*early review copy provided by Viking, Edelweis and Netgalley*
Regina’s Rating: 3 stars/Grade B
Office of Mercy is novel that asks what would utopia look like? What would it cost to achieve that utopia? And once achieved, would it be worth living in? Office of Mercy is a book that seemingly attempts to be akin to 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and Never Let Me Go. The setting is an indoor settlement called America-Five which is able to satisfy its citizens (supposed) every need. There is some vague allusion to a post-apocalyptic event that ended the prior outside habitation of the world.
What does the new world look like? There is an “Office of Mercy” that burns to death the humans still living outside the America-Five settlement … and they do this supposedly out of mercy (hence the name ….) Oh and there is no birth, babies are made in a science lab. There are no families. Sex is not common. Nobody dies and nobody ages once they reach adulthood. But there is still love, still enjoyment of life just not to any method of excess. From where I sit, it is not a life worth living.
The government and the people of America-Five have somehow become convinced that any pain, any suffering, basically any semblance of humanity is inhumane and thus people should be killed if they are suffering and by killed I mean burnt to death. The concept of putting dogs “to sleep” is applied to humans. This twisted concept of mercy has been accepted nearly wholesale by the residents of America-Five, until the main character of this novel starts to question what she is doing when she pushes the button to incinerate the “tribes” on the outside. What follows is the unraveling of everything she knows, her pushing the boundaries and limits of the rules of her society and her confrontation with what truly lives on the outside.
I thought this novel had all sorts of good ideas. The setting is interesting, if not entirely unique. The idea of a government being able to get its residents to accept murdering and slaughtering as an act of mercy definitely pushes the boundaries and should make us think, what have we accepted as reasonable and just part of what a civilized nation must do. But, something was missing to make this book good enough to encourage me to stop, think and question. Maybe because I already do not accept that violence is an acceptable solution to most problems, perhaps that is why this message did not strike me as novel. I did want to keep reading and I did worry about what would happen to the characters. That is saying something, however I suspected the twists and turns, nothing surprised me. Ultimately though, this book is not what I thought it would be.
As I turned off my kindle once I finished reading this book, I stopped thinking about the concepts presented in it. In the end, Office of Mercy is an entertaining story but did not have the staying power of other fleshier dystopia novels that I believe it is trying to be.
So who should read this? If you read the genre of dystopia novels for fun (like I do), I am not sure if this book would be entertaining enough to be worth your time. If you read dystopia to think about bigger issues (which I do too), then I am not sure this book would be satisfying enough for you. However, if you straddle the boundary of reading this genre for fun and enjoying the questioning of all we know aspect then this book might be just for you. If you check it out – -let me know what you think.
What would I recommend if you want to thinking dystopia book? A book that I really enjoyed, which is dystopia but made me think for days after I finished it is Genesis by Bernard Beckett.
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