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The Office of Mercy: A Novel

The Office of Mercy: A Novel

Written by Ariel Djanikian

Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller


The Office of Mercy: A Novel

Written by Ariel Djanikian

Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller

ratings:
3.5/5 (9 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 25, 2013
ISBN:
9781452682259
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Weaving philosophy and science together into a riveting, dystopian story of love and adventure, The Office of Mercy illuminates an all-too-real future imagined by a phenomenal new voice in fiction.



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.



The Office of Mercy is speculative fiction at its best with a deeply imagined, lush world, high-stakes adventure, and romance that will thrill fans of Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Justin Cronin, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 25, 2013
ISBN:
9781452682259
Format:
Audiobook


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3.4
9 ratings / 11 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (1/5)
    It's been a long time since I've read a book I hated this much! This book takes an interesting premise but fails to follow through. The central moral question is very Philosophy 101, and a lot of things about the world created here don't make a lot of sense. The protagonist, Natalie, is very passive and wishy-washy, and it's hard to understand her motivations or feelings. The main love interest is her boss and father figure, and the relationship they have is so skeevy, but it's not portrayed as a problem for this woman to start banging the guy who has doted on her since early childhood who is also her boss. None of the other characters are fleshed out at all. As for the ending (spoilers ahead), I absolutely appreciate books that don't end on a triumphant, good-guys-save-the-day note. But this ending fell flat. The Alphas' handling of the mini-rebellion makes absolutely no sense, and Natalie's conversion from compassionate sympathizer to emotionless killer seems too easy. They show her the thoughts of a trapped man in pain and... she stops empathizing with the tribes entirely? And then, after all of that, to have Jeffery be the one to leave when he's shown almost no sign of internal struggle before, is just weird. To have this manipulative and hypocritical mansplainer who had sex with his employee and daughter-figure turn out to be the real hero made me want to barf. There are so many better books in this genre out there - Office of Mercy isn't worth your time.
  • (3/5)
    Do not go in waiting for a non stop action book where someone fights the big bad and comes out victories, because good always wins. No, this book was different, more thinking, more slow, more grey.

    It's the perfect society, everyone is happy. The oldest people, The Alphas are over 300 years old. You can live forever as they grow new organs. Babies are grown, not made. Sex is better had in "The Pretend". Everything is very logical, and clean.

    Does this make it better, no. They live in their bubble ever since the world ended. Some people survived on the outside but those are being swiped tribe by tribe. They are so caught up in the philosophy and logical thinking that they do think their way is right. Their way of killing the tribes because they are suffering, they are hungry, always on the move, what kind of life is that? Not to mention they die fast. I did get this whole concept, yes everything is better in the safe haven, killing others are merciful. But also truly evil, just go out and invite them in and give them meds and be happy. But that would not be logical, that would mean less for those inside. There is where the conflict is. Natasha the lead character comes in contact with the tribes after a sweep and starts to think that this does seem pretty messed up.

    I liked it because I understood their way of thinking, and I hated their way of thinking. It was an interesting world.
  • (4/5)
    Won this copy from Goodreads.
    This is a thought-provoking book that poses a lot of questions. How do we know our way of life is better than others'? What determines a life worth living? This novel explores some of the conflict involved with these issues.
  • (4/5)
    In a future America, a few centuries after a mysterious "Storm" has wiped out most human life on Earth, Natasha works the Office of Mercy, which is charged with euthanizing any humans our animals Outside to spare them the suffering of being alive.This is an interesting fist novel from Ariel Djanikian. It's a quick, entertaining read that can't decide whether it wants to be YA or adult fiction. Some of the content seems too mature for teens, but the story itself is a bit too slender for an adult audience. The story is set in a futuristic dystopia (with a domed underground city--love those) and takes on issues like euthanasia and genocide. Although taught since childhood the dubious ethics of her society, Natasha begins to question them when she goes Outside on a clean-up mission and encounters some of the people they have been targeting.I had a few issues with the book. There are some troublesome point of view switches, and the ending seems forced to me, so it could have used some more editing. I am not worrying about the hand-waving over the futuristic science, which I am accustomed to in dystopias. The tech is there to serve the overall concept, and like many dystopias, it is not intended to be realistic so much as a representation of a society taken to its extremes in order to examine issues of morality and ethics. Overall, though, I found the story to be entertaining and thought-provoking, but not too deep. As a character, Natasha makes choices, takes action, and is sometimes wrong, which makes her seem more human. I am rating this as an older young adult read, rather than adult fiction, and for that audience, the quality is better than many similar books I have read.I will be watching this author, as I think she shows a lot of promise.Read because I like dystopias (2014)
  • (3/5)
    Natasha Wiley, 24, works in the “Office of Mercy” in America-Five, one of 158 dome-capped settlements that were constructed to withstand the “storms” some 305 years prior launched by “The Alphas” inside them. The storms eliminated from existence the “fifty-nine billion suffering souls” left outside of the domes. Now each dome’s Office of Mercy executes [sic] periodic “sweeps” to clean up any remaining survivors, thanks to which an eight million additional beings have received “relief” from their suffering on the outside. The Alphas, who are still in power thanks to bio-enhancements, feel it is their ethical duty to make up for their failings in the original Storm by not killing everyone. Good sweeps are celebrated with parties inside the domes. In her department, Natasha is a favorite of Jeffrey, 43, who is in a position of authority and who is currently a hero for singlehandedly putting in the motion the latest sweep. Jeffrey constantly exhorts Natasha to remember the “Ethical Code” which teaches them how merciful these sweeps are because they end the inevitable pain of those on the outside. He encourages her to make sure her emotional “wall” is in place, so she can do her job satisfactorily. He also wants her to be able to help with the actions taken after the sweeps, when operatives actually leave the dome and go into the field to make sure there are no survivors by shooting all the bodies in the back of the head. But Natasha has doubts, and wants to see these tribal people for herself. What she learns surprises her, and provides her with an opportunity to change things for the entire earth.Discussion: While there is a fair amount of suspense as the plot develops, its force is abated by the predictability of pretty much every aspect of it. (And like other books of this ilk, there are the usual propaganda slogans; I particularly enjoyed “The road to peace is always paved with corpses.” Not quite as sophisticated, however, as Thomas Jefferson’s take on that idea: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”)The only unpredictable element - the actions of the character Tezo, didn’t make any sense whatsoever.One very weird aspect of this book is the romance between the two protagonists, the male being not only twice the age of the female, but having served in a father role for her. This Woody-Allen-esque plot element receives only a whisper of meta-commentary from either the author or the other characters. Evaluation: This adult dystopia is not badly written, but is extremely derivative and predictable. If you have read 1984, Never Let Me Go, and/or Dave Egger’s The Circle, you probably don’t need to read the same plot yet again.
  • (4/5)
    I’ll say for a YA book it’s pretty good, I’m very sure I wouldn’t have seen the holes in the arguments for why things were done as they were, and thus would have enjoyed the book a lot more. As it is, I’ve read enough and thought enough about the issues presented that things just don’t quite fit well enough to make the story ‘great’. Natasha Wiley is an Epsilon, the youngest generation currently living in America-Five, only 24 years old. She works for the office of Mercy. Her whole department’s job is to euthanize all the poor peoples who migrate through America Five’s territory in an effort to help prevent their future suffering. That’s right, the job of the Office of Mercy to kill off those not of the community for their own good. It is a very Orwellian naming convention, and that also hints to things yet to come.America five is one of a small number of communities around the globe that have ‘weathered’ the ‘Storm’ relatively unscathed over the last 300+ years. What we learn is that the oldest generation, the Alpha’s, have been around since the Storm and might have even been instrumental in creating it. They are also the ‘parents’ of all the following generations. They waited decades before creating the Beta’s. All the generations since the Alpha’s have worked together and improved life sustaining medicine and so far it has made the Alpha’s virtually immortal.This book I thought was pretty good and it had a lot of ideas to make one think. If I had read this back in highschool I likely would have thought it a brilliant book, but having spent a lot of time thinking about the issues brought up the arguments were a bit weak in my opinion, that is the big reason for the median star rating. Fun and interesting read.
  • (3/5)
    The setting is the mostly depopulated eastern portion of North America a few centuries from the present in a bunker/city known as America-Five. Other Americas are said to exist, but they do not factor into the story.

    The backstory, revealed appropriately in bits of conversation and introspection, suggests that most of humanity was intentionally exterminated by the Yangs, the group that originally built and populated the America bunker cities, and perhaps other places. Who exactly the Yangs were, a bunch of ultra-rich survivalists, a governmental hierarchy, a religious cult, or something else, is left vague. Their intent was apparently to kill all of the people on the planet other than themselves, and their justification for this seems to be that the population had become unsustainable and civilization was on the verge of collapse. People were killing one another in conflicts over resources. Others were dying of starvation. Exterminating them all would end their pointless suffering. It would be merciful.

    The Yangs failed in this. Some small populations of humanity survived and went on to create the ‘tribes.’ The Yangs themselves were overthrown by the Alphas, who may have been a faction or the children of the original Yangs. So much for the backstory.

    The main character of the book, Natasha, is a resident of America-Five. She works in the Office of Mercy. Their job is to locate and ‘sweep’ any tribes entering the area around their bunker city. The preferred method is to use a ‘nova’ (assumed to be something like a tactical nuke) to exterminate whole tribes at a time, although manual sweeps using Office of Mercy ground troops with small arms are also done when necessary.

    Natasha comes to question what she is doing, about the rightness of it, which leads her to take actions and make discoveries, some of which are unexpected.

    This book is technically well-written. The prose is professional. There is no dump of information to relate the backstory in a prologue or in lengthy exposition. The writing is good, but the story isn’t. I didn’t find it so, in any case. I read fiction primarily for enjoyment, and in that regard, this book fails for reasons both large and small.

    Apart from being depressingly dark and dismal, the book contains no characters I could force myself to care about. None of them is admirable. None tries to achieve anything that I felt worthy of succeeding. None captured my sympathy. None was even especially likeable.

    I found the backstory implausible. Although no one can accurately foresee the future, the one that preceded the ‘Storm’ (the attempted global extermination) left far too many questions as to how it came about. To me, it seemed so unlikely I could not suspend disbelief enough to accept it for the sake of a story that had no characters or goals I could care about.

    The philosophical questions it seems to ask are: Is mercy killing of people ethical? Is it ever justifiable? Can genocide ever be seen as an unfortunate necessity? This story takes no clear stand, but seems to lean toward a ‘yes’ to all of these. Maybe the point is that sometimes things are so bad there are no ethical choices. I’m not prepared to say this is true, but this is a work of fiction. Sometimes fiction can reveal deep truths using events that never have and never will happen. This does not do that.

    There are also some little, niggling things. Two especially struck me as strange. America-Five grows its children in vats. They grow replacement organs for their citizens the same way. Okay. Not a problem. This is a plausible future tech. But America-Five also keeps livestock. Why aren’t they growing their meat in vats? It’s the same technology. The other minor logical disconnect was that they have something like tactical nukes and satellites, but they rely on security cameras mounted in trees to monitor the tribes. Why no spy satellites? Why no surveillance drones? They obviously have the technology for these, but they leave themselves blind to the movements of the tribes they both fear and wish to ‘help’ by killing them mercifully.

    I expect this book will appeal to some readers. Dark, dystopian novels do have a following, which is why I suppose traditional publishers keep publishing them. This is just another of that type. It did not appeal to me, however, and I cannot recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    A couple centuries after the Storm that destroyed almost all of the 59 billion people on the planet, there are settlements living underground that the Tribes still living are not supposed to know about... because the people in the settlements are hardly allowed outside and because those settlements are destroying the Tribes in the name of mercy, to prevent suffering. They could be starving or attacked by bears, you know? Instead of living by nature and politics like before the Storm, the settlements would rather live by ethics and science. Tribes? Settlements? It kind of sounds like the pilgrims and the Indians all over again. Natasha is a member of the settlement America-Five, who tries to change things in the world, but things are not as they seem and events do not go as planned. Natasha has a lot to learn that those in charge of the settlement, the Alphas, aren't telling her. There are many twist and turns in the book and I think it would make for an interesting movie. I like the book, but it seems like it is weighed under a sense that none of this seems logistical or probable, even for a science-fiction novel. How would Earth even make it to 59 billion people? Standing room only? Especially without something happening before there were that many people? How could anyone ever convince themselves that living in an underground bunker-like settlement (even if it is technologically advanced and seems like as nice as a bunker could be) is less suffering than living wild and free in nature as the Tribes do? I guess they don't know what they're missing if they've never seen the ocean. Wouldn't the suffering be worse for those in the settlement: killing other humans? Why would some humans go back to the basic tribe living while others would be more advanced than they were before the Storm? Too much doesn't seem plausible to me, but it's science-fiction, it can be as implausible as it wants. I just wish things might have been explained a bit better here. Convince me this is all possible.I may just read too many dystopian / apocalyptic/ sci-fi books (spoiled!) but this one seemed like a mashup of the greatest hits of those books. I was constantly reminded of others I've read: 1984, Oryx and Crake, A Clockwork Orange, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Dispossessed, Ender's Game, and even the beginning of the videogame 'Fallout 3' and the TV show 'Lost'. I haven't read The Hunger Games, so I'm not sure how much this is like that one. It may hurt this book to compare it to that one, if many people gravitate to this one based on the comparison and don't find it similar enough. But I like this book. And I think Djanikian's next book will have a better handle on the details, so I'll be looking forward to it.
  • (4/5)
    The Office of Mercy is built upon an extremely interesting premise of a society where there are extremely long lives (thanks to technology and replacement parts) and a philosophy of "mercy". The society's definition of mercy though is mercy killing members of the tribe who live outside the compound and do not have the technology for those perfect lives. These sweeps as they are called in the book are designed to eliminate human suffering for the outsiders. The society is completely planned. There are no real families nor marital relations. Children are grown in in controlled environment as the society feels it can sustain them. Through this, the main character Natasha Wiley begins to question the humanity and ethics of her society. Without introducing spoilers into the review, I will just say that Natasha begins to make some discoveries that lead the plot into some interesting directions. The ending is a surprise, again introducing done ethical questions that book clubs will love!Overall, a different and interesting read. Reader received a complimentary copy from Good Reads First Reads
  • (4/5)
    The “Office of Mercy” was ok. And if you are into dystopian fiction this may be right up your alley, I’m not as familiar with dystopian fiction as with other Science Fiction and fantasy. With that being said…..It did leave a few things unexplained such as the references to other America settlements that America – Five seemed to have information about, but it was never revealed on how this knowledge was accumulated, or if there was any contact between the other settlements with America –Five.The ending was ironic in how the views of the two main characters were reversed.All in all it was a good debut novel, but the story was slow in developing, and it was just the promise of more being revealed that kept me reading.
  • (3/5)
    Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.Quick & Dirty: This was a good YA Dystopian novel that really left you thinking, but it was slow moving and a little hard to get into.Opening Sentence: The sun sank behind the trees, and the blue-black shadows of the forest encroached farther down the sloping beach.The Review: Natasha Wiley has grown up in America-Five. America-five is one of the many facilities in the world where groups of people live. The facilities are run by the Alphas who have lived for many generations and have tried to perfect the way their society runs. Everyone has a job, there is no hunger and everyone is basically happy and content. At least everyone that lives in the facilities. They reproduce by taking DNA and creating a certain amount of new human beings. They only create a new generation if they have enough room, food, supplies and so forth to support them. They have perfected a way to regenerate their bodies so they will all live forever. American-Five currently has 5 generations and they are creating a sixth.The world we know today was mostly destroyed by a huge storm and the only people to survive were the people living in the facilities and a few other groups of people that live in the outside. The people that live outside are known as the Tribes and the people in the facilities feel that they live a very harsh painful life. So to stop their suffering they do the humane thing and eliminate them. Natasha works in the Office of Mercy in America-Five and they are in charge of keeping track of the tribes and sweeping them (which is what they call it when they kill a tribe member). There was just a major sweep done of a tribe and it is time to clean up the mess and repair any damage to their equipment. Natasha has never left America-Five but she has always dreamed of going outside. She finally gets her chance when they put together a team to go clean the sweep site and she is on it. It is a standard mission, but there is another tribe in the area and things don’t go as planned. Natasha is kidnapped by some of the tribe members and they don’t seem as barbaric as she was always led to believe. They are real people and it makes Natasha question everything about the society she lives in and if what they do to the tribe people is really the right thing.Natasha is a good strong character with a good voice. She has grown up in this utopian society that really believes they are trying to bring the world peace. She has always had a few doubts about the system but she was taught to put up a wall and ignore anything that she thought was wrong. After meeting the tribes people her sympathetic side shows through, and she questions her logical side. I admire her good qualities but she is very inconsistent and is persuaded by others very easily. At times I felt she should have stuck better to her decisions and worry less about what others think.Jeffery is another big character in the book; he is Natasha’s boss at the Office of Mercy. He has always seemed to be more sympathetic then others and Natasha always felt that he understood her. She has always been attracted to Jeffery, but relationships between different generations have always been looked down upon. Physical and emotional relationships aren’t forbidden but they aren’t really encouraged by the Alphas. Jeffery has a lot of depth to him, and I thought that he was a very interesting character.Overall, this book was a very interesting read to me. It started out really slow at first, but the pacing got a little better the more I read. The characters weren’t the most consistent and at times I felt the book jumped around a little bit. I think the writing was well done but there are defiantly areas that could use some improvement. The ending was very interesting and it really left you thinking which I liked. Overall, I would think that people who enjoy YA Dystopian should give this one a try.Notable Scene:Amid these thoughts, Natasha had become somewhat careless in monitoring her surroundings. And only several meters before reaching the rise of land which led to where Douglas and Nolan were working, she saw a bright streak of close movement in her peripheral vision. Her muscles tensed. She threw herself into a defensive position, just as she’d practiced a hundred times in the Pretends: her back up against the trunk of a large, half-dead sycamore tree, her gun unholstered and thrust forward in both hands.“Natasha, what’s the matter? You’re nervous—”Arthur’s voice from the Office of Mercy. She had forgotten; they could see her heart beating.“There’s something. An animal.”“You’re loaded?”“Yes.”The flash of pale movement appeared again through the bushes. It could not be a bear, unless it was a very small bear. She had once seen a mountain lion on the sensors here. What if a mountain lion had slipped into the deadzone without anyone noticing? Or what if it had lived here for months, and just emerged from hiding now that the Pines had gone? It barked. Natasha raised her head from the crosshairs. The animal bounded out of the bushes, its pink tongue hanging to one side and its ears down, its coat bright in the sun.FTC Advisory: Viking Press/Penguin provided me with a copy of The Office of Mercy. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.