Skip to main content

Scythe by Neal Shusterman Book Review

As humans, we understand our time on this Earth is limited. We therefore strive to live in a certain way. We create patterns and ways of living that set us for success in the way we define it.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman, book 1 of the Arc of a Scythe duology asks us to imagine a world where no one dies. What if life could go on forever? There is no sickness, no poverty. Everyone has what they need because the Thunderhead, a futuristic imagining of an evolved Siri or Alexa, has solved all of the world's problems that people could not. Freed from the corruption humans carry in themselves, the Thunderhead has made it so that people now live forever.

But of course a new problem exists -- overcrowding and limited resources. Hence the scythedom was created. In this system, men and women are ordained as scythes who must glean around 5 times a week. A gleaning is a legalized killing. Free of malice or motive, scythes must fill a quota of kills, that are statistically backed up. No preference can be shown for gender, race, or appearance. Even some children can be gleaned, since in the time of mortality (a phrase that is used often in this book) some children did die.

Into this setting, we meet Citra and Rowan, two teens who are being trained under the same scythe, Scythe Faraday, for the "honor" of receiving the ring and becoming an ordained Scythe. The first rule of being a good scythe is that you not enjoy killing, which is something Citra and Rown have in common. Although the two are being trained as rivals, they form a friendship and complicated feelings for one another.

During the scythe conclave, the thrice annual gathering of scythes, unexpected events happen to divide Citra from Rowan, and they both find themselves trained by different people. Their divergent paths and the decisions they make is the subject of this first book.

Neal Shusterman has created, once again, an intriguing, world-building experience that is immersive, complicated, philosophical, and thoughtful. Readers who enjoy going deep with its characters will enjoy this book that is a blend of science fiction and utopia. The setup creates a world where:

  • The code of the scythe sets up a world where honorable killings take place.
  • People re-set their age to look younger once they become elderly.
  • There are, of course, bad scythes, who enjoy killing to provide context for why the rules are in place.
  • Each scythe wears a robe and creates a unique killing style
Scythe is Shusterman's compliment to the Unwind  dystology. He is the master at creating fully complex characters, unique ethical dilemmas, and creating worlds so utterly believable you will fear they are prophetic. The rest of the story can be found in the 2nd book, Thunderhead.


Popular posts from this blog

Riley Stearns' The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Movie Review: Do NOT Talk About Night Class

In 1999, David Fincher directed the book to movie Fight Club, a dark stylized comedy about a group of men who form a "support group" of sorts called Fight Club, where they pair up for no holds barred unarmed first fights with one another. Organized by the charismatic Tyler Durden, for a time, the meetings seem to be a good thing. Things start to spiral when the hero realizes Tyler is no good and must be stopped.

In many surface ways, The Art of Self-Defense is quite similar. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) walks around like he is apologizing for taking up oxygen. He lives alone with his dog and works at a boring, thankless job as an accountant. One day, Jesse is attacked on the street by some unidentified motorcycle riders. He's hospitalized for his wounds and takes some times off work.

On a walk around town, he overhears a karate class and goes into observe. He feels intrigued and inspired by what he sees and decide to sign up for classes. He hopes that he can "become wha…

Ali Abassi's Border (2018): A Dark Swedish Fairy Tale

Have you ever felt like you are alone? Like you exist and move around in a community of people that you are nothing like?

Imagine how Tina feels. She works as a highly competent border guard for the sole reason that her sense of smell is extrasensory. She can smell fear, shame, and any negative emotion on people as they cross through her security area, and she is never wrong about her suspicions. Her work career, however, might be the only thing she has going for her.

She lives on the outskirts of town with a boyfriend that owns a pack of dogs, and from all counts, they live together in a loveless domestic arrangement that is hard to imagine either of them conceiving. Things become a little clearer later as we learn that Tina owns the home and the boyfriend is enjoying the luxury of living rent free. Tina appears to have no family except for the man she calls father, who claims to have adopted her.

Tina is unattractive by human standards and is most often seen staring attentively and …

Alfonso Cuarón's Roma (2018) A Window into the Life of a Working Class Woman

For every person who keeps their hands clean and smooth from doing heavy duty manual labor, there are people who work thanklessly in the background, making life comfortable for those few. This is the subject of Roma, a film set in Mexico City with original screenplay written in Spanish. Roma takes one of those hardworking people and brings her front and center.

Cleo is the housekeeper of a middle-class family in the 1970s. She cleans the house, cleans the dog poo off the house entrance, brings the family tea, and serves them at mealtime. Cleo comes across as diligent, hardworking, sweet, shy, non-demanding, and loving. The children seem to adore her. She is a constant in their lives, and they treat her as one would expect a person who demands or expects nothing in return. At times, she’s like wallpaper. Other times, they are affectionate with her and desire her attention.

There isn’t much plot to this movie. Cleo does have some romantic adventures and deals with an unexpected pregn…