Ren and Toby’s lives in different time-frames, including what happened to them before they came apart of The God’s Gardeners, their time in The God’s Gardeners and where they are after the waterless-flood has hit the Earth.

The Gardener’s believe that humankind has strayed away from how God wanted us to live on the Earth. Especially with the way the world has become. Corporations, called the CorpSeCorps, now rule everything and are less than moral.  They have used up almost all of the Earth’s resources and have erased most of the animal species on the planet. The animal genes that remain are spliced and used to create horrible hybrids that serve human purposes. Food is highly processed and people have stopped asking where it comes from. The most notorious example of this is the burger chain, Secretburger. They will use any protein that they come across to use in their burgers. Even human protein. Hence, the name of the establishment, as you don’t ever really know what you’re eating. As a result, The God’s Gardeners choose to separate themselves and live in the pleeblands, the slums. The pleeblands and are inhabited by some very desolate people: homeless, refugees and criminals which make living there very dangerous. The God’s Gardeners are strict vegans and condemn anything material made. They recycle everything, grow their own food and teach their children how to live in one with God. The children take courses and learn essentials skills in classes taught the leaders of the groups, the Adams and Eves.

The book focuses on Toby and Ren in this very detailed and expansive world that Atwood has created. Like the Earth, both Toby and Ren have to heal from items that they have suffered in their past and they find this peace when the book concludes. The writing is at times chaotic, though I wouldn’t say that it’s hard to follow, so it perfectly mirrors the chaos in the plot.

There is a scary sense of realism that comes while reading this book. I found myself looking at the teachings of The God’s Gardener’s and wondering if I should take some of their own practices into my own life because the world that Atwood has created feels like it could be a possibility for our future. An excessive one maybe, but humans are an excessive race so I wouldn’t put this story too far past the concept of reality. With that being said, another point that I believe that Atwood makes, is that there is always hope and resilience, no matter what the horror.

Overall, a must-read for dystopian and Atwood lovers.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 973 pages.
Read from March 27 to April 24, 2014.

My God, nothing in this world could have prepared me for the last 100 pages of this book. This novel is by far the best in the series so far. In this book, every man claiming to be a king collides and they collide hard. What you expect or want to happen, doesn’t, and it makes you want to throw the book against the wall in disbelief. My boyfriend gave me some funny looks when I screamed out in protest  to numerous scenes while reading this book. Oh and just when you think you have it sorted out and you’ve come to terms with the madness that’s ensued you read the epilogue and your mind is blown once again. Seriously, this was my face:

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It’s so hard to discuss this novel without giving away all of the essential twists and plot-changers! It is however impressive that Martin continues to remember so many details and have the story flow so well between one character’s chapter to another. Even more impressive, is the amount of growth that each and everyone one of the characters (that are still freaking alive, that is) go through in this book. You learn that Jamie Lannister is actually a good man, that you can sympathize with Cersei and hate her at the same time and how little Tywin really thinks of his dwarf son Tyrion. You watch Jon become a man and learn about a world outside of the Watch, that it is possible for Sansa and Catelyn to tolerate even more grief, that Dany and Robb have to make a few very difficult decisions and you get to see Arya becoming vicious and Sam become brave. Well, I suppose the exception being Joffery, he doesn’t change. He’s still a twat.

What this novel makes me ask now, is where is the series going? There were times where I felt I should have seen certain twists coming and yet, I didn’t, because Martin doesn’t do anything ordinary in terms of character investment and plot. Which leads me to ask: What is the outcome that Martin see with these characters? Who does he want sitting on the Iron Throne?  I can’t even fathom what it going to happen in the coming books with the shit-storm that Martin put in this book.

Well I have to read the fourth book now! I have actually already purchased it and will tackle it as soon as I can get over the emotional turmoil that Martin put me through.

Cockroach by Rawi Hage

3/5 stars.
ebook, 320 pages.
Read from April 01 to 19, 2014.

I am making my way through the Canada-Reads of 2014; Cockroach is the second book out of the five that were nominated that I’ve tackled so far.  Cockroach is a very interesting novel and as a reader you either like it or you don’t. That is, if you can tolerate the extremely depressing tone and existential theme. What I enjoyed most about this novel is that it provides the reader with insight into the life of a immigrant struggling in Canada, with a dash of mental illness and some descriptive philosophical ideas about our purpose in life. This review does contain some spoilers but I will mark them appropriately.

The plot is shaped by existential questions that are asked by an unnamed narrator who struggles with poverty, drugs, mental illness and suicide. This story opens with the main character, who is unnamed, sitting in a psychiatrists office somewhere in Montreal, Canada. What you learn as a reader is that the narrator is an unstable man, who enjoys beautiful women, steals and breaks into people’s homes to sit on their couches and eat their food and quite literally thinks of himself as a cockroach. He is obsessed with questions about his own existence and his own purpose. He has been mandated by the state to take therapy sessions as he recently failed at an attempt to hang himself. The psychiatrist is a beautiful blonde woman named Genevieve. It’s obvious from her interactions with the main protagonist that she does not understand him or the world that he lives in.

The protagonist has come to Canada from some unnamed country and the people he associates with are also immigrates to Canada. You meet Reza, who is a sketchy Persian sitar player who is obsessed with his self-worth and luring women into his bed by seducing them with his foreignness and lies. The protagonist isn’t particularly fond of Reza but he does hangout with him and do drugs after Reza finally pays him the forty dollars that he owed him. Through Reza, he meets: Faroud, a gay Persian man who speaks of the persecution and torture he suffered before he came to Canada. “The Professor”, which is what the protagonist calls the man because of his profession, one which, he is no longer doing in Canada. The Professor is a hypocritical man who doesn’t want to admit that he is poor. The protagonist hates this about him so he steals some love-letters from him that detail a weak long-term affair that The Professor has been having. Lastly, he meets Shohreh, a beautiful young woman who you learn **start spoiler** near the end has been raped by Islamists in Tehran **end spoiler**. With these character’s stories, the reader is shown each of their struggles in coming to terms what has happened to them as well as trying to live in a new country and the ultimate solitude that it creates. Violence and sex are a constant.

Through the protagonist’s therapy sessions, he is encouraged to get a job. He finds one in a Persian restaurant that Reza plays at occasionally. He works three days a week and becomes friendly with the owners daughter, Sehar. She is young and flirtatious and at one point, the protagonist catches her masturbating. Sehar represents a younger generation of immigrants trying to become the definition of what it is to be “Canadian” and step away from her heritage.

What brings the protagonist’s story into the stories of the people that he meets all together is, through his therapy sessions, you learn that he had a sister once. She married a despicable man who used to beat her ferociously. He admits to conspiring to kill her husband during that time but does not end up following through with it. **start spoiler** The result of him not being able to kill his sister’s husband unintentionally causes her death. Her husband kills her. After which, you can assume that his inability to deal with this scenario is what instigated him to hang himself in the first place. While developing a romantic relationship with Shohreh, the protagonist learns about her rape and abortion and finds that one of her perpetrators is a customer that comes into the restaurant that he works in. Determined to resolve the situation for Shohreh and the mistakes he made with his sister, the two of them conspire to kill Shohreh’s rapist when he comes to the restaurant one night **end spoiler**.

The ultimate comment the book is trying to achieve is to show the ineffectiveness of immigrant assimilation and how little the receiving country understands the struggles of a new immigrant. The protagonist thinks of himself as a cockroach because he is living in a world that doesn’t understand him or his needs as a human, so he lives like a cockroach, in filth.

Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone looking for something thought-provoking and well written and is alright with tolerating a bleak tone.