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REVIEW: SCYTHE BY NEAL SHUSTERMAN

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian/SciFi
Pages: 435
My Rating: 4 stars

 

FOUR_CATS

 

“Thou shalt kill.”

 

What a great start to a series that looks very promising! The futuristic world that is explored in this novel was one of my favorite things about it. Nobody gets old, they can just reset themselves to a younger age. Nobody dies unless a scythe gleans them, even a drop from a 30 story window is something easy enough to come back from. The Thunderhead is an all knowing computer system that has solutions for everything, to the point where government isn’t needed anymore and the poor have been eliminated. This is the age after mortality, and Scythes exist to emulate death and keep the population at a sustainable level.

 

Pros:
– immersive world building and interesting futuristic/dystopian concepts
– characters that progressed a lot throughout the novel
– diversions in the plot that kept the story fresh

Cons:
– predictable ending, bad guys that are evil for evil’s sake
– difficult to relate to/connect with/care about the two main characters

 

“To date, the oldest living human being is somewhere around three hundred, but only because we are still so close to the Age of Mortality. I wonder what life will be like a millennium from now, when the average age will be nearer to one thousand. Will we all be renaissance children, skilled at every art and science, because we’ve had the time to master them? Or will boredom and slavish routine plague us even more than it does today, giving us less of a reason to live limitless lives?”

 

Before I started reading this book, I imagined Scythes to be the bottom of society- hated for what they do and lurking in the shadows. But it’s actually the opposite; people don’t necessarily like them, but they are held above everyone else, and are given gifts and treated exceptionally by people in an effort to gain favor and prolong their own lives. They never pay for anything, and have the power to take life at will- or to grant immunity from gleaning for different periods of time. As you can imagine, this gives the Scythes a lot of power, and you’re sure to find corruption and evil whenever too much power is involved. Many of the Scythe’s try to be just and fair in their tasks (like Faraday- the scythe training the MCs Citra and Rowan), while others start to like the power too much, and use it to take whatever they want and to scheme against others. I had a number of problems with the Scythedom and how it was run- a lot of it didn’t make logical sense, but once I was able to overlook these flaws I found myself enjoying the remaining aspects of the story.

 

“We became unnatural the moment we conquered death, Scythe Faraday would say—but couldn’t that be a reason to seek whatever nature we could find within ourselves? If he learned to enjoy gleaning, would it be such a tragedy?”

 

There was a lot of focus in this novel on morality and compassion, and I enjoyed seeing the characters as they progressed in their training and learned more about themselves and what they stood for. Things can get complicated when you take lives for a living, and the Scythes had a lot of flexibility when it came to how gleanings should happen and who they should happen to. The book went into a lot of detail on how different Scythes chose the people they would glean, and the different perspectives showed you a lot about their different personalities. For example, Scythe Faraday always used a method of gleaning that he’d never used before when he gleaned a new person, and at first I wondered why he would choose to drown/stab/shoot people when there was an option to give them a pill and a painless death. It seemed like using all kinds of methods was a bit sadistic, but Faraday later explains that he “prefer(s) to see each person (he) gleans as an individual that is deserving of an end that is unique.”

 

“They quickly learned that Scythe Faraday was very creative in his gleaning methods. He never repeated the exact same method twice.
“But aren’t there scythes who are ritualistic in their work,” Citra asked him, “performing each gleaning exactly the same?”
“Yes, but we must each find our own way,” he told her. “Our own code of conduct. I prefer to see each person I glean as an individual deserving of an end that is unique.”

 

There were all kinds of surprises in the plot, and any time things would seem like they were dragging out too long or getting too slow, something would happen that changed things up. I had a general idea of where things would go and how they would end up, but the expectation didn’t ruin the events when they unfolded. The author didn’t hold back at all when it came to descriptions of the gleanings, and there was generally a lot of detail throughout the story that helped to flesh out the world. There was plenty of character progression from our two main protagonists, but I wish their personalities were shown in more detail and that we’d gotten to know them better. I just couldn’t find myself connecting to them at all; I did start to appreciate them both more towards the end, and I think we’ll get to see more of their personalities in the next installments.

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