The Office Of Mercy: A Novel by Ariel DjanikianThe Office Of Mercy: A Novel by Ariel Djanikian

The Office Of Mercy: A Novel

byAriel Djanikian

Paperback | January 28, 2014

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“A cool and compelling” (Flavorwire) debut of a new postapocalyptic world for fans of The Hunger Games

On the screen and on the page, dystopian fantasies have captivated the public imagination. In The Office of Mercy, debut novelist Ariel Djanikian has conceived a chilling, post-apocalyptic page-turner that has earned her glowing comparisons to George Orwell and Suzanne Collins.

In America-Five, there is no suffering, hunger, or inequality. Its citizens inhabit a high-tech Utopia established after a global catastrophe known as the Storm radically altered the planet. Twenty-four-year-old Natasha Wiley works in the Office of Mercy, tasked with humanely terminating—or “sweeping”—the nomadic Storm survivors who live Outside. But after she joins a select team and ventures Outside for the first time, Natasha slowly unravels the mysteries surrounding the Storm—and the secretive elders who run America-Five.

Ariel Djanikian is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds and MFA from the University of Michigan. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and daughter.
Title:The Office Of Mercy: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 0.7 inPublished:January 28, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143124374

ISBN - 13:9780143124375

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great for fans of Logan's Run Though I often lament that I am suffering from extreme dystopia burn out (and I am) I still can’t resist those titles that sound reminiscent of the parents of the genre. The ones that made me fall in love with it in the first place. And when Viking suggested this title for fans of Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro there was no way I could say no. The Office of Mercy takes place in the distant future, where society as we know it has shifted into a high tech, ultra evolved civilization that basically lives inside a bubble. Not a figurative bubble. And actual bubble. But with tunnels and stuff. More like a hamster maze than a bubble. But rather than describe this book as “dystopian” it swings more toward the “utopian” side of the spectrum. We’ve made huge advances in health, science and tech. Overall things don’t look too bad. The problem, however, is that not everyone lives inside the hamster maze. There are “tribes” of people who still live out in the Wilderness. And because the people of America Five (the bubble) consider themselves so advanced, they also think they know what’s best for those outside the walls. And what’s best, in their opinion, is the complete genocide of the Tribes. Why? Because they are obviously suffering (what with their sickness, and unpredictable weather and death –out there and it would be cruel not to put an end to that suffering. Oh and they carry out this genocide without any warning (does that make it better or worse? I’m still undecided.) They justify this by teaching their citizens: “For if the Tribes ever did suspect that people like themselves were being systematically wiped from existence, they would feel dread, and dread was a particularly terrible form of suffering, worse even, as some had argued during the debates of Year 121 Post-Storm, than purely physical pain.” As the novel continues our heroine – Natasha – begins to doubt this policy. She’s always been interested in the Tribes but it’s not until her first outing beyond the Walls that her beliefs are really called into question. She comes across a dog and she’s unable to separate this living thing in front of her from the more abstract ideas she’s always been taught. I found this novel really interesting because Natasha doesn’t start out as a nay sayer or a rebel. She doesn’t have the same knee jerk reaction that most of us would have while reading this novel. She changes over time as outside influences come into being and we get to watch her transformation and the issues she begins to question at each step. The Office of Mercy calls into question the nature of mercy itself as well as the question “what makes a meaningful life?” Is their life in America Five more valuable or more meaningful because of their scientific advancement? Or is it better to be a part of the Tribes and have more deep and meaningful connections with your fellow men and women? I don’t have a perfect answer but The Office of Mercy definitely got me thinking. Though I loved almost everything about this book, I had a few issues with the writing style. At times it felt a bit cold and clinical – and maybe that was on purpose to mimic life within America Five but it always kept the story at arm’s length for me. I was never particularly moved by what was going on and I had a hard time bonding with Natasha. It all just felt so distant. It’s still an incredibly interesting book just not as emotional as it probably could have been. Recommedation: I’m really happy I read this book. It’s a complex book that raises some complex questions. It’s not the most beautifully written but it is really interesting and very compelling. Recommended for fans of 1984 and Logan’s Run. This and other reviews at More Than Just Magic (
Date published: 2013-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Classic and Awesome Dystopian Sometimes when I read a book I'm left wondering the whole time, who can the MC trust? Especially in dystopians, although normally it's made fairy obvious eventually. I'm still not sure in this case though. Office of Mercy leaves you guessing and trying to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Is it the citizens? Who keep sweeping the tribes, or is it the tribes who are slowly dwindling. Ariel Djanikian does a fairly good job at keeping you guessing. She's also done a great job at the world building, an essential in a dystopia, and I found it very easy to see how the characters lived and what the world had become. When the book starts out I was confused, since it starts with a tribe that has been swept, but once I figured out what sweeping was, not only was I horrified, but I was angry at the people who did it. In case you're wondering, a sweep is when the citizens end the pain and suffering of a tribe by thoroughly eradicating them. They try to do it in the most humane way possible, and for the most part, the tribes never see it coming and it's pretty instantaneous. There are some cases where this isn't true, but they do their best. I know what you're thinking, they are mass murdering innocent people? I know. I was shocked too at how they would do this. Apparently the citizens (mostly the Alphas/leaders) feel it's for the best though and nothing will change their minds. Our protagonist in Office of Mercy is Natasha. She is an Epsilon, the youngest group of the citizens, who works in the Office of Mercy, which is the office that tracks and preforms the sweeps. She has only been working for a few years and has not preformed a sweep of her own yet. She feels bad for the tribes that they sweep, wondering if it's right to end their lives like that. She isn't supposed to feel this way, the tribes are wild and suffering, they need to be put out of their misery. But Natasha still has these thoughts. I like Natasha as a character. She didn't always make the right choices and was easy to trust others, both things that she shouldn't have done, but it made her seem more real. She has flaws and isn't perfect, which makes it easier to relate and connect with her. She dreams of going to the Outside. America-Five is essentially (as I see it) a giant underground complex with a dome coming out of the ground in the center and some metal structure with a few rooms to the sides. Most of the complex is underground though. Overall, it is quite a good read, a very interesting future to think about. It's a bit slow to start out, but picks up quickly. After Natasha gets her wish to go Outside, things pick up and it gets hard to put down. I'm not really sure if it's completely YA, I think it might be more moving toward NA as there is a mention of sex, but not really any descriptions. It's only mentioned the one time. The whole book I was trying to guess who the "bad people" were. I was really surprised with the ending as it didn't end at all like I thought it would. Reminds me of a few older dystopias that I've read. But that's a good thing, when an author can throw you off like that, sometimes it's nice to break away from the cookie cutters and make something new! I will definitely be recommending this one!
Date published: 2013-03-12

Editorial Reviews

“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