Do you guys find it harder to write a spoiler-free review when it’s for a book you didn’t like? My last two reviews have been for books that were just kind of meh, but then had aggravating endings. It’s tough not to talk about it!
Three hundred years after an apocalypse only referred to as “The Storm,” the surviving civilizations are gathered in bunkers and domes. Everyone is issued food, clothing, jobs, apartments, etc.: everything a person needs. The entire occupation of the settlements is to keep the settlement going, and to extend life. Through bioreplacements, all humans can live for centuries, and the end goal is to be immortal.
Natasha is happy in her work at the Office of Mercy, where they prize “a purely depersonalized, universal perspective” and living a “fully ethical life,” but has always longed to go Outside and see the world beyond the dome. The Office of Mercy exists to wipe out the Tribes: roving bands of other survivors, who live in caves and hunt and fish for food. According to the Alphas (the folks in charge of the settlements), the Tribes are suffering all their lives, and suffering must be eradicated. So Natasha’s department sends little bombs out to nuke any Tribe that happens to wander too close. This is all good, according to the Ethical Code.
“We can’t be too hard on ourselves,” says one of the Alphas in charge. “The road to peace is always paved with corpses.”
When Natasha finally gets her wish and gets to go on a mission Outside, she is shocked to learn that the Tribes speak English, love their families, adopt wild golden retrievers, and get this – don’t want to die! Her character arc from then on becomes an overly-simplistic Berenstain Bears lesson about the dangers of othering folks who might not live exactly like you do. It kind of felt like one of those Crash-type movies: “OMG, y’all, racism is BAD!!!!1!1” Natasha joins some rebels, fails very badly at a plan to bring down the Alphas and the Ethical Code, and then it goes even more off the rails. The ending was SO annoying, it made the whole book retroactively worse.
Add in a side plot about a really creepy relationship with her boss/mentor/father figure, who has shown her extra-special attention since she was a vat-grown little girl and wants to bone her now that she’s 22, and I’m gonna say this one should have been a pass.