If they can survive until their 18th birthdays, they can't be harmed - but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, 18 seems far, far away.
In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges listeners' ideas about life - not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.
©2009 Neal Shusterman; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Huntress of Dirty Socks
My first hour into this book I was groaning: ah, me, just another sci fi tale that claims all sorts of dire consequences if [insert one political party here] gets its way.
Stories like that always seem to simplify everything way too much. One side is always Nazi-evil to the core, and boy, who could ever have voted for them? And the other side is good good good all the way to their little tippy toes, and only a very few brave and extremely intelligent people can recognize the truth... blah, blah, blah.
But "Unwind" did not turn out to be the simplistic "Voter Beware!" I assumed it would be. In Shusterman's world, both sides compromise in politically safe ways, screwing everything up to the point where all young people are at the mercy of adults who may arbitrarily decide to "unwind" them, and everybody rationalizes away their qualms because they're sick of the war and politics that brought them there.
I don't think I really understood how fine this book was until we got to Sci Fy's story. That's when I began to better appreciate the narrator, too, and I really began enjoying "Unwind".
"Unwind" has lots of memorable lingo that make total sense, which for me is the mark of a great worldbuilding author. And it's got unforgettable scenes: heroic, sad, and sometimes incredibly disturbing. (What ultimately happens to one bad boy may be too intense for younger kids to hear; as an adult I found it quite unsettling. That scene alone almost took the book from science fiction into horror, and yet there's no gore in it.)
Best of all, the the heroes, the villains, and even the bit-players are all memorable, imperfect, totally believable people I enjoyed getting to know.
Great job, Mr. Shusterman. I expect to read more of your work!
This is a premise so fierce that I hesitated to select the title. And I think I'm going to be haunted by this book for quite some time (at least as long as it takes me to download the second in the series, that is...) The book is set in a world of the future where the United States has fought another civil war. This time abortion is the issue instead of slavery. So a compromise has reached. A pregnancy can be aborted only retroactively by "unwinding" a kid (and harvesting all the parts, so the kid is really dead, just divided) between the ages of 13 to 18. Kind of a "try before you buy" idea. Scary, eh?
Into this world comes Connor whose parents signed the unwind order, but instead of being taken by surprise by Juvie Cops, Connor finds out beforehand and runs. When they catch him, he resists and he escapes. He meets up with two other unwinds who join his fight to stay alive. And this is in the first fifteen minutes. The pacing is breakneck and the writing is okay. Not great, but good enough to tell the story convincingly.
One thing that pleased me about the book is that it is neither pro-life nor pro-choice. But shows a world where ANY position, if taken far enough to the extreme, results in insanity. If there is a genre called Young Adult in a Very Disturbing Future this is it.
Mommy of twins
To say that UNWIND is a disturbing concept would be an understatement for sure, but to Shusterman’s credit, he was very forthright with what to expect; from the title to the plot summery there was no hiding what this book was all about… and I can absolutely confirm, he delivers on the promised creep factor. The basic gruesome premise being that after a War in the US between the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers ends with an unthinkable compromise; abortions banned protecting a child’s life from conception until the age of 13, at which time(until the age of 18) parents have the right to unwind them. To be unwound is basically to be harvested for parts and organs, a process that is done without ever technically killing the child; therefor the Unwind lives on in a “separated state” through the recipients of each part/organ. Needless to say harvesting has become a very profitable business, so to run is to be hunted and hunted hard.
UNWIND (Unwind Trilogy #1) is a book that I’ve almost purchased for the better part of a year now, always opting out (or more accurately put, chickening out) at the last minute. Being a fan of Neal Shusterman, I was initially intrigued, but ultimately freaked out by the concept.. I mean, “unwinding” your teen for parts if they turn out to be too much trouble… ick! But like a passing a car accident on the highway, morbid curiosity won out and I looked. Granted, I took the cowards way out, going the audio route verses actually reading the book in hard copy, usually finding it’s easier to “detach” oneself as a third party observer then to go in alone. The idea being that hearing the disturbing details would somehow lessen their impact opposed to a much more personal and all encompassing experience of reading them and becoming wholly absorbed into the story. Because a book in audio format is more akin to seeing a movie, ultimately you see a the book unfold only with your ears instead of your eyes, at least that’s what happens when the book is well written and the narrator has some chops. But when you read a book (a good book anyway), you become the character and feel what they are feeling. Well experiment coward backfired, at least when it came to the gory details. Unfortunately I failed to factor in one very crucial aspect to reading… the ability to “skip” or “skim”; an ability I lost in audio format and ability I really could have used during the last quarter of the story where things got to be a bit too much for my squeamish nature to handle. In spite of my low tolerance for the ick-factor, in the end I did manage to power through the stomach turning details and was a satisfied customer because of it.
Narrator Luke Daniels does a superb job delivering UNWIND, giving each character a distinct voice that felt true to their individual personality. And as I’ve come to expect from Shusterman, the book is excellent, disturbing yes, but excellent none the less with an eerie, unique and thought provoking concept that gets the reader invested from the get-go. UNWIND is definitely a book I’d recommend; well paced with lots of action, a little romance and plenty of white-knuckle “no freaking way” moments, a truly exciting and horrific tale like no other.
... oh and by the way, "Nice Socks".
Shusterman's Unwind posits a nearly unthinkable evolution in societal norms: teenagers may be "unwound" by their parents or guardians. To be unwound implies total dissection and a recycling of all body parts for needed transplantations. While the sci-fi elements are subdued and quite subtle, the backstory for how society arrived in this state is detailed. Essentially, the confrontation between pro-life and pro-choice, having led to civil war was adjudicated in a classical "Solomonic" fashion by decreeing that all conceptions were sacrosanct, but between the ages of 13 - 18 a child could be retroactively "aborted" or unwound in such a fashion that by utilizing all bodyparts, the person is not considered to have been killed, but rather surviving in a distributed state.
As ghastly medieval as this sounds, Shusterman adds in subtle analogies to slavery where similarly incomprehensible and contradictory attitudes about human life were maintained, but instead of a civil war to end as for slavery, unwindng was instituted to prevent civil war. Following along the slavery theme, Shusterman adds an underground railroad supported by opponents of the status quo. We follow the escape and exploits of three unwinds with very different circumstances and backgrounds.
The timeframe is the near future (ipods are from their grandparents' generation). The sci-fi elements are minimal except for a reference to nerve grafting that made transplants easier, as well as liquid explosives that can be placed in blood. Other than these features, technology and people are quite familiar. This story is like a funhouse mirror that distorts our views sightly, but sufficient enough to require closer inspection of our values and ideals.
The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices, both male and female as well as young and old. While this may be considered in the teen genre as it is a classic coming-of-age tale, this is still heady stuff for any serious listener.
Imagine for a second that you are a teen living in a world where at any moment your parents or guardians may choose to have you unwound. If you disobey them or become unwanted in any way, they may sign the papers and have you shipped off to a “harvest camp” where you will be prepped and then taken piece by piece. If you’re born into the right religion you may even have the privilege of being tithed (aka unwound with an honorable connotation). Satisfying both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, the justification of unwinding is that the teens live on within the bodies of the people given their parts. Disturbing? Definitely. Unrealistic? A bit… But this story and the characters brought such life to the idea, that is quickly became real.
Unwind has a very chilling concept! I loved it. Being my first audiobook experience, it took a little getting used to. I think I adjusted to listening vs. reading pretty fast. The narrator, Luke Daniels, was great!! He must have had over 10 original voices. It was very impressive and brought another dimension to the story.
Surprisingly, this was not a very emotional book. I expected it to be, but it was more- sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat I-must-know-what-will-happen-next addicting. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a little love story in the background that was not gushy whatsoever.
Neal Shusterman has a definite winner here! Unwind is a chilling, action-packed, nail-biting, thriller. Supposedly Neal is working on a second book in the series titled, Unwholly that is due out in September 2012. You can bet I will be trying to get my hands on an ARC of that one! It also appears that Neal is working on the script to a movie based on Unwind. I’m extremely excited for that as well! Give this book a shot, or better yet try this as an audiobook, and you will guaranteed a thrilling ride.
The story starts out feeling slow and extremely heavy-handed. Stick with it. It gets so much better! Many, many moments that are beautiful, striking, suspenseful... overall, awesome book!
I had listened to this book when it first came out and then I came across the 3rd book of the series and I couldn't believe it, I had no idea it was a series! I listened to the first one just to remember the main characters and so on, and I found the story to be as good as the first time I read it. The narrator does a great job, one particular scene towards the end comes to mind that had me feeling that moment in the story, not just listening to it. A credit well spent!
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
Overall, an enjoyable listen. It didn't grab me like HG did, but it is still a quite good story which held my interest and made me care about the characters.
It was shocking how amazing this book is. It's not just some ordinary si-fi, if you are a fan of the hunger games or the uglies series, this book would be the best choice.
former nuclear scientist
I found the prologue to be insulting: pro-life and pro-choice factions led the USA to a civil war, leading to a compromise where women must carry children to term, but from ages 13-18 they can be harvested for parts; as long as 99.6% of those parts are used, the child is still technically "alive." Considering that both factions highly value life (pro-life values fetal life over mother's life, pro-choice values the mother's life over the fetal life), I was insulted on behalf of both parties. Such a heinous compromise is acceptable to nobody, and even the architect of the compromise admits it started as a joke.
However, I suspended common sense, as one must sometimes do for sci fi books, and kept going. Unwinding is described in gruesome detail, so don't get this book if you are tender hearted. The performance really grew as the story went on: at first, the dry delivery bugged me, since I felt it didn't do justice to the fugitives' desperate flight.(2 stars) But the narrator did better with voices, and his reading of the unwinding scene was heartbreaking.(5 stars)
The rest of the story can be read as an extreme allegory for political fighting, and the consequence of "kicking the can down the road" for your children to deal with the problems you've made. Here, society has been redesigned so that your children can become "not your problem," either by "storking" (forcing someone else to take care of your baby) or "unwinding" (harvesting the parts of your teenager). The behavior of most of the adults was as appalling as it was sickeningly recognizable in today's impersonal world.
If you can suspend disbelief and common sense and just flow along with it, it is a powerful story that could leave you in tears.
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