Scythe by Neal Shusterman
So what do you do when death is no longer a part of life? In Neal Shusterman’s newest book, Scythe, medical and technological advances have eliminated death as a part of natural life. But to control population, some pruning must occur.
And therefore, a group of highly trained men and women are tasked with population reduction, or gleaning. They are called Scythes – and they follow 10 rules for the legal taking of lives and answer to no one.
Scythe Faraday chooses Rowan and Citra as apprentices after chance encounters with each. There seems to be nothing exceptional in either teen, but Faraday has seen something in each. Unfortunately, only one will be chosen to ascend to the title of Scythe, and to complicate matters, against their best intentions, Rowan and Citra fall in love.
Training for the two begins. It is harsh but fair; challenging but ethical. Scythe Faraday is fair, ethical and compassionate, understanding that unless he respects death he cannot inflict it upon random citizens. After Faraday’s untimely death (murder?), Citra is taken on by Scythe Curie, who echoes much the same values as Scythe Faraday. Rowan, however, is taken on by Scythe Goddard, who sees himself above the law and enjoys the necessary killings as sport. Yet each, technically, follows the 10 commandments, which include: 1 – Thou shalt kill, and 2 – Thou shalt be beholden to no laws beyond these.
Scythe Goddard was the one who proposed that since Scythes were allowed only one ascendant apprentice, the Faraday apprentice not chosen should be gleaned, immediately, by the one who was. This proposal before the MidMerica convention of Scythes, demonstrated that there are politics at work even in this highest of organizations.
Will Citra and Rowan remain confident in each other? Will Rowan be turned to view his profession as an avenue for legalized violence? This first of the Arc of the Scythe trilogy does answer those questions, and then sets the scene for further exploration into the ethics of living and dying and very powerful governmental bodies.
Neal Shusterman is no stranger to tackling sensitive topics. This new trilogy takes a look at a world in which death is no longer a natural occurrence. In the Unwind Dystology, Shusterman explored a world without abortion but in which parents were given the opportunity to “unwind” children when they achieved age 13.
A visit with Neal Shusterman is one in which story telling is the point. But along the way, he forces us to think about the possibilities our futures could hold. — review by Jan Cravens, Youth Services assistant