Review – Unwind – Neal Shusterman


Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #44. I’d like to use this part of the Review to have a moment’s silence for the end of one of the greatest webcomics of all time, Homestuck. Ending today, the 13th of April, exactly 7 years after it’s beginning, we see it’s end. Let us all honour the greatest narrative told through the internet. *bows head in respectful silence* 

The surgical dismemberment of people to sell their organs to the highest bidder, while the subject remains conscious and knows what is happening to their body as they are sliced to bits! MUAH-HA-HAAA! Oh, I tell you, if I was able to properly let out an evil genius laugh I would do so now. But doesn’t this just sound like the scheme of a mad villain in a B-grade horror movie? Probably one with a lab coat and an Evil German Accent? “I have you now, my pretty little thing! Begin ze operation!” “No! Save me from the horror!

OK, fine. I’ll save you from all the bad clichés. But let me tell you, this book is not for the politically passionate. Unwind was written in response to the problem about abortion, set in a future where a war has happened between people pro-choice and pro-life. After ultimately pointless battles and acts of terrorism, the answer was a newly-passed law where it’s now legal to abort children up to 18 years after birth through a weird technical loophole where they don’t die, just have their organs removed one at a time until there is nothing left. This process is called unwinding, and like its purpose in the book it is originally designed to get both sides of the abortion debate to shut up because this is what a compromise looks like. But of course, in the book the government sees it as a great idea and BAM! Dystopian sci-fi.

And now that I’ve taken a paragraph to discuss the key theme, here is the part where I explain how spectacularly the author actually fared with the narrative part of the book (here is the part where I make a snide reference about how spectacular is both a word of praise and one of criticism. And we wonder why ESL speakers complain about our language). Thankfully Shusterman has achieved the good kind of spectacular. As opposed to “romance novels about a time-traveling Viking turned Navy SEAL” kind of spectacular (you think I’m joking? I never joke about Vikings).

Shusterman has managed to create a rather enthralling world with Unwind. Although, ultimately his characters make the story. The book is something of a chase novel, but with cool creepy sci-fi enabled horrors waiting for the protagonists if they don’t escape. On the run, the pressure is real, and the protagonist seriously is tested. And the golden rule of characters is that pain equals character development. Connor and Co. are all believably real, and the bad stuff that happens to them is seriously troubling. Which evokes a sympathetic reaction from the reader, causing them to associate with the yada yada yada. You understand. But there is a problem with this series! Specifically, the fact that it’s a series. Unwind wraps everything up in a nice little bundle at the end. All the loose ends are tied up. Fade to black and close the white curtains. But no! The sequel keeps happening! And it follows someone we don’t care about! So I’ll do what Shusterman apparently can’t and just end already!

Unwind was published in 2007 by Simon and Schuster. It can be found on Amazon here.

Yours: J.M. Peat

Review – Unwind – Neal Shusterman