Oryx and Crake that much (or, at least not as much as The Handmaid's Tale, because there are family members I don't even like that much), and yet, when promised more information on the world created in Oryx and Crake, which The Year of the Flood provides, I jumped all over it.
Weird stuff. But, I'm glad that I did because I think I ended up enjoying The Year of the Flood more than Oryx and Crake, and I think that if I'd left, say, a year between them, I would have ended up missing a lot of the connections between the two books, and The Year of the Flood wouldn't have had the same impact on me. Because, the thing is, I'm really really into the little jolts you get when you realise something's related to another story. It's one of the reasons that The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster is one of my favourite books, and when realising, in The Year of the Flood, that, for example, Glenn was Crake from the first book? It captured my attention, and made me way more interested in the things going on in The Year of the Flood.
So. The Year of the Flood. Everything in it basically happens parallel to the things that happen in Oryx and Crake, but rather than being at, essentially, Ground Zero of the whole end of the world thing, it's seen from the perspective of a vegetarian cult, who basically sprung up as a result of the crazy technological advances they saw going on in the world, preaching that it would all end in a 'waterless flood' and the wiping out of all the bad things in the dystopian world. So, basically, the kind of cult that everyone thinks is crazy until everything they've been saying comes true and goes '...fuck.' Actually, that pretty much never happens in real life, but imagine that it could and then you're in a position to be able to read The Year of the Flood!
I think there's really one fundamental reason that I prefer The Year of the Flood to Oryx and Crake, and that's basically that it has female protagonists. Pretty predictably, I guess, because while I don't dislike male protagonists in general (obviously I take books on a cast by case basis!), if I'm given a choice between hearing a story from the boys' or the girls' perspective, I'm basically always going to choose the girls. On that note, let me say that I adore Toby, who is loyal to God's Gardeners (that's the cult) because they rescued her from this abusive 'boyfriend' (as in, he said 'you're my girlfriend or you're dead' i.e. her constant rapist) and who really has this incredible toughness to her, in every aspect of her being. Our other protagonist is Ren, who I still like, only less than Toby, but who is integral to the story because she's the one whose timeline crosses over with that of Oryx and Crake. (I don't want to say how, because I don't want to ruin those exciting little jolts!)
So. Like Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood goes between the present of the post-dystopia, and the past of the dystopia that really, these characters were quite apart from. Of these, their present is pretty similar to Jimmy's in Oryx and Crake- the isolation, the worries about food supplies and attackers and things like that, but their pasts, other than where they overlap, are really quite different. I would say this about the overlapping though- I'm a little bit skeptical of the timeline of events, as in, it seems like Jimmy and Glenn meet much later in The Year of the Flood than they do in Oryx and Crake, but I can't really be bothered to properly check, AND it's possible that this was intentional- that either Ren or Jimmy are remembering things wrongly because the adjustment to this new world has addled their brains.
So, basically, The Year of the Flood- it is good! I liked that it felt like you could read it and Oryx and Crake pretty much in any order (although the ending of The Year of the Flood kind of de-cliffhangers the end of Oryx and Crake) because they run parallel to each other, which I think is an interesting way to approach a trilogy. And oh yes- this is apparently going to be a trilogy. So, basically, I'm pretty excited for the publication of the last one. Whenever that may be...