Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Staving Off the Battlestar Galactica Twitchies: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Though this book's been out for a couple of years, I just heard about it from Bookshelves of Doom, and it sounded like good methadone for The Hunger Games series.

I had no idea it would help me get through the next 24 hours until the series finale of Battlestar Galactica.

Like The Hunger Games, Unwind is set in a futuristic, post-war United States. Only here, the "Heartland Wars," were fought between pro-life and pro-choice factions, who eventually settle upon a highly untidy compromise.

Abortion becomes completely illegal, but when children are between the ages of 13 and 18, their parents or guardians can choose to have them "unwound." Unwinding doesn't end a "life" because, technically, the child's parts are surgically implanted into a living human being - organs, limbs, skin, hair - 99.4% of the kid will wind up somewhere else. Transplanting and grafting have become so technologically advanced that the sky's the limit. Need a lung? They can do that. Want a new arm, a different color eyes, a full head of hair? They can do that.

Kids who get unwound tend to fall into a few different categories: juvenile delinquents, wards of the state, unwanted children, and, children born into certain religious sects, called "tithes."

In Unwind, Shusterman follows a number of these kids on a journey that ought to lead immediately to a "harvest camp," but doesn't. One way or another, the kids here escape, go AWOL, and either through their own ingenuity or the kindness of strangers, end up somewhere quite different. I don't want to say too much more about the book, because it's quite twisty and suspenseful, but this leads us to Battlestar Galactica.

Let's just say that there's a character in the book called The Admiral.

And he's taken it upon himself to shepherd a number of scared, refugee kids slated for certain doom. And he puts them up in a place that's secure, though harsh and physically demanding. And his face is marked with scars, and he has perfectly straight, white teeth, and he is possessed of a demeanor that is stern, yet eminently warm and understanding. He has known great pain and great loss, and is somewhat damaged as a result. He doesn't always trust the right people, but he has an instinct for character.

I could not read Unwind without imagining The Admiral as anyone other than Edward James Olmos, aka, Admiral Adama. And that made the book all the better.

I don't know if Shusterman is a BSG fan, but if he is, this is a great homage (a tribute, and most definitely NOT a rip-off). If he's not, well, then he should be. I think he'd dig it the most.

It's a terrific book that delivers big action while at the same time providing nuanced ideas about where life begins, where it ends, and what it all means.

So say we all.


Nathan said...

ok, can we make this a place to discuss feelings about the BSG finale?

what did you and potts think?

Abby and I have been talking about it for the last couple days, picking it apart, and becoming more and more disenchanted with the finale, mostly the supernatural element.

Brady said...

See, I see no reason to suppose it's supernatural, per se. I mean, that's one interpretation. But it could also have been a civilization as advanced relative to the Colonials as they are relative to the early humans on Earth.

Nathan said...

are you talking about an advanced civilization that came from one of the 13 colonies, or a total different one?

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