Published November 6th, 2007 by Simon & Schuster
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
There are very few books that I have ever read in my nearly 30 years that I know will stay with me, this is one to be added to that list. I know that I will have nightmares tonight and yet I am still glad that I read it. It made me think about some deep and profound things that I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to review this book either. At least I didn’t until I saw a news report today that disturbed me just as much as this book, and then I got an idea.
This book deals with the extreme version of something we see in society today. Everyone is aware of the endless, circular debates between the pro-choice and pro-life camps. It’s gotten to the point of insanity. This novel takes that debate and extrapolates it as far as it will go. What would happen if this was the compromise? Can’t touch a life from conception to 13. But if your kid isn’t really living up to expectations then you can just “unwind” them and have them harvested for transplant parts. Pro-choice can be happy because you allowed the parents a choice about whether to be a parent or not. Pro-life people are happy because technically that life lives on in those that receive their harvested parts. I was expecting for this to be a projection that went too far into the unbelievable. Speculative fiction is at its best when you know that it’s very far out there but you could imagine how it could get there. By the end, I can see the “how it could get there” and it’s frightening.
Unwind isn’t a normal kind of horror book and yet it horrified me all the same. The horror in this book is more subtle. It’s that creepy crawly feeling on your arms. It’s that pit in your stomach that you can’t shake. It’s that horrible feeling that you don’t want to read the next page but can’t help yourself. There was one scene in particular that led me to not eat my lunch and just stare at the book blankly for a good hour, absolutely horrified at what I was reading. Anyone who has read the book knows exactly which scene I’m talking about, so I won’t elaborate.
As far out of the realm of possibility as this notion seems, I couldn’t help but think is it really THAT out there? I don’t mean for this to turn into a debate on abortion and my own personal feelings on abortion (whether for or against) are irrelevant for the purposes of this review. But this book made me ponder the issue in ways I never thought I would. Have we really lost any value on life? Could we lose that respect for life this badly? Planned Parenthood performs abortions every 94 seconds, despite the founder of the organization being an avowed racist who wanted to exterminate blacks through abortion. Okay, fine, we can’t throw out the whole organization because it was started with bad intentions right? I suppose that’s fair! But then we have the constant debate over when is it abortion and when is it murder? Where is that line? Society doesn’t really have a clear answer for that, and so the vitriol from either side continues. But I can’t help but wonder how far down this particularly creepy road we are when I see pictures of completely empty courtrooms at the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. He is charged with 8 murders, 7 viable infants that he performed “partial birth abortions” on by cutting their spinal cords while partially out the birth canal, and 1 mother whom he gave a lethal dose of Demerol during an abortion procedure. The testimony is sensational, the accounts of the crimes are lurid, and the charges are horrific. Yet, the media isn’t salivating all over this trial, it isn’t even giving it air time. Why? Is it because it treads too close to the abortion debate for comfort? Or perhaps is it because, as a society, the value we place on human life is dwindling? I don’t know, the answer, but it troubles me. Just like this book troubled me.
I believe this is a book that needs to be read and needs to be discussed. I couldn’t put it down and it will be a long time before it leaves my thoughts.