Thou shalt kill.
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.
Initial thoughts: This story is dark, thoughtful and makes us question the very core of our humanity. While it was a bit slower at times, I devoured every second of this excellent, sci-fi futuristic book.
Wow, what a book! This is the second book I’ve read by Neal Shusterman (the first being Unwind) and I can now confidently say that he is a masterful storyteller. His stories are extremely thoughtful, unique and explore some of the darker aspects of human nature. Scythe is no exception.
The story takes place in a future where humanity has finally reached its full potential to the point where they have conquered death itself. People no longer die in the natural sense, but they still have children and the population continues to grow. To account for this lack of death due to natural causes, Scythes spend their lives “gleaning” others. Scythes are some of the most respected, and feared figures in this society. Every person recognizes their necessity, but everyone still fears them when they come.
I was already fascinated by this idea and while at first I thought the idea was mere fantasy it got me thinking. What would happen if we all lived forever? Anyway, once you are familiar with the world you meet our two main characters- Citra and Rowan. Neither wants to be a scythe (although, those people make the best scythes) but they soon find themselves as an apprentice of one of the older, more respectable scythes. Scythe Faraday gleans randomly and respectfully- he does not love his life but he understands the importance of it.
As they get drawn deeper into Scythe politics we see that there are two schools of thought in the Scythe world- the old and the new. The old Scythes behave like Scythe Faraday- the glean as fairly as possible and show respect for those they glean. We also meet Scythe Goddard who gleans for pure enjoyment. As what point though, does that mean its murder? While I enjoyed getting to know both Citra and Rowan they really grew to represent and expose the reader to these two schools of thought and what that means for the future of the human race.
While the events of the book do lead up to a thrilling climax, this book is more of a dark, thoughtful exploration of humanity. It was absolutely fascinating to read about. If you take the book at face-value it is a good story with some quirky aspects- the obvious resemblance to grim reapers, the fact that the scythes all name themselves after famous historical figures (Faraday, Curie, Mandela). But if you really look at this book you will see that the author is an incredibly insightful and clever storyteller and it will have you thinking for days afterwards.
I am so pleased to see that this book is only the first part of the series. After that ending I cannot wait to see what else Shusterman has in store for Citra and Rowan. I highly recommend this book- is is extremely intriguing and unlike anything you have read before!