From The New York Times:
Fatefulness about the survival of the species is not new. Religious thinking has end-time built in, and for most of our sentient life on the planet humankind has been predominantly religious. That has changed in Westernized countries, but only relatively recently, and alongside advances in scientific knowledge. Our new pessimism no longer depends on a deity to wipe out this wicked world. Since the Manhattan Project, we have learned how to do it ourselves.
Nuclear, ecological, chemical, economic — our arsenal of Death by Stupidity is impressive for a species as smart as Homo sapiens. Yet fire or flood may belong to an Armageddon whose awful grandeur may not be our fate. Plague — unlovely, heroic, unstoppable, might well get us first. That’s what happens in Margaret Atwood’s new novel, “The Year of the Flood,” her latest excursion into what’s sometimes called her “science fiction,” though she prefers “speculative fiction.” If we have to have a label, that’s a better one, since part of Atwood’s mastery as a writer is to use herself as a creative computer, modeling possible futures projected from the available data — in human terms, where we are now. Her 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” imagines a United States taken over by God-fearing fundamentalists sick of democracy and civil rights, especially women’s rights. Atwood is chillingly brilliant in depicting the slick twists a technology of freedom can take, shifting ease of access — in this case to financial records and personal information — into theft and surveillance. Overnight, the bank accounts of every woman are transferred to her nearest male relative.