The Office of Mercy
Penguin Group Viking
The Office of Mercy is set in the a future after a small group of people wiped out the world’s population to stop suffering. They and their descendants live in a dome that is isolated from the outside world. Through their technology they have unlimited lifespans. Natasha works in the Office of Mercy. The work of this office is to track the tribes who come within the perimeter of their influences and sweep them. The idea is part of the ethical training which abhors suffering and seeks to eliminate it. Since the tribes live uncontrolled lives and undergo hunger, disease and eventually death; the ethical thing is to end their lives to reduce their suffering.
Natasha has her doubts. She is not as good as some at maintaining the Wall, which barricades emotion away and allows decisions to be made on a completely rationale level. Her life is complicated when she goes an a mission outside which falls apart. She meets some of the tribes people and is horrified to learn that they aren’t much different from the people in the dome.
I really wanted to like this book. The premise is fascinating, The idea of a ethics that requires the removal of people who might suffer is one worth exploring to tease out how our own prejudices around poverty and suffering work. The book is well written, but I couldn’t lose myself in the story. Part of my problem is that so much of the dome’s culture is unexplained. I found it hard to accept that someone who was a part of that culture would be allowed to continue existence with the ‘flaws’ that Natasha exhibits. At the same time I didn’t understand enough about the culture to follow the politics and motivations of the leaders. I also found that the plot line was too predictable. I knew the course of the action well in advance so things that were supposed to be surprises or cause suspense failed to do so.
The book was OK, If the lack of background or an excess of predictability won’t bother you, this is a worthwhile book to pick up.