Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe #2
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Publication Date: January 2018
This review is for the second book in a series. I tried really hard to avoid spoilers, but you should probably check out my review of Scythe.
Do we have a release date for the next book in this series? I need it right now. I am not okay, guys! I’m deadish. A book shouldn’t just end like that! What happens next?
In this book, the main characters, Rowan and Citra, are separated. Rowan has rebranded himself “Scythe Lucifer” and is punishing Scythes who abuse their power. Meanwhile, Citra is a Junior Scythe with a unique way of doing her job. Both of them are making waves within the Scythedom. Some of the older Scythes feel like their corrupt way of life is being threatened, and they’re not going to keep quiet about it.
The biggest difference between this novel and Scythe is the addition of chapters narrated by the Thunderhead, a supercomputer that basically runs the world. If you’ve read The Illuminae Files, then Thunderhead is the opposite of AIDAN. Thunderhead is programed to love humans and constantly find better ways to care for them. The chapters add a lot to the worldbuilding and bring up some intriguing ethical questions. How much of our lives should be controlled by computers? Would you let an ultra-compassionate computer heal your body? Or drive your car? Or babysit your kids?
Actually, this whole book is thought-provoking. That’s one of the reasons why I love Neal Shusterman’s writing so much. His worlds are far-fetched and sometimes silly, but there are a lot of parallels between his fictional worlds and the real world.
“There is a fine line between freedom and permission. The former is necessary. The latter is dangerous . . . While freedom gives rise to growth and enlightenment, permission allows evil to flourish in a light of day that would otherwise destroy it. A self-important dictator gives permission for his subjects to blame the world’s ills on those least able to defend themselves. A haughty queen gives permission to slaughter in the name of God. An arrogant head of state gives permission to all nature of hate as long as it feeds his ambition. And the unfortunate truth is, people devour it. Society gorges itself, and rots. Permission is the bloated corpse of freedom.” - Thunderhead
Just like Scythe, Thunderhead is full of gallows humor. Since death in this world isn’t permanent, the author can casually kill your favorite character a dozen times. Instead of being sad, I laughed when my favorites died. Death is just a minor inconvenience to them.
I think Thunderhead suffers a little from Middle Book Syndrome. It’s slow to start, and it spends a lot of time setting up conflicts that will (probably) play out in the next book. It’s frustrating to sit through all that set-up. Especially because I have to wait so long for the next book to be released. But, I can forgive Thunderhead because of the ending. That was nuts! I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next book, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be intense.
“Finding easy scapegoats for complicated problems had been a human pastime since the first mob of cavemen struck someone down with a rock.” - Thunderhead
If you haven’t read a Neal Shusterman book, you need to get your hands on one soon. You probably won’t regret it.
TL;DR: A little slow, but I don’t care. Bring on the next book.
Thank you to Wendy @ Falconer’s Library for gifting me this book. I loved it.