Author(s): Neal Shusterman
Two teens must learn the "art of killing" in this Michael L Printz Honor award book, the first in a chilling new series from the author of the New York Times' bestselling Unwind dystology.
Living in a world where immortality is a reality may seem utopian to some. In Neal Shusterman’s latest teen novel, human society has advanced to this state thanks to great advances in medicine and technology. It’s an ideal society where threat is obsolete, where everyone has everything they need (and more), conflict and competition for resources are redundant issues, and life carries on interrupted only by ‘turning the corner’ (rejuvenation - yes, you can become younger again - as young as 21 if you wish). There are no longer governments or state-controlled organisations - the mainframe is now something called the Thunderhead - an all-knowing data-based system that has consciousness: artificial intelligence at its zenith. Yet despite the utopian dream, population growth is still an issue and the Thunderhead’s analysis decrees the human/resource ratio, and this must be adhered to. Enter the Scythedom - a group of officials whose role is to determine who should die. Arbitrary death bringers! The Scythes act outside the jurisdiction of Thunderhead and have their own rules and charter. Quotas are expected to be reached, yet not exceeded, but the means of killing, called gleaning (merciful or otherwise), are at the behest of the individual scythe - and who they choose is completely their choice. The novel opens with a Scythe knocking on the door of teen Citra Terranova’s home. Thinking that he is there to glean a family member, the family try to protect the youngest, Ben, and offer the Scythe food. However, Scythe Faraday is there to glean the neighbour who hasn’t got home from work yet, but he is hungry so a meal is gratefully accepted. This is our first introduction to the Scythedom, and to the fear and wariness that the rest of humanity feel towards these cloaked and elite individuals who hold the power of life (they can grant immunity - a year’s grace from gleaning) and death in their hands. When Citra gets an invitation to a show at the opera house she heads along and meets the Rowan Damisch, a fellow teen, who has also received an anonymous invite. They have been invited by Scythe Faraday, who offers them apprenticeships to the Scythedom. Tempted by the offer (family members of Scythes have complete immunity) but also repulsed by it, both Rowan and Citra rise to the challenge and begin their training in weapons, poisons, philosophy and compassion. Yet not all is honourable and well with the Scythedom, and soon both Citra and Damisch are placed in impossible situations and become pawns in a sinister game of corruption, ego and the conflict of ideas. Shusterman’s novel is brimming with ideas, action and dark intrigue. There’s the necessary romance to add spice, the depth of long-lasting loyalties as well as the bristling of enemies to feed the narrative, the good/evil duality and all the questions that come with that, as well as plenty of challenges to keep our teens on their toes. Add to this some great wordplay, humorous interludes, compelling central characters, and some tight, pacey writing, and you have an appealing and thought-provoking young adult's novel. The ending is made for a sequel, with its dramatic encounter between our two heroes and enough threads left hanging to pull you to the next instalment, Thunderhead. The 'Arc of a Scythe' series is perfect for dystopia fans and readers of the 'Hunger Games' and 'Chaos Walking' series.
This powerful tale is guaranteed to make readers think deeply. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) *
This first volume in an anticipated trilogy offers forbidden love, mass murders, cool philosophical musings, and a well-developed futuristic society-plenty to guarantee interest in the planned two followups. * BCCB (starred review) *
Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go... A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have. * School Library Journal (starred review) *
Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman's dark tale thrusts realistic, likeable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions. A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. * Kirkus (starred review) *
Scythe owes an obvious debt to Unwind (2007) and its sequels, and this succeeds as a sort of shadow companion to Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy: instead of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, this deals in what happens to men when there are no monsters. When our reach does not exceed our grasp, when comfort is more easily obtained than struggle, when our essential humanity doesn't burn out but becomes slowly irrelevant, what becomes of us? Readers will find many things in these pages. Answers to such unsettling questions will not be among them. * Booklist (starred review) *
Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author whose books include the New York Times bestselling Unwind series and Challenger Deep, which won a National Book Award. He also writes screenplays for film and television, for shows such as Goosebumps and Animorphs. He lives in Southern California with his four children. Follow him on Twitter: @NealShusterman