Title: The Office of Mercy
Author: Ariel Djanikian
Genre: Dystopian fiction, science
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: The sun sank behind the trees, and the blue-black shadows of the forest encroached farther down the sloping beach.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
In The Office of Mercy, author Ariel Djanikian has created a possible future for North America, a possible future that is chilling and all too believable. The Alphas, who created America-Five and other outposts like it, have taken logic and rational thought to their ultimate, merciless end. The acts that are carried out by the Office of Mercy are anything but, and yet the citizens have been trained in “ethics” that cause them to accept horrifying things as good.
Natasha is an intriguing character, one of the few citizens in America-Five who has reservations. She works in the Office of Mercy, and yet struggles against the actions her department carries out. She tries to construct “The Wall,” a mental barrier that all citizens are taught to build in their minds when they are tempted to feel empathy for those who need to be given “mercy.” (It is difficult to go into too much detail without giving plot points away.) Natasha’s questions, and an encounter Outside, lead her to rebel against everything she’s been taught – and her rebellion comes at a very high price.
I read a lot of dystopian fiction, and so when a work in that genre truly stands out, and makes me want to keep turning the pages faster and faster, like this one did, it is a rare thing. This book is still in my head, and has me thinking about the kinds of decisions our government makes – or could be capable of making – that could lead us down the same path. Highly recommended.