Dystopian thriller both exhilarating and unnerving


Ben Schneider, Editor

Scythe presents a unique and thought-provoking question: what happens in a world where humanity has conquered death? Written by Neal Shusterman, Scythe is a young adult dystopian fiction novel that opens a trilogy. 

The story takes place in a futuristic utopia where a supercomputer called the Thunderhead governs the entire planet. Thanks to advances in technology and medicine, people have everything they need and have even halted the aging process. 

However, the constantly growing population necessitates that some of the world’s population must still die. Only a select group of people known as scythes control the population by “gleaning” enough people to keep the number at a manageable level. 

The plot revolves around two teens, Citra and Rowan, who are selected as apprentices by a scythe. As apprentices, they each train to be a scythe for one year, at which point one of them will be chosen to join the ranks of the sycthedom. However, the loser will not simply return to their previous life; the winner will glean them at the anointment ceremony. 

 Underneath it all is the threat of a growing number of “new-order” scythes who enjoy the job of killing others, compromising the integrity of the position. 

Overall, the plot of Scythe is very entertaining. The high stakes of Rowan and Citra’s apprenticeship will keep readers absorbed and racing to the end because the loser of their competition is sentenced to die. The narrative switches between characters so that readers are always involved in the action, which feels exceptionally realistic. 

The setting enhances the plot because the process of training to be a Scythe that each character experiences is exciting. They have to learn how to properly take life to control the population, even when the very idea of performing the job sickens them. 

In addition, the character development is strong, because each character has their own distinct personalities. Shusterman does a great job making them feel real. It is easy for readers to care about what happens to Rowan, Citra, and the other characters. 

It also presents fascinating ideas such as what could happen if humanity conquered death. However, the most memorable part of the book is the moral dilemma that would come from the job of ending life. In the book it is an honorable profession, but Shusterman focuses on the mental toll that such a task could take on those who undertake it. Throughout their training, Citra and Rowan struggle with the implications of gleaning and how to feel about their new purpose. 

The moral debate is exacerbated by the horror of Scythes who enjoy taking life, especially as compared to the honorable ones. Overall, it is a very idealistic book that is based on the thought-provoking nature of its setting.

The setting of the book is complex and much different from the real world. It is so different that the people struggle to relate to life in the “mortal” times. The journal excerpts that begin each chapter explain the setting well so that readers have no problem understanding. However, the settings of individual chapters could use more detailed descriptions; the book focuses on plot too much at times. 

Despite this, Scythe is absolutely riveting and well written. The pacing is agreeable and remains consistent throughout the novel. There are jumps in time, but they add to the plot instead of detracting from it. 

Finally, The ending of the book is exciting and features plenty of twists that will leave readers satisfied and eager to continue on to the next book in the series.

Overall, Scythe is an entertaining book that will leave a lasting impression on readers with its complex ideas, unique setting, and deep characterization.