Being a fan of Neal Schusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series, the third book of which I have yet to read, I wanted to try another of his series. Schusterman likes weighty moral topics and is a great writer for young adults. Not many authors are truly able to write YA. It’s a delicate balance between being too childish and too adult. He succeeds by simply treating his characters as people, and giving them introspection without navel gazing. Although teens and toddlers are the ages of humans in which we are most likely to act the most immature and the most selfish, these are stages of life, not a place where any human stays. Toddlers grow out of their tantrums and teens eventually get a handle on their hormones and emotions. Basically, I like that Schusterman doesn’t dwell so much on the kids being teens as he does on the societies in which they find themselves.
I really loved Unwind, but only got halfway through. Right now the topic is just too heavy for me. Unwind is set in an alternate America where there was a Heartland War with the pro-life people fighting the prochoice people. Yes, as in for or against abortion. Really don’t know why the abortionists get a pass with “prochoice.” The stance is really pro-death, not really about having more choices. Certainly not more choices for the babies in question. Anyway, in this war, the pro-life side basically ended up losing. A compromise was made that is a mockery of honoring life. Abortion is now illegal–unwed mothers and/or fathers, and or married/unmarried couples who conceive a child are required to complete the pregnancy and bring the baby into the world, caring for it as they should. However, once a child reaches the teenage years, their life is suddenly forfeit. The parents or guardians can sign away their lives, marking them to be “unwound,” or all of their body parts used in transplants to other younger or older people who need them.
This plot immediately brought to mind Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, as it deals with a similar world and plot: Clones are raised to be come organ and limb donors and everyone pretends this is okay. As the teens in Unwind are not clones, and still live and interact with supposedly loving parents who decide to unwind them, Schusterman’s world strains credulity a bit more than Ishiguro’s does. However, when considering the topic of abortion and the atrocities done to those babies, not only murdering them, but murdering them for body parts and research to improve the lives of older people not denied life, Schusterman’s world could be possible if the love of most for human life continues to grow colder and colder.
The most terrifying thing about reading this book was how normal everything was, how legal, how every i of the law was dotted, how every t was crossed. But of course that’s how it works with psychos who want to take life. Psychopaths will say they talked too loud or something, psychopath abortionists will say the babies are unwanted, or won’t live full lives. Same with euthanasia advocates. And then once the abomination is sufficiently normalized, the dotting and crossing doesn’t matter so much, and Schusterman gives us evidence of that in this world, too, as pretty much any teen can be unwound for most any reason, and one can guess that things didn’t start out that way. Even religion is in on the scam, pretending some teens to be unwound are “tithes” or “offerings,” presumably to the God Creator, but it never actually said, though the religion seems nominally Christian. Could be a revival of any number of ancient religions that practiced child sacrifice. Nothing new under the sun.
The biggest legal framework still in place with this open season on human life is the age definition. You can only kill teens, not before age 13, and not after 18. And in this way the society can pretend it still values life. And, I’m getting so worked up already, which I why I just couldn’t take anymore of this story for now.
It’s a difficult topic. There are unwanted children. There just are, and what to do with them is tricky. Do other people, not their biological parents have a responsibility towards them? Does society? Unwind takes this question a step further, do legal parents have a responsibility to raise teens to full adulthood? Does society have responsibility towards unwanted teens? They get away with all this in justifying their actions due to the teens’ behavior. Many of the teens marked to be unwound are juvenile delinquents or belligerent in some way. (One would think uncooperative teenagers were a new invention). Eugenics is put into practice by trying to weed out undesirable behaviors from society, but then there’s a requirement that all body parts of the unwinds must be transplanted and/or used on a living human being. It’s just bizarre and totally fitting, for once regard for human life is thrown out the window, everything is permissible, including illogical double think. And most likely the teens are going to find that nobody’s really following the rules. That’s it’s a free-for-all.
This book hit closer to home than the Arc of a Scythe series. Scythe, for right now, seems something truly of fantasy, but Unwind…oh, boy, it’s possible. Heartbreakingly possible. There’s a great part in the book where some of these kids marked to be unwound discuss when they think life begins. Like many, they conclude they just don’t know, but people conveniently pretend not to know things when they don’t want to deal with reality. Life begins at conception. Before conception, there is no life. It’s really not that hard, but in this society, and in ours, too, we’ve fallen so far away from actual science and truth, that it’s easy to think we really just don’t know the answer to some things. But, if we truly don’t know the answer, why not err on the side of caution? Why not err on the side of life, not death? In this society they have in part, they’ve made abortion illegal, but in wanting to stop a war, they’ve made an even bigger error by allowing the mass murder of those in a certain age group. If they were smarter, they would have picked an age group that’s not so volatile. But of course, it’s really about the body part harvesting, and for that to work the best, the young must be used.
It is my opinion that those on the side of life should not compromise with those on the side of death. Pro-death is evil. We shouldn’t compromise with evil. Even to stop a war. War is preferable to a society like this. War is often necessary to fight evil, and it’s something we forget. Time and time again I see those who are supposedly on the side of good compromise with those on the side of evil. I’m sure I’ve done it myself–go along to get along. It is a truly cowardly sin. And society moves more and more away from God instead of towards him.
Someday I hope to come back to this series and see how it plays out. Really like the life topics that Schusterman focuses on in his stuff. It makes one thing, really think about the logic and emotions behind life and death issues and human rights. Do the characters become solidly pro-life, wanting life for all, a chance for all human beings? Some probably do and some do not. Was this truly the only way to stop the Heartland War? Likely not. Likely as it is today, the society is being lied to about what actually happened and how it happened. But, the truth will out.
One additional thing: The religious tithe kid had a party, kind of like a Bar Mitzvah, and this is an idea I had too, for my vaccine story that I was working on awhile ago. In my story those kids, too, were excited to get a one-time vaccine that promised to prevent all sickness in their lives. As reality became stranger than my fiction, I simply stopped writing the story. It’s jaw dropping to me all that has happened in recent years, the trampling of life and liberty, the outright lies from everyone, the continuing silencing of the truth, the rush to coerce people into vaccinating–even against their will–and refusing to look properly at all of the negative consequences of the experiment–and it is still an experiment, not something properly approved. The quickness to forget simple truths, like sunlight and fresh air being the best medicine for respiratory diseases. Every day, I feel like shouting the mantra I created in my story to all the vaccine zealots: The Science is Safe, the Science is Sound, the Science is Settled. Say it enough times and it’s all true, right?
Okay, okay, stepping off the soapbox again. Kudos to the writer, but I just couldn’t finish the story at this time.