Review: The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

The Office of Mercy
Ariel Djanikian

Viking Adult
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review
Released February 21, 2013
320 pages
Science Fiction / Utopian

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A thrilling debut of a postapocalyptic world for fans of The Hunger Games

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.

This book has proven to me that I have been reading entirely too much YA lately. The slow pace and continual philosophical discuss made me think this book was deep and meaningful. Then I finished and realized that it was a weird little utopian tale where people had the same argument over and over again in different terms. Just the fact that it wasn’t bam bam bam BAMBAMBAMBAM end with action and that the majority of the book was incredibly slow made me inadvertently see things in it that weren’t there.

In reality The Office of Mercy is a long drawn out argument about whether technology gives those who wield the tech permission to act as god, choosing who lives and dies by arbitrary “rules of ethics” they pull out of thin air. Natasha is a rising star in the Office of Mercy, the department where members of the utopian bubble city, America-5, keep an eye on perimeter cameras for “feral” tribes. When tribes enter their perimeter territory, members of the Office of Mercy put coordinates into their computer and send heavy duty bombs to destroy the tribes, leaving only the smallest molecular trace that there is any human life outside the perfect ever-lasting world that Natasha and her ilk live in.

It felt pretty obvious where this story was going – a shady government of first generation bubble people referred to only as the Alpha generation dictate who lives and dies while the plucky formerly rule-abiding star pupil starts to question her elders’ practices and the rules she’s had ingrained into her throughout her entire life. And I wasn’t wrong. This is the plot of the book in a nutshell. Yes, there are a few twists, one of wish I was disappointed in myself for not seeing much earlier, but mostly it’s Natasha arguing with various people whether the Alphas and the Office of Mercy have the right to decide whether people outside their happy home get to live or die.

The fringes of Natasha’s life appealed to me much more. America-5 exists some 300 years after the Storm, where most of the population of the Earth died in terrible events of destruction that perhaps were more man-made than previously thought. Human conception is all scientific with babies created in vacuum sealed canisters, combining the best DNA from samples taken before the Storm that make babies perfectly suited for a particular position within the society. Every piece of their perfect little society is run by an Office of… something with everything easily compartmentalized and segregated. A code of ethics that essentially brainwashes people into believing they are better than everyone else and provides strict rules that causes everyone to frown when members of different generations associate beyond necessary work needs.

The Office of Mercy is a predictable story inside a utopian world that didn’t have much new to offer, but was an interesting place to spend a few hours. Natasha is a character who grows, but still maintains the naiveté embedded in her by the culture she was raised in. I wish that the philosophical arguments didn’t feel so repetitive that it often overwhelmed the little bits of action that were included. This would be a great book to write papers on and is a nice departure for the often shallow YA science fiction I find myself picking up these days, but there’s definitely room to make these a more engaging adventure instead of just a slow story where people keep repeating themselves.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.