The Office of Mercy
By Ariel Djanikian
Veteran travelers to fictional Utopias will likely guess that a totally rational, rigidly utilitarian future society, one that has evolved beyond hunger and want and that has as its core values World Peace, Eternal Life, and All Suffering Ended, is actually an Orwellian hell.
This is certainly the case with America-Five, one of a handful of communities to survive the Great Storm that carried away most of civilization a few hundred years ago. A combination of underground bunker and aboveground dome, America-Five is run by a doublespeaking bureaucracy gone mad, the citizens conditioned to keep any feelings of empathy behind a mental Wall. Natasha Wiley works for the Office of Mercy, tasked with monitoring the Outside and using missile drones to euthanise or “sweep” wandering communities of primitive hunter-gatherers and so save them from lives of suffering. When the natives start getting restless Natasha’s vestigial humanity is awakened, and when she is sent on a mission Outside worlds are set to collide.
The set up will be very familiar to SF readers, but in this her debut novel Ariel Djanikian has crafted a suspenseful read that presents a fresh and provocative imagining of dystopian politics relevant to our own time.