On My Bookshelf: The Office of Mercy

office of mercyI never completed The Hunger Games. But from my daughter’s description, I think I came close when I recently finished Ariel Djanikian’s first novel, The Office of Mercy.

I think I could recommend this book to the young miss. It has one foot in YA, and another in post-apocalyptic adult fiction. It’s a pretty tame book. But it’s about a society four centuries in the future that has tamed the practice of genocide. Genocide is now an act of “mercy,” hence the book title.

Inside the dome, people are decanted like they were in Brave New World. Outside the dome, human beings scratch together what life they can after the collapse of civilization. Inside the dome, people live an antiseptic existence as human science pushes individuals toward immortality. Outside the dome, people who wander too close are incinerated by a device called a “nova,” in order to spare them future suffering. Inside, it’s all very polite, and there’s even a tolerance for dissent–within reason. Outside, there are plots to take over the inside. And inside, the powers-that-be have ways to get their way, which is why they’re so calm and nice and serene. And they’re already more than three centuries old. Which means they are invested in the long run. That could be played for more creepiness, but it’s not until the last forty pages that we get our first look at the “Alphas.”

By the end of the novel, we’ve lived through several months of a young woman’s life. She finds secrets outside, inside, and up the ladder of command. She vacillates as she discovers shocking truths about herself, her society, and the man she loves. She is an accessory to grievous crimes, but there’s a surprise at the end. A few surprises, actually.

This book isn’t quite strong enough to be a character study, which would have been interesting. I think the ending (something of a cliffhanger) could be justified if we went a bit deeper into Natasha.

As a study of a future post-civilized Earth, this book isn’t quite strong enough, I think. There are some flaws in believability. Some ideas struck me as a bit too derivative of post-apocalyptic fiction. Other authors have covered this ground, though hardly ever from a woman’s point of view.

Ms Djanikian plots well, and gives us one interesting character. The book moves along at a good pace and gives the reader a few fakes and feints along the way. I think a Catniss fan would like this book. I liked it too. But I wouldn’t put it on the level of excellent.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in On My Bookshelf, science fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to On My Bookshelf: The Office of Mercy

  1. Jen says:

    Hrm. Did you borrow or buy it? The kindle version’s $12, and our library doesn’t have it yet.

  2. Todd says:

    Library. I rarely buy books anymore. Trying to give away the ones I own.

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