This book is a companion to Oryx and Crake, which I liked so well that I told everyone to read it. No one has, yet, to my knowledge, so someone should get on that because I need to have a nice discussion about just how plausible that speculative future is (since 1984 was obviously bunk...)
So, this is a companion, not a sequel...which means the story lines overlap. It took me a little bit to figure it out and had I done so before starting in on The Year of the Flood, I might have re-read Oryx and Crake. But I did not and I spent a lot of time trying to recall the order of events as they happened there so I could overlay them as they happened here. I think I've sorted it out and I'm quite pleased with the overall story that has been created.
A little plot blurb: both novels are dystopian. They take place in an undisclosed year in the future (the titular year, actually, which is referred to as "Year 25") and I imagine in Canada. The stories are told through a mixture of present narration and flashbacks, and like I said before, it creates a satisfying arc. Atwood scoured news clippings and gleaned the most chilling: cloning, corporate hold over public offices, the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor...and not just the educated/uneducated, but those who are smart and those who aren't. She looks at where we are now and follows the thread to a place where I can't imagine most people would like to be.
As I said, it's chilling. Fascinating, and chilling. The story is told from the perspective of two survivors: Toby and Ren so we actually have three points of view for this single tale. Atwood weaves everything together nicely...but leaves off the big bow at the end. I'm usually a fan of not being told what to think, but in this instance an epilogue would have been very nice. Unless she's planning a third book to round out a trilogy. In which case I'm perfectly fine with the lacking bow.
So there you have it. A vague recommendation to read two books that may or may not give you nightmares about where our society is headed. Please do and then we'll come back and have a nice chat regarding the validity of Atwood's speculation.