Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Published by Walker Books on February 1st 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
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A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death.
In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed ("gleaned") by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes' apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do.
Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe's apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice's first task will be to glean the loser.
In 2042, humans stopped counting the years, because once you can live forever, the passage of years becomes less important. Computational power became infinite, and the Thunderhead (a new, improved cloud) took over all aspects of human knowledge. Suddenly, death had been conquered, but to ensure the population could never grow beyond the ability of Earth to sustain it, Scythes were appointed to “glean” members of the population.
Basically, people don’t feel anything anymore. They have nanites in their blood controlling their emotions, negating their pain, and accelerating healing. Unless they are chosen by a Scythe to be gleaned, any accidental death is actually merely deadish, and they are revived in a day or two, good as new. Once they get old enough, they “turn the corner”, wind back the ageing process and come back in a rejuvenated, youthful body.
It’s a fascinating premise, and a dark one for a young adult audience, but the two protagonists bring a surprising levity to what is otherwise a rather dry story at times. Citra and Rowan are chosen by Scythe Faraday for training, but only one of them will wear a Scythe’s ring at the end of their apprenticeship. As you can imagine, they develop feelings for each other and end up having to face off, but there are some additional twists along the way that I didn’t expect.
This is the first Neal Shusterman book I’ve read, and I found his style to be engaging and even irreverent at times, although slow through the early parts of the book.
Scythe is an interesting look at the dehumanising effect of immortality, and the motivations of the different factions of Scythes are thought-provoking. I especially loved the idea of the Tone Cult, who worship vibrations in the absence of any religion.
While I didn’t love this book as much as I know Jeann wanted me to (sorry!), I will pick up the sequel, Thunderhead, if I get a chance.