The Office of Mercy: A Novel
Author: Ariel Djanikian
Publication Date: February 21st 2013
Publisher: Viking Adult
Genre: Dystopia / Science Fiction
Synopsis:Twenty-four-year-old Natasha Wiley lives in America-Five—a high-tech, underground, utopian settlement where hunger and money do not exist, everyone has a job, and all basic needs are met. But when her mentor and colleague, Jeffrey, selects her to join a special team to venture Outside for the first time, Natasha’s allegiances to home, society, and above all to Jeffrey are tested. She is forced to make a choice that may put the people she loves most in grave danger and change the world as she knows it.
My Thoughts: Sometimes when I read a book I'm left wondering the whole time, who can the MC trust? Especially in dystopians, although normally it's made fairy obvious eventually. I'm still not sure in this case though. Office of Mercy leaves you guessing and trying to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Is it the citizens? Who keep sweeping the tribes, or is it the tribes who are slowly dwindling. Ariel Djanikian does a fairly good job at keeping you guessing. She's also done a great job at the world building, an essential in a dystopia, and I found it very easy to see how the characters lived and what the world had become.
When the book starts out I was confused, since it starts with a tribe that has been swept, but once I figured out what sweeping was, not only was I horrified, but I was angry at the people who did it. In case you're wondering, a sweep is when the citizens end the pain and suffering of a tribe by thoroughly eradicating them. They try to do it in the most humane way possible, and for the most part, the tribes never see it coming and it's pretty instantaneous. There are some cases where this isn't true, but they do their best. I know what you're thinking, they are mass murdering innocent people? I know. I was shocked too at how they would do this. Apparently the citizens (mostly the Alphas/leaders) feel it's for the best though and nothing will change their minds.
Our protagonist in Office of Mercy is Natasha. She is an Epsilon, the youngest group of the citizens, who works in the Office of Mercy, which is the office that tracks and preforms the sweeps. She has only been working for a few years and has not preformed a sweep of her own yet. She feels bad for the tribes that they sweep, wondering if it's right to end their lives like that. She isn't supposed to feel this way, the tribes are wild and suffering, they need to be put out of their misery. But Natasha still has these thoughts.
I like Natasha as a character. She didn't always make the right choices and was easy to trust others, both things that she shouldn't have done, but it made her seem more real. She has flaws and isn't perfect, which makes it easier to relate and connect with her. She dreams of going to the Outside. America-Five is essentially (as I see it) a giant underground complex with a dome coming out of the ground in the center and some metal structure with a few rooms to the sides. Most of the complex is underground though.
Overall, it is quite a good read, a very interesting future to think about. It's a bit slow to start out, but picks up quickly. After Natasha gets her wish to go Outside, things pick up and it gets hard to put down. I'm not really sure if it's completely YA, I think it might be more moving toward NA as there is a mention of sex, but not really any descriptions. It's only mentioned the one time. The whole book I was trying to guess who the "bad people" were. I was really surprised with the ending as it didn't end at all like I thought it would. Reminds me of a few older dystopias that I've read. But that's a good thing, when an author can throw you off like that, sometimes it's nice to break away from the cookie cutters and make something new! I will definitely be recommending this one!
*A review copy was provided from the publisher*