Sunday, March 25, 2018

Book Review - Scythe

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, Book 1)
by Neal Shusterman
2016
435 pages

'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.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.
'

*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

I don't often read dystopian/utopian books because I'm just not usually into that type of thing.  I received this book as a Christmas present and when I looked it over I was like, 'Ugh.'  Well, imagine my surprise when I was hooked pretty much from page one, and continued loving it all the way through?!  Maybe *because* I don't often read this genre or watch these types of movies, maybe that's why so many of the ideas in this story stuck in my head, kept giving me things to think about even when I wasn't reading.

I can see how this book might not sit well with some people.  It is about a dark subject, killing and death.  And it's treated with everything from gentle passing on to brutal slaughters.  Luckily there isn't too much gory detail and I think that's part of the reason it worked for me.  We don't need every little thing described or shown to us.  Let our minds build that picture for ourselves!

While death is a huge part of the story, there was so much more that kept my brain going.  Well, let me explain a bit first.  In this future perfect world where they've conquered disease and death and just about everything, they have Scythes who 'glean' (kill) people to keep the population in check.  Scythes are the only ones who can permanently kill anyone, and they can also grant immunity.  People can become 'deadish' if they, for instance, get hit by a bus, but they are taken to a revival center where they will be completely healed in a matter of days.  Scythes are feared and worshipped, and they work outside the laws of the general population.  They are a self-governing body.  Scythes take on apprentices, which what this book is about, and every Scythe is required to make daily journal entries.  It's one of these journal entries, very early in the book that just blew me away.  It talked about the year that mankind finally learned everything there is to learn.  What?  Think about that!  It goes on to talk about how there was eventually no need to keep track of years by number because there was nothing to keep track of anymore.  Other bits throughout the book talk about how there is no need for school or college anymore, that people just do it for something to do now.  Handwriting and reading actual paper books are quaint little hobbies from days gone by.  So much information had been uploaded to the Cloud overtime that the Cloud began to 'think' for itself and grew into this massive A.I. called the Thunderhead, which eventually and effectively removed the need for any world leaders or governments.  There is no war, no poverty, nothing.  But the Thunderhead does not control or get involved with the Scythedom.

As the book talks about the Thunderhead, and has scattered mentions of the old gods that mankind set aside, it's kind of like they've accepted this new god (Thunderhead) without realizing they're still religious.  And as the book reveals the growing corruption within Scythedom, with older Scythes trying to hang on to more traditional Age of Mortality ways, and newer Scythes letting their power and glory go to their heads, you see they're actually moving backwards as a society now.  It's like that child's toy with the rubber ball on a string connected to the paddle.  This perfect world reached it's peak of perfection when the ball hit the farthest point that string would allow it to go, and now corruption is dragging them back just like that little ball is speeding back towards that paddle for a big ol' splat.  It's all very verrrrrry interest to think about!

In this particular story, Citra and Rowan are two teens with very different lives.  They are chosen by honorable old school Scythe Faraday as apprentices and neither one is thrilled with it but they don't have much say in the matter.  The two become friends and are starting to develop feelings for each other when a dramatic turn of events finds them being split up and taken on by new mentors.  Citra is now with Faraday's friend, another very honorable and old school Scythe, while Rowan finds himself with a much younger Scythe mentor, one who feels it's time to move Scythedom forward.  This is where and how they start to discover that all is not quite perfect in the world afterall, and they see more and more how corrupt Scythedom really is.  What can two kids do?  What are two kids *willing* to do??  And will their friendship survive as they're now groomed in very different ways???

Not only was this whole story fascinating to me, it was extremely well written.  I love that!  It's rare to find such a well put together story!  Everything fit, the plot kept moving at a nice pace, and information was fed to us as needed without bogging down in tons of side story fluff.  There was only one inconsistency that I found and even that was minor and nitpicky in passing, and that was if one main Scythe's style of gleaning was to choose their target randomly how did they know whether or not that person had been granted immunity?  But in the overall story, it was a minor blip on the radar.

I'm looking forward to diving right into the second book in this series!

2 comments:

  1. Sounds really interesting! I put it on hold at the library but there are several people ahead of me so hopefully by the time I get it, I'll be in the mood to read something darker. Love the cover!

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    1. I hope you like it. I'm reading the second one now. It's still good and interesting but hasn't grabbed me as much as the first one did. There is a bit of a Hunger Games vibe about it, the whole 'this girl will be the voice of the uprising' type thing. Should be interesting!

      ~Deb

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