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The Office of Mercy: A Novel Hardcover – February 21, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First edition (February 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Djanikian’s horrifically brutal, compelling debut, postapocalyptic America is left peopled by two groups: those who live emotionally controlled existences in high-tech underground settlements such as America-Five, and the wild, emotionally fierce people of the Tribes, who are granted “mercy” by those in the underground settlements. Natasha Wiley works under the strangely intriguing Jeffrey Montague in America-Five’s Department of Mercy, where she spends her days tracking those unfortunate tribespeople who live haunted lives aboveground, struggling to feed themselves as they trek through the wilderness that sprang up after planned “sweeps” 305 years earlier obliterated 59 billion souls who were suffering immensely on an overcrowded planet. The Tribes are the descendants of those who survived. Since the original sweeps, America-Five and its sister settlements have granted “mercy” to more than 8 million people. Natasha has been raised to use logic rather than feelings, but seesawing emotions begin to grip her when she is plunged into a sweep herself and comes face-to-face with the very Tribe she is helping to exterminate. As she considers the actual consequences of her and her people’s actions, she must question everything and everyone she has ever held true, especially Jeffrey and the intense feelings she has developed for him. A grim muse on a future with shades of the Hunger Games, Djanikian’s first offering should attract readers voracious for this popular subgenre. --Julie Trevelyan


“As Orwell knew, the best dystopian fiction is close enough to reality to make it scarily believable. . . . It's the same way in Ariel Djanikian's thrilling debut The Office of Mercy. . . . At its heart, The Office of Mercy is a thriller. . . . Scary and realistic. . . Fast-paced. . . Exciting to read. . . . With Natasha, Djanikian has crafted a hero who is memorable precisely because of her imperfections. . . . It's fascinating, and at times heartbreaking, to witness her incremental growth as she begins to question everything she's been taught. It takes a blend of intelligence and compassion to pull off that kind of convincing character arc, but it also takes great authorial skill. . . . The Office of Mercy is an indisputable page turner with a surprising ending — and crafting prose. . . . The stunning, willfully oblivious cruelty of America-Five is chilling because of its plausibility — you don't have to look past our own history for examples of mass slaughter, eugenics and euphemized government propaganda. It's hard to miss the echoes of Orwell in Djanikian's dark vision of both the past and the future.
—Michael Schaub,

A cool and compelling dystopian bildungsroman from a debut author we imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more from.”
—Emily Temple, Flavorwire

“A remarkable coming-of-age dystopian novel, fast-paced and thought provoking throughout.”
—Largehearted Boy

“[A] horrifically brutal, compelling debut. . . . A grim muse on a future with shades of The Hunger Games, Djanikian’s first offering should attract readers voracious for this popular subgenre.”
Booklist (starred review)
“The title of Ariel Djanikian’s first book, The Office of Mercy, is as disturbing as it is ironically fitting. Using a fresh, effortless descriptive style, Djanikian projects us into a futuristic world wiped clean by a man-made devastation called the Storm. . . . Djanikian puts us through the ethical ringer. . . . Which isn’t to say there’s not also a good deal of juice here, too--Natasha totally bust an actual move on her superior, as opposed to resorting to passive cybering.”
Whitney Dwire, Bust magazine
Fascinating. . . . Djanikian’s fictitious world combines both the horrifying consequences of ethnic cleansing with the bright new hope of how much one person can do to change history. Both believable and chilling, this tale transports readers to a futuristic utopic life where good and evil mingle with equal opportunity and are often indistinguishable to the characters. This intriguing slice of future drama ends much too soon, and will leave readers begging for a sequel, if not a series.”
—Kirkus Reviews
“[Djanikian] truly shines by plunging her characters into existential crises as they question and finally confront the foundations on which their lives are built. Fans of sci-fi and speculative fiction will enjoy this adventurous exploration of human nature.”
—Tobias Mutter, Shelf Awareness for Readers
Intriguing premise. . . . In this thoughtful debut, Djanikian explores the disconnect between a utopian vision and its dystopian implementation. . . . Natasha Wiley, a young citizen assigned to the Office of Mercy, knows empathy will only get in the way of her necessary work, but when she comes into close contact with one of the tribes, her reaction sets off world-changing events.”
—Publishers Weekly
“If you think a future world without suffering would be a good thing, Ariel Djanikian will convince you to reconsider in her impressive debut The Office of Mercy. Gripping, well-plotted, and boasting a fascinating setting, this utterly engrossing tale is thoughtful and surprising. Djanikian's adroit writing turns the elements of the dystopian novel on their head, and the central character’s struggles in America-Five were, by turns, both starkly foreign and hauntingly familiar.”
—Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night

“I gulped this startlingly smart debut down, unable to stop before I found out what happened to brave Natasha and her America-Five compatriots.”
—Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures
The Office of Mercy confronts us with a portrait of a smoothly heartless world that’s viscerally imagined, increasingly harrowing, and beautifully moving. As we continue to squander or destroy the finite resources our planet has remaining, and the gap between the elite and the trampled continues to widen, the heartbreaking and chilling vision that Ariel Djanikian outlines starts to seem like our most—if not our only— plausible future.”
—Jim Shepard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway
“Ariel Djanikian has written a novel of strange and stirring passions. Her dystopia is familiar to us because it is the land of our nightmares, our myths, and histories—yet Djanikian infuses it with startling novelty. The writing is both languidly sensual and suspenseful. This novel ushers in an important new voice.”
—Laura Kasischke, author of In a Perfect World
“An action-packed novel of fascinating ideas set in a fully-imagined world that is both alluring and terrifying. Serious, entertaining, and seriously entertaining.”
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

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Customer Reviews

I thought the characters were decently well developed.
wiggle worm mama
This distracted from the story and made her seem more of a ditz rather than a strong, smart female character.
JW Fox
I made him give it back--and as soon as I reached the last chapter he grabbed it to read.
Celeste Ng

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In "The Office of Mercy," by Ariel Djanikian, massive overpopulation, economic collapse, crumbling infrastructure, and a critical shortage of food, water, and energy transform the earth into "a senseless, unethical jungle," with widespread political unrest and savage infighting. As a response to the resulting fear and chaos, an elite few, known as the Alphas, build closed settlements with advanced technologies that prolong life, eliminate "needless suffering," and keep outsiders at bay. Those who find this existence confining and/or distasteful are taught to build mental barriers sealing off their "anachronistic emotions."

We observe the proceedings from the perspective of Natasha Wiley, a sensitive and compassionate twenty-four year old who lives in America-Five, the largest community of its kind. She helps monitor the tribes who live off the land, much as cave-dwellers did in prehistoric times. Her superiors keep careful watch over these individuals in case they pose a threat or seem to be in imminent danger of perishing from starvation or disease. Djanikian challenges us to determine whether any human beings, no matter how sophisticated and evolved they consider themselves, should have the power of life and death over their more primitive brethren. In addition, is an eternal and pain-free life preferable to a finite and unpredictable existence filled with toil, boredom, joy, and sorrow? Even after we draw certain conclusions, Djanikian throws in interesting twists that impel us to reexamine our previously held assumptions.

The residents of America-Five wear "biosuits" and bed down in "sleeprooms"; babies are gestated in "incuvats"; and committing murder is euphemistically known as "sweeping.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Although the protagonist of The Office of Mercy is twenty-four, the writing style, themes, and plot are characteristic of Young Adult fiction. That's neither good nor bad, in my view, but it surprised me since the novel doesn't seem to be marketed as YA. (In that regard, the promotional comparisons to Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro are unwarranted, although Suzanne Collins is more apt.)

Natasha Wiley works for the Office of Mercy, stationed in a wing attached to the Dome atop the underground settlement known as America-Five. The settlement is dedicated to "World Peace, Eternal Life, and All Suffering Ended," at least for those residing within its walls. Outside the utopian settlement live the (supposedly) starving and disease-ridden Tribespeople. Natasha's job is to monitor the nomadic Tribespeople who come within fifty miles of America-Five, using an array of cameras and sensors. Killing them (preferably with missile strikes) is the work of her colleagues in the Office of Mercy.

The Alphas, the generation that orchestrated the Storm (a genocidal extermination of nearly everyone not living underground), have the status of gods within the settlement. Why and how the Storm happened, and how the Alphas managed to convert underground bunkers into settlements, are largely unanswered questions, despite a cursory discussion of a failed past that seems to have been based on Marxism. In any event, Natasha is part of generation Epsilon; Jeffrey, her immediate supervisor (and romantic interest), is a Gamma. For reasons that are never adequately explained, new generations are grown on a schedule created by the Office of Reproduction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Story:
The Office of Mercy is set in a post-apocolyptic society called America Five that is sheltered within a glass dome. The story revolves around Natasha, who works in the Office of Mercy, responsible for relieving the people outside the dome of their suffering and extinguishing them. The citizens of the dome are taught from an early age to disconnect their empathies and put a wall up to prevent connecting with the tribes they were killing. When Natasha begins to have her doubts of America Five's true purpose and ethical beliefs, she embarks on a journey that will inevitably change everything she has ever known.

What I liked:
This is such an interesting concept. You probably know already that I love post-apocolyptic stories. This setting is so expertly crafted and well-told. The author went into great detail about the world within America Five's dome, and I love that. I love reading about how they live and what they do to survive. I love how it started right in the action and how I was a bit confused at the start. I love learning about the setting as I go.
This is essentially an ethics-story. The author really gets into Natasha's mind. She shares her struggles and her thoughts. I felt very connected with Natasha.
This book is intelligently written. I could tell how smart the author is by reading it, which is one major reason I had trouble disliking it. It's a smart book, however, I didn't connect with it.
Throughout the first half of the book, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for some momentous event to take place, and I felt let-down by the lack of action and character connections. I assumed this was because it's not YA. Making the transition from YA to adult usually means a restlessness when things don't move as quickly or as dramatically.
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