by Neal Shusterman
Neal Shusterman’s brand new series depicts a future where immortality is now a reality. There’s no cancer, no communicable diseases or otherwise. The body is healed using nano technology. You can die, sure. You can even kill yourself many times over. But in this world, humans have the ability to bring you back to life. Not in a zombie form, and no life-altering side effects of any kind. You’ll be resuscitated to exactly how you were before you died. The downside to this world is overpopulation. Since people can reinvent themselves in all sense of the word, many can live for hundreds of years.
This is where Scythes come in. They are in charge of culling the population (permanently, that is). They are harbingers of death, harvesters of the living. Some decide how you die and some compassionate ones let you pick your own poison, so to speak. They are feared and revered in equal measure. How they decide who to die is a gray area, however. To some, the selection is based purely upon the wiles of the administering Scythe.
Scythe Faraday has his own method; in a way that’s almost scientific and based on statistics. He might be detached from the task but he took the time to render compassionate death.
Becoming one is, of course, not that easy. The first rule of being a candidate is that you must not want to be Scythe. When the thought of being one repulses you. Unfortunate for Citra and Rowan, really. Because they both share the same revulsion. Under Faraday’s tutelage, they’ll learn to develop killing with empathy and compassion (if such a thing exists). They’ll also learn how to distance themselves from the task that each and every culling doesn’t make them want to turn the blade unto themselves.
Predictably, this kind of power elicits a voracious hunger for more. And in this installment, you’ll meet a group who enjoys mass killing/killing a little too much. The bloodier, the better. So not all Scythes are like Faraday. Citra and Rowan will also find out exactly how competitive apprentices are during their first conclave attendance. The differing ideologies and politics create the kind of dangerous division that can only mean even more disastrous and bloody deaths for humankind.
As a Shusterman newbie, it’s easy to see why his Unwind series has such a cult following. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the world he conceptualized here because I felt it was the barest minimum as far as world-building goes. But the ingenious plotting won me over. His characters are memorable; strong-willed and full of conviction. They are thrust into the world where people’s lives rest unto their hands – quite literally. And whether they like it or not, they had to heed the call. However, I had a problem with how easily they performed the tasks considering how extreme their aversion was for killing people.
Scythe explores the subject of humanity in a way that asks if we’re still humans if we’re unable to die. Suicide had become an extreme sport of sorts for the adventurous bearing no repercussions whatsoever. This is a brutal, dark world where people are held hostage by their fears, waiting for the swing of the scythe to strike. It’s quiet, with bursts of action and gallows humor in its midst. A great intro to what promises to be an addictive series.