In the future, when it all goes pear-shaped and we find ourselves eating our words/faeces/neighbours, I don't want to be brave. I want to be the wife in The Road - take a few pills and call the whole thing off. No walking large distances with only a pointy stick to protect myself. No scrabbling up roots to chew for energy whilst avoiding crazed cannibal rapists with bad hair.
I don't know if reading books about dystopian futures really does do a person any good. I end up thinking too much about what I would do in case of such an emergency, and yet there is no answer to that question, is there? What would you do if everyone else melted, like in Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood? It's impossible to say. And reading about other people having to cope with it invariably makes me depressed.
So, in the novel, we have a pre-melting incident tribe of organic natural type people called The Gardeners, and they are at odds with the dog-eat-any sort of meat whatsoever people living packaged existences in decaying cities.
The Gardeners used a lot of soap, because they were so worried about microbes, but some of the cut-up soaps would be set aside. They'd be rolled into leaves and have strands of twisted grass tied around them, to be sold to tourists and gawkers at the Gardeners' Tree of Life Natural Materials Exchange, along with the bags of worms and the organic turnips and zucchinis and the other vegetables the Gardeners hadn't used up themselves.
This is the reminiscence of Ren, a girl who has survived the melting (known in Gardening circles as The Waterless Flood) and is living alone in the sex club where she once worked. She grew up as a Gardener, and she is hoping to be saved by the one real friend she made during that time. Will the savvy Amanda come and rescue her? Is Amanda even alive any more? Or is she just another gooey puddle?
The Year of the Flood carried me along in its skilfully portrayed awfulness, but I did feel a bit grubby by the end. I've gone off dystopias. I know there's a lot wrong with modern life, but does it have to end in utter disaster? I suppose I like my fiction with a little more hope in it ever since I produced a Munchie.
Also, I would add this is a follow-up to Oryx and Crake, which I haven't read. And maybe I should have because a few things happened at the end that left me bemused. If you were thinking of giving it a go, maybe read Oryx and Crake first.
Top Five Novels of Futures With Utter Despair In Them (not including 1984 for some reason):
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
2. Z for Zachariah by Robert C O'Brien.
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
5. The Watchmen by Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons.
Got any other literary bleak futures for me? I used to love all these books and now I cry when I think about them. Sob.