Tuesday, November 4, 2014

UnSouled (The Unwind Dystology)

“You should never apologize for existing, Lev. Not even to all those people out there who wish you didn't.” 

To help us better understand the entertainment shaping today's youth, I offer my latest review of books effecting a primarily YA audience. My goal is not to critique the art form as much as look at the worldview in the story. This review will feature UnSouled, the third book in an unfolding series by Neal Shusterman that has earned a tremendous amount of critical acclaim

I believe Shusterman is doing an excellent job writing a YA series about a profound subject: what it means to be human. Unsouled hints in its title that the series is moving into even deeper (and murkier) ethical waters.

Since my reviews of Unwind and UnWholly established the basic premise of the series, this review will simply offer a series of quotes from UnSouled to give you an idea of the worldview that shows up in the course of the story. Shusterman has some strong opinions about societies that are “a mill of commerce, trafficking in flesh, working outside the realm of ethics yet within the law and with the complete consent of society.” And he's not afraid to give 'em.



… ON CAM COMPRIX ( a modern version of Frankenstein’s monster, a conglomeration of Unwound parts)

“Am I truly alive? Do I even exist? Certainly he exists as organic matter but as a sentient being? As a someone rather than a something? There are too many moments in his life when he just doesn’t know. And if, in the end, each individual faces judgment, will he stand to face it too - or will the constituents of his inner community return to their true owners, leaving a void where he once stood?”

     "Property?" says Cam. 'What do you mean, 'Property?'"
     "Now, Cam," says Roberta, working her best damage control. "It's only a word."
     "It's more than a word!" insists Cam. "It's an idea - an idea that, according to the history expert in my left brain, was abolished in 1865."
     The senator starts to bluster, but the general keeps his cool. "That applies to individuals, which you are not. You are a collection of very specific parts, each one with a distinct monetary value. We've paid more than one hundred times that value for the unique manner those parts have been organized, but in the end, Mr. Comprix, parts is parts."


     "False start," says Cam. "Every part of me existed before I was rewound, so it's not a day to 

     "Every part of everyone exists before they are presented to the world as an individuals."
     "Born, you mean."
     "Born," Roberta admits. "But birthdays are random. Babies come early babies come late. Defining 
one's life by the day one was cut from and umbilical cord is completely arbitrary."

"It never ceases to amaze Starkey how far society will go to protect the children it loves and to discard the ones it doesn't."


"Watching the coyote eat eventually desensitizes her to the horror of it. She finds herself objective, almost as if watching from a safe distance. She idly wonders which is crueler, man or nature. She determines it must be man. Nature has no remorse, but neither does it have malice. Plants take in the light of the sun and give off oxygen with the same life-affirming need that a tiger tears into a toddler."


It's a simple question, but Roberta seems almost angered by it. 'Why do we build accelerators to find subatomic particles? Why did we decode the human genome? The exploration of possibility has always been the realm of science. The true scientist leaves practical application to others.'"


Once again, Mr. Shusterman has reminded us of a number of issues that are just too important to ignore.  When does life begin? What does it means to be human? What happens when we view people as property or things? Are we just parts, or is there a unifying soulishness to our nature? Should scientists do things just because they can, or is there a should that needs to be part of the discussion?

In a world that increasingly traffics in flesh (in areas such as pornography, the sex slave trade, savior siblings, and medical experiments on aborted babies), any reminder of the value of humanity is a good one. Kudos to Mr. Shusterman for making us wrestle with the ethical dilemmas that are shaping our future. Stories like this may help us begin to unwind the damage we have already done.

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