Scythe – Neal Shusterman

scytheIn this ponderous dystopian thriller, the Cloud is now the Thunderhead.  Medical technology allows for long life with citizens resetting their DNA to their 20s or 30s.  This resetting can be done for hundreds of years allowing for a very long life for many.  However, we cannot sustain a growing population that does not die.  Life and death must be balanced so an artificial “circle of life” is instigated to glean lives.  Scythes are selected and trained to kill or glean a certain percentage of the population.  The Scythe may come for any citizen, young or old, with no notice.  Each Scythe should have the highest morals and ethics in selecting those to die.  But with great power comes temptation and corruption.

Teens Citra and Rowan are selected by the wise and respected Scythe Faraday for training as his apprentices.  Unfortunately the Council of Scythes decides only one apprentice is allowed so the teen who is selected at the end of their training must then glean the other.  The first major twist occurs when Scythe Faraday is killed.  Citra is claimed for training by Honorable Scythe Curie, a friend to Faraday, while Rowan is claimed by corrupt Scythe Goodard whose bloodlust leads to mass killings.  Despite now being apprenticed to different scythes, only one of the teens is to earn the position and the loser must glean the other.

There is much to consider here.  I was reminded of Logan’s Run. But in that dystopia, all citizens are humanely killed at age 21.  Many things bothered me in Scythe.  Why allow the population to live for hundreds of years and continue to create offspring when the only way to control this growth is to glean “innocent” citizens.  And why do the Scythes employ bloody means of gleaning?  Corruption is inevitable when a person has the authority to decide who lives and who dies.  Sympathetic characters, a brisk pace and a plethora of gleaning will yield another hit with teens.

eGalley review                                           Publication date 11.22.16

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