Various internet peoples have been telling me to read Neal Shusterman for years now, and with Scythe he finally published a book whose premise I couldn’t resist, so here we are. If the rest of his books are as well thought out as this one was, they’re definitely getting moved up my TBR.
Scythe takes place several hundred years in the future, after humanity has conquered mortality and disease*, and humans are functionally immortal. But having humanity immortal but still procreating creates an obvious problem. Enter the Scythes: a group of humans set apart from the others whose sole job is to glean the population. Scythes must be moral and conscientious, and they must be able to bear tremendous responsibility. Enter our two protagonists: Rowan and Citra. They are both chosen by the Scythe Faraday as his apprentices, to train to be scythes. At the end of their training, one will move on to be a scythe, and the other will go back to their former life, perhaps altered forever.
*Well, technically what actually happened was that the cloud evolved into a sentient artificial intelligence called the Thunderhead, and the Thunderhead conquered mortality and disease, and made human government obsolete. But it was just easier to say the other thing.
But that’s just the beginning. This premise grabbed me in a way books don’t often, not emotionally (which is my usual thing), and not *really* intellectually, but this weird third space I don’t have a name for where I’m just SUPER INTERESTED TELL ME MORE. It was so weirdly philosophical and morbid. Each chapter is prefaced by an excerpt from a Scythe’s gleaning journal, and these were riveting to me, exploring all the possible ramifications of an immortal humanity and moral implications of being a scythe. I perhaps enjoyed these entries more than I did the actual book. (I did enjoy the book.)
I did think the pacing was a bit off in parts, and the two main characters didn’t gel for me until the second half of the book (the secondary characters on the other hand, I loved immediately, particularly Faraday and Curie). I also thought the attempts to suggest romance were half-hearted and unnecessary. They felt forced in because it’s YA and in YA you need romance. This book didn’t need it. (At least, not yet.) I feel the book would have been stronger if the two apprentices were just friends, potentially of the same gender if they’re straight, and/or of different sexual orientations if not, and thus not interested in one another. I don’t always need romance in my YA, unless it’s called for by the premise and again, here, I didn’t (yet).
This book surprised me in several places, and did things I didn’t think it would (because of the genre). I didn’t guess how it would end. Not sure how many books we’ll be in for in this series, but it could potentially go some really exciting places (though it could actually be read as a stand-alone, too).
[3.5 stars, rounding up because I’m hoping I’ll grow to love the main characters more in the next book, and the rest of the book was so intriguing]