Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: 22nd November 2016
I decided to read Scythe by Neal Shusterman based on its cover, and whilst this is a very superficial reason, it payed off, and has been one of the best reads I’ve had in a while. I originally got the second book in the series, Thunderhead, but due to my lack of attention (due to those superficial reasons) I failed to realise this, but was saved by my local library having it. Anyway, enough of my rambling, let’s get onto the review.
The concept for the book isn’t the most original, but that isn’t to say that it’s not done well, in fact, in comparison to other somewhat dystopian fiction it’s probably my favourite. The grounds for the novel is that humanity has discovered everything and, in the process, eradicated death. The governing body of the world is a concious database called the Thunderhead, which is omniscient and omnipotent. With a growing population, there has arised a need for scythes, trained personel with a quota for their killings, designed to curb the population. There’s plenty of books with a trained killer for a protagonist, most of them fighting against their position, and a number that confront an overpopulated future, but Scythe is a genuinely interesting one that asks many questions about how this affects our daily lives and the troubles it can cause, which can be especially daunting as this may look closer to our future in the next hundred years or so.
There are a few cliches in the novel, the main one being how the two protagonists are pitted against one another (The Hunger Games anyone?), but as the story is told in both of their perspectives you can choose who to root for, or, if you’re indecisive, both. The two protagonists go through opposing training experiences, making their perspectives different and each of them radically different in attitude from what they were from the beginning of the novel, whether for good or for worse is your decision to make.
The politics involved in the novel are also pretty intriguing to follow. There’s a lot of manipulation and character relations that are revealed slowly, although with some good predictions and foresight you could probably guess a few. Certain characters govern control over others, and loyalty does have a strong element to play (especially in the sequel).
It’s not all serious though, as there definitely a number of hilarious moments throughout the book. In fact, it probably has one of my favourite one-liner in terms of comedy, which I would share but I don’t want to spoil it because it’s actually ridiculous, especially in the context in which it’s located in the book. (Although if you asked in the comments I’d probably tell you.)
I read the whole novel in around half a day, with me only having to stay up until 0130 in the morning (I’m sure some of you will see that as an achievement as well). What kept me reading wasn’t due to any cliffhangers, however, but because of my emotional investment in the characters and their well-being. For some, that happens with every book, but with the trials the protagonists go through, and how you come to care for some of the secondary characters, make for an emotional connection and leave you itching for the next book.
In regards to the next book, (hopefully I’ve convinced you to read the first), there’s still a lot to be uncovered. There’s a number of new characters and definitely some plot twists to accompany them, looking into the lives of ordinary people who aren’t scythes themselves, it introduces an interesting outlook and adds more colour to the vibrant world Shusterman writes.
Scythe is one of the best books I’ve read in a while and it rejuvenated me after reading a lot of other YA fiction. With science fiction and fantasy you can often get bogged down in same-y concept and ideas and complex love trianges (and the other annoying abstract shapes the author likes to complicate matters with) and drift further away from the focus on the sci-fi aspects. Scythe, whilst having romance, has a comparitavely small amount and it’s really nice to delve back into the sci-fi books that made me fall in love with the genre in the first place.
Rating system: 1 = bad, 2 = okay/decent, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = wow
I’d love to know if you’ve read Scythe, or considering adding it to your TBR. Also, tell me what good sci-fi books you’ve read recently as I’m itching to read some other ones.