Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Series: The Arc of a Scythe #1
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 2016
I’m pretty sure that Neal Shusterman is my favorite author of dystopias. I love his Unwind series, and I may have lost my chill a little when I first heard about Scythe. Shusterman puts so much thought into his dysfunctional worlds. They’re far-fetched, but they’re sooo complex.
Scythe is set in a future where humans have conquered death. Disease no longer exists. Bodies can be put back together quickly. People can be brought back to life. The average human is hundreds of years old and has many children. In order to control the human population, the world government decides that the planet needs scythes, people whose job it is to permanently kill others. The main characters, Rowan and Citra, are teenagers who have been apprenticed to a scythe. Neither of them wants to be a scythe at first, but as they get deeper into their apprenticeships, they notice widespread corruption within the scythedom. What happens when the most powerful organization on Earth starts spinning out of control?
“Human nature is both predictable and mysterious; prone to great and sudden advances, yet still mired in despicable self-interest.” – Scythe
The worldbuilding is my favorite part of this novel. Neal Shusterman has thought of everything. A world where very few people have experienced death would be quite different from ours. A lot of art and literature would lose its meaning. Murder would no longer exist. Families would become huge, sprawling, many-generational things. If humans were immortal, there would be less incentive to get stuff done quickly. The author does a great job of showing the positives and negatives of a world without death.
“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 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? I dream of the former, but I suspect the latter.” – Scythe
Most dystopias are depressing, but this one is surprisingly funny. There’s lots of gallows humor, which I appreciate. I also like the parallels between the scythedom and real-world governments. I may have laughed out loud when a few scythes were outraged about a potential ban on flamethrowers. Because life’s not worth living unless you can own a flamethrower.
This is a big book. It’s over 400 pages. Normally, I’d get bored with a book that big, but I never got bored with Scythe. The plot moves quickly, the world is unique, and the characters are unpredictable. Citra and Rowan change a lot over the course of the novel. They’re both likeable kids, so they’re easy to root for.
As much as I love this book, I do have two complaints:
First, some of the “twists” aren’t twists because they’re predictable. Maybe I’ve just read too many dystopias, but some of the plot stuff in Scythe has been done before in other books. I saw it coming. I don’t want to be more specific because I don’t want to spoil the novel for anybody.
Second, have you read Shusterman’s Unwind series? Scythe is basically Unwind 2.0. I know that the books are written by the same person, and they’re bound to have similarities, but there is a lot of overlap. Rowan and Citra have similar personalities to Connor and Risa. (Their names even start with the same letters!) Both books address the same themes. (Should humans be allowed to decide who lives and who dies?) Reading Scythe definitely gave me a case of déjà vu.
Luckily, I love Unwind, so I didn’t mind Unwind 2.0.
Despite my complaints, I’m going to read the next book in the series. I need to know what happens next!
TL;DR: A must-read for dystopia lovers. Someone needs to put the sequel in my grabby little hands right now.
|Do you think any Scythes keep bullet journals? Get it? "Bullet" journal? For notes on killing? I thought it was funny.|