Unwinding the Future – Neal Shusterman’s Unwind

Unwind is a book which needs to be read along with Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother as a salutary reminder of what we are doing to children in our society. Reminiscent of Michael Marshal Smith’s Spares, Shusterman portrays a society where unwanted children can be kept alive but as disposable parts for other people. Unwinding was suggested in the pro- and anti- abortion wars as an unthinkable option by the government which was accepted as a compromise.

Connor and Risa decide that they do not want to be unwound and so escape. All they need do is stay alive until their eighteenth birthday. On their way, they kidnap Lev, a Christian believer, who is forced to escape by his pastor and become involved in the underground rail road to the Graveyard. The Graveyard offers a tolerated haven for hope but when it is raided, the children are taken to the Unwinding farm.

Shusterman reflects a society where most things are consumable as long as the consequences can be hidden away. Moving from underground rail roads to the accepted junk graveyard, each child makes a choice about the best way to survive for them. As he does this he neatly sets up a confrontation with the parents who have sent their children to the farms for the procedure and forces them to begin accepting this. Echoing Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon, he takes the reader through an Unwinding. In the same instant, he also explores how it is that young children become suicide bombers.

Unwind is an unsettling book which needs reading along side Little Brother and a re-read of Spares. It questions the world and comes up with its own status quo at a personal level but it is out of step with accepted policy.

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