Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Scythe by Neal ShustermanScythe by Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR on November 22, 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
AmazonThe Book Depository

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

I admit to some skepticism when it came to Scythe. Clearly, I wanted to read it, because that cover, but also I’ve only read one Shusterman book (Unwind) and while I liked it, I definitely didn’t love it. Add to that a general preference for female-authored books, which have a higher likelihood of being character-focused and shippy. Finally, Shusterman had a high standard to meet, because I love Gina Damico’s Croak trilogy about a bunch of grim reapers so damn much. Well, guys, Shusterman impressed the hell out of me with Scythe, which excels in world building, plot, and characterization.

Scythe takes place in a perfect future, a future where hunger, economic instability, and crime have all been defeated. Even death has become a thing of the past. Thanks to computing reaching the apex of possibility, the Thunderhead controls everything and keeps society running smoothly and happily. Permanently. And, unlike that flood of dystopian fiction, this society really does run. People are happy, albeit minorly bored because there’s literally nothing to learn because everything is known by the Thunderhead. Admittedly, the Thunderhead’s terrible at place names, since we now have MidMerica, Israebia, and EuroScandia, but otherwise legit Thunderhead’s amazing at what it’s doing.

The Thunderhead controls everything…except the Scythes. Apparently humanity was willing to let a computer control everything except death. See, no matter what happens, revival centers can fix people, and when they get too old, they can be reset to an age of their choosing (as long as it’s an age at which they’d finished physically maturing). Literally, some people “splat”, aka jump out of buildings, for fun or attention, just to wake up a couple days later in a revival center. However, because people are still breeding and no one’s dying, even the Thunderhead can only stretch resources so far. Population control is a must. This is where the Scythes come in. They glean a quota of souls, to keep the population sustainable. The Thunderhead has agreed not to interfere with Scythe matters.

As with anything human, the Scythes were created with the best of intentions but are spiraling out of control. They have a ton of power, and it’s no surprise that abuses are beginning to occur more often and more flagrantly. Shusterman takes a really good look at the various ethical components of being a Scythe and living in a post-mortal society. This book would be amazing for book clubs.

Narrowing focus down here, the main characters are Citra and Rowan, who are both taken on as apprentices to Scythe Faraday. Neither of them wants to be scythes which, in his opinion, makes them good candidates for the occupation. Throughout the book, you get a view into a lot of different viewpoints on what makes a good scythe and how scythes choose who to glean and it’s all fascinating.

Scythe‘s one of those books that’s shockingly and consistently brutal. And even though that’s a consistent factor, it never stopped shocking me how dark this book is. It wasn’t the most feelsy book in the world for me, but I definitely got intense surprise and horror for the characters. Poor dear Rowan especially. This is a rare book that I totally do not love for the ship, which I actually cannot decide if I ship or not, but for everything else. Though this book tops four hundred pages, I breezed right through it because it’s one heck of a page-turner.

Oh my god, there’s really just no way to talk about anything that’s not a generic plot overview without spoilers so: View Spoiler »

I’m so freaking curious to see what Shusterman’s going to do with this series from here. It was really hard to explain why this book’s so amazing because it’s so much in the execution/spoilers, so read it and then talk to me! I will say that if you love The Scorpion Rules or Illuminae, I think you’d be into Scythe big time.

Favorite Quote:

If you’ve ever studied mortal age cartoons, you’ll remember this one. A coyote was always plotting the demise of a smirking long-necked bird. The coyote never succeeded; instead, his plans always backfired. He would blow up, or get shot, or splat from a ridiculous height.

And it was funny.

Because no matter how deadly his failure, he was always back in the next scene, as if there were a revival center just beyond the edge of the animation cell.

I’ve seen human foibles that have resulted in temporary maiming or momentary loss of life. People stumble into manholes, are hit by falling objects, trip into the paths of speeding vehicles.

And when it happens, people laugh, because no matter how gruesome the event, that person, just like the coyote, will be back in a day or two, as good as new, and no worse—or wiser—for the wear.

Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

6 responses to “Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman”

  1. I don’t know what was up with me when I picked this up but it was not working for me and I gave up fairly early. You’ve convinced me this is definitely worth another shot because I sure do love Shusterman.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah HenstraMy Profile

  2. Lyn Kaye says:

    “Well, guys, Shusterman impressed the hell out of me with Scythe, which excels in world building, plot, and characterization.”

    Welp, you just made me add this to my wish list.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Still Need to Read!!My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      We don’t have the same taste in books generally, but I think there’s a good chance you’ll really like this one. 🙂

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