Tag Archives: The Year of the Flood

Canada Reads 2014: The Debate Continues and It’s Down to Two

03.05.2014

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

This year’s theme for the 13th annual battle of the books that is Canada Reads hosted by Jian Ghomeshi,  is: What is the one novel to change our nation? Which is the one novel all of Canada should read that can instill social change? Which book will inspire Canadians the most to take action?

There will be four days of debate and at the end of each show each panelist will vote to eliminate one title.

The five contenders in this annual book contest and round-table debates are:

Cockroach by Rawi Hage defended by Samantha Bee, Correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

cockroach cvr

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan defended by Donovan Bailey, world record holder for the indoor 50-metre dash.

half-blood blues cvr

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden defended by Wab Kinew, Journalist and Aboriginal Activist. the orenda cvr Annabel by Kathleen Winter defended by Sarah Gadon, Actress.

annabel cvr

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood defended by Stephen Lewis, Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which provides support to women and children in Africa living with HIV/AIDS.

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Day One

After three days of debate, the first day introduced the panelists and their subsequent books in competition with a rapid 60-second plea by panelists on behalf of the books they champion.

 While Wab Kinew made an aggressive and dramatic introduction to The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Sarah Gadon made a compelling argument about compassion on behalf of Annabel by Kathleen Winter. And though Donovan Bailey’s introduction was as speedy as his world record in the 50-metre dash, his points rooted for Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan. Samantha Bee was a passionate contender on behalf of the subject of immigration in Cockroach by Rawi Hage and Stephen Lewis was as articulate in his free-form intro of The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood as expected by his impressive, intellectual, diplomatic, and activist background (the man has 37 honorary degrees!).

Perhaps the other panelists feared the power of Stephen Lewis’ future arguments and preferred not to debate him, nor keep him at the round table, but preferred to get rid of their competition early, which may explain the first elimination:

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

year of the flood elimination

Day Two

On Day Two, the panelists were raring to go, ready to defend their titles to one another. Though The Orenda by Joseph Boyden was highly attacked for being a book of “missed opportunity,” critiqued for its acute violence, which Wab Kinew passionately defended, the book was not eliminated.

Instead, when the vote took place, Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan was taken off the table, argued against for its geographical and contextual distance from the Canadian experience.

half-blood-blues elimination

Day Three

Day Three has been by far the most active debate on behalf of all panelists especially covering the issue of intersex people in the novel, Annabel, by Kathleen Winter.

After a passionate debate all around, much to Sarah Gadon’s disappointment, Annabel was voted off by the majority of the panelists.

annabel-cvr elimination

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Be sure to return on Friday for the winning result of Canada Reads!

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Which book do you think will win Canada Reads? Cockroach by Rawi Hage or The Orenda by Joseph Boyden?

Do you think the context of the books were seriously considered in the voting process or do you think the eliminations were primarily strategic based on the panelists?

Are you #TeamCockroach or #TeamOrenda?

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Book Review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

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Book Review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

09.11.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

maddaddam

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Category: Dystopian Fiction

Author: Margaret Atwood

Format: Hardcover, 400 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-0846-7

Pub Date: August 27, 2013

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Summary from Publisher:

Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, which is being fortified against man and giant Pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. While their reluctant prophet, Jimmy — Crake’s one-time friend — recovers from a debilitating fever, it’s left to Toby to narrate the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.

 Meanwhile, Zeb searches for Adam One, founder of the God’s Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. Now, under threat of an imminent Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters.

 At the centre, is the extraordinary story of Zeb’s past, which involves a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.

Combining adventure, humour, romance, superb storytelling, and an imagination that is at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Margaret Atwood, and a moving and dramatic conclusion to her internationally celebrated dystopian trilogy.

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Book Review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet

The much-anticipated third book in the dystopian trilogy, Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood, made its exciting debut at the end of August.

For those of you who are familiar with Atwood’s work and have had the privilege of reading the previous titles in the trilogy—Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood—you’ll be pleased to discover both narrative plots come together in the last novel, MaddAddam.

The narrative is as gritty as its dystopian setting, filled with the last remnants and artifacts of an old world, one which reflects our present day.

But in MaddAddam, paved streets are rubble. Foliage is overgrown. The “waterless flood” has massacred mankind through a rare epidemic.

And two very real ideologies—one, the advocacy to preserve, restore, care for, and improve the environment by controlling pollution and protecting plant and animal diversity in the form of the book’s God’s Gardeners; along with two, the advocacy to purchase excessive amounts of goods and services through consumerism found in the form of the CorpSeCorps—both explode into two dangerous and polar extremities that make up, not only the book’s setting, but the dichotomous tension and conflict of its warring plot.

While I greatly miss the lyrical prose of the God’s Gardeners’ tone of voice that was heavily rooted in The Year of the Flood with its spiritual and prayerful homilies of nature, the seasons, and its patron saints; its lessons in DIY derelict fashion, alternative culinary arts of survival more than taste, creative, ingenious architecture; and knowledge of horticulture, its healing properties, as well as its more potent powers to kill in the form of DIY weaponry and tactics for the sake of survival—the narrative in MaddAddam is primarily raw and abrasive through the diversified talents of Zeb’s unrefined, yet chameleon character, whose stealth is as coy and intelligent as his ability to wormhole through firewalls and infiltrate computer systems and software.

Toby, too, is her own artifact of the God’s Gardener culture as the former Eve Six, who still carries within her the knowledge of its feast days, rituals, prayers, and environmental theology. But, her tone, too, has been repressed by a much more necessitated virtue during the post waterless flood—a cold and tough instinct for an exterior that ensures her female leadership and resilience towards survival.

But, it’s not only the human characters that have adapted to the new world. Through the ambition of those driven by beauty, longevity, consumerism, and ultimately power with moral boundaries stretched so thin, the ethical boundaries themselves disappear to create a number of new, hybrid, animal species.

The excitement of reading MaddAddam is the discovery of Atwood’s imagination visualized in book form through the species she’s concocted. They are creatively imaginative as they are also quite frighteningly plausible, which makes Atwood, not only a creative writer of the dystopian novel, but potentially society’s literary prophet, should we refuse to be mindful of the direction we take and how far we should take it in meeting the demands of our own ambitions and whether or not they remain ethical.

The hybrid animal species in the book, I found most entertaining.

From the Mo-Hairs, a bred animal that grows human hair in blonde, brunette, red, and black, for human hair inplants. To Pigoons, giant pigs with human brain function and cortices.

And of course, the highly anticipated story behind the growing culture of the blue-perfectly-bodied creatures created by Crake, and therefore aptly named Crakers, whose eyes are luminescent green and whose skin turns blue in maturity; whose territorial marking includes a morning ritual of communal urination by the males in the group; to mating rituals that include the sense of when a woman is “blue” and therefore ready to be mated with by first, the offering of flowers, and huge, wagging, blue penises; to their strictly vegetarian diet; and an angelic, yet purposeful, gifted, and exquisite, alien singing voice of which humans cannot imitate nor reproduce.

The creation of these highly imaginative species is what makes MaddAddam and the Oryx and Crake trilogy so compelling and creative.

Stripped of these, the plot would be at its best, predictable, if not mundane. But, plot in dystopia is usually diluted anyway by its more significant comment on society and its much-needed warnings, reprimands, or lessons.

While I was disappointed by the ending of the book, its outcome as well as its change in narrative voice from Zeb and Toby to the gentle, yet precocious Craker, Blackbeard, which felt as if Atwood simply tired from writing and therefore changed the voice to “wrap up” the story in third person summary; I did, however, appreciate that even though MaddAddam is the conclusion of the Oryx and Crake trilogy, the story itself is left open for possibility—and perhaps the possibility of another book? (Loyal Atwood fans would certainly love this!)

Regardless, it’s always a pleasure to read an Atwood novel and in particular, finish a trilogy that has showcased the darker side, as well as the potential of ourselves.

From Zeb, Toby, Crozier, Rebecca, and Swift Fox’s attempts at sipping down dandelion root coffee or ash-tasting alternatives, to their bed sheet fashion, and “God’s Gardening” labour; to the peace-loving ignorance of the Craker’s lack of knowledge of the past prior to the flood, and even prior to the truth of their own beginnings, which “hatched” from “the Egg;” it’s the Crakers’ superb innocence, intelligence, and impressionism that moves them toward a new form of Craker-Oryx-Jimmy-the-Snowman-Toby spirituality—which like the dystopian tattle-taling of this story reveals—that logic and intelligence, no matter how superior, without the restraint of morality and ethics, as well as a strong foundation of history and truth, can never truly equate the result and necessity of wisdom—oh, and yes, that life and spirituality will always find a way of surviving, thriving—and evolving.

“Oh, liobam,” I say as I throw my hands up in frustration. “Holy pigoon!” I say as I turn the last pages. I wish the book, or the trilogy, doesn’t have to end.

(And, in the best Craker singing I can fashion, I seriously consider stocking up on strong Starbucks coffee, a slew of floral, printed bed sheets, a rifle, pencils, archival paper—and also be willing and open to make new friends.)

And in honour of completing the Oryx and Crake trilogy, I plan on planting a good tree and naming today, The Feast of MaddAddam, in which no animals with “Scales or Tails,” shall be eaten.

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Characters: 4  

Pacing: 4 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

Plot: 4.5 stars

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Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada  on behalf of McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unpaid, honest review.

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About the Author:

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood

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Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, shortlisted for the 1989 Book Prize; Alias Grace, which was a finalist for the 1996 Booker Prize and won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize; and her most recent, The Year of the Flood. Among her many other rewards, she has also received the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award. She lies in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

– From inside jacket.

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Links:

Margaret Atwood’s Official Website

Follow Peggy on Facebook

Follow Peggy on Twitter

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If you were to create a new species, what attributes would you want this species to have?

If you’ve read the Oryx and Crake trilogy, which group would you most likely belong to? The God’s Gardeners or the CorpSeCorps? Or somewhere in between?

Out of the trilogy, which is your favourite book? Oryx and Crake? The Year of the Flood? Or MaddAddam? Why?

In what ways do you see our society moving towards a dystopia like the one Atwood describes in MaddAddam?

How important do you think it is to know the truth of our histories?

When do our oral stories that eventually become written ones, then become historical facts? Or do they?

Do you believe spirituality and the seed of faith and religion are inherent to our species in our better understanding of the world? Why or why not?

How can we reconcile a balance between technological advancement and a preservation and protection of the environment without falling prey to either extreme?

If you were a character in one of the books in this trilogy, who would you most likely be like? An Adam? An Eve? Zeb? Toby? Pilar? Lucerne? Katrina Woo-Woo? Swift Fox? Trudy? The Rev? Glenn? A pigoon?

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Teaser Tuesday. 08.27.2013

teaser tuesday - blue border

Teaser Tuesday

08.27.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read • Open to a random page • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Here’s my random teaser for Tuesday:

Yes, there was a bone in the soup. Yes, it was a smelly bone.

I know you do not eat a smelly bone. But many of the _____________ __ ___________ like to eat such bones. Bobkittens eat them, and rakunks, and pigoons, and liobams. They all eat smelly bones. And bears eat them.

I will tell you what a bear is later.

We don’t need to talk any more about smelly bones right now.

– pp.4-5.

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Can you guess from what title it’s from? (I’ll give you a hint…it hits bookshelves TODAY!)

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maddaddam

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It’s MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, published by McClelland & Stewart, August 27, 2013!

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Have you read the other two books in this trilogy: Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood?

What do you think of the “waterless flood”? Self-fulfilling prophecy or apocalyptic fantasy?

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zara bird autograph