Scythe – Neal Shusterman – Review
Death has been conquered. You hit your head on the sidewalk, fall off a building or end up in a car crash and you are taken to a revival center. You body is mended and you are able to live your life again. Humans are immortal.
Death has been conquered but the world is not perfect. The population has to be controlled, a job left to an elite group known as Scythes. They are charged with “gleaning” or killing people in order to keep the world’s population under control.
The Scythedom appears like a well oiled machine on the outside but on the inside it is falling apart. Something that two new apprentices Citra and Rowan begin to learn quickly. They can become masters of death but is that something they want? What does it mean to be the one that controls if people live or die? What does that do to a person? Can you keep your moral heart and do this job?
The concept of death being conquered is what drew me to this story. I loved the idea of a story that centers around reapers or scythes. This group is not one that you find in stories very often and I was eager to find out how this concept was interpreted.
I thought the idea of no one dying and what that means for the people was really interesting. It is pointed out numerous times that without the fear of death and an end to life, people have become complacent. They just live to live. They don’t work towards anything. They know they have literally eternity and no one really strives to make anything of themselves. They are all alive to be alive.
There are no more issues to conquer. There is no hunger, no war, no real crime and no death. All of life is controlled by an AI called the Thunderhead. Life is literally perfect and simple. But without anything new to discover and no problems to conquer what does life mean then? What do you do when you can’t change anything? What do you do when your job is to just keep you from being bored? What does life mean in this world? I loved exploring that concept.
I also really enjoyed Citra and Rowan’s journey’s. In this book Rowan stood out to me more than Citra did. I think it was because Rowan was thrown into a situation where he had to find a way to keep the good side of him alive. I really enjoyed watching him struggle between two sides of himself.
Rowan gets caught up with a group of Scythes that love to kill. They enjoy bringing death to people. In our world they would be classified as Sociopaths. They show no care or remorse for their actions. They take in Rowan and we watch as he struggles to not become them though that is not an easy task.
For a character who has always felt invisible or like “lettuce” as he puts it, he finds his new role enticing. There is power at his fingertips. There is meaning to his actions. People notice him. He is caught up in that feeling at times and we watch him struggle to keep himself from falling down a wormhole. I love watching characters struggle with their darker sides.
At first I thought I had an idea of what this story was going to be about. These two apprentices coming to terms with their new roles and then fighting to right any wrongs. It had some of that but there were some serious twists throughout the story. I actually found myself shocked at points. Any book that can throw me for a loop is one that I will enjoy.
There was a middle chunk where Citra was running away, for a reason that I won’t state to no spoil anything, that I thought was not necessary. It was there more to give her something to do while Rowan was completing a part of his story. It was also an update on another character.
I thought it felt like it was just there to buy time. There was no real consequences of the whole ordeal other than some character development. For the plot thought it really didn’t do to much. I think there are other ways for those moments to happen without needless running around.
I also had a little issue with how resolute Scythe Curie was about Rowan having turned dark while he was with his tutor. She was firm that he was not on their side anymore and that Citra could not trust him. I thought that seemed harsh. They didn’t even talk to Rowan at first. It was a decision made quickly without thinking about why he did what he did.
I think Curie’s character was smarter and could have seen that some of the things Rowan did was to save himself and Citra. I just felt like her character was not the right character to have this doubt. It just didn’t fit with what we knew about her.
The only true issue I had with the book was the romance aspect. I did not feel any chemistry between Citra and Rowan. I thought of them more as best friends. There was no reason for them to have a romance storyline. I think it would have been better to keep them as close friends and nothing more.
I highly enjoyed this book and went out at ten o’clock to Target to get the next one to continue the story. I ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads. It is a fun story about what life and death mean in this “perfect” world.
“So then, if we are no longer human, what are we?” (pg. 110)
“The sanctity of the law… and the wisdom to know when it must be broken.” (pg. 114)
“Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.” (pg. 191)
“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy. The best we get is pleasantness.” (pg. 244)
“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace of comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we were lose that.” (pg. 386)