“Scythe,” written by the renowned Neal Shusterman, has remained at the top of my to-read list for quite some time, largely due to the universal praise it received from both critics and young adult readers alike.
Shusterman, a heavyweight in the YA literature scene, is famous for his thought-provoking and dynamic narratives.
Known for works such as “Unwind” and “Challenger Deep,” Shusterman has a reputation for confronting uncomfortable and controversial themes with an unflinching yet nuanced perspective.
“Scythe” intrigued me right from the start because of its unique premise, in which humanity has conquered death and an elite group of individuals called Scythes are tasked with controlling population growth through a process known as ‘gleaning.’
My journey with this book began on a long weekend when I was in dire need of some quality reading. The expectations were high, and, spoiler alert, Shusterman did not disappoint.
Summary of the Book
Set in a distant utopian future, “Scythe” takes us into a world where technology has advanced to such an extent that death, disease, and aging are virtually obsolete.
The Cloud, now a sentient entity known as the Thunderhead, oversees this society, ensuring a harmonious existence.
However, this progress has led to overpopulation, prompting the need for the Scythes, an order of appointed individuals who bear the morbid responsibility of deciding who must die to maintain balance.
The story centers around Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, two teenagers chosen by the honorable Scythe Faraday for the grim task of Scythedom apprenticeship.
Citra, a quick-witted and inherently compassionate individual, and Rowan, a sensitive soul known for his passivity, are as different as they come.
Yet, they both find themselves in the same precarious situation, battling the same moral and ethical dilemmas.
The narrative unspools as Citra and Rowan are thrown into a world that tests their principles, friendships, and very humanity.
They are trained in the art of killing and must grapple with the disconcerting reality of wielding power over life and death.
The plot twists and turns, exposing the underlying corruption within the Scythedom and leading up to an unthinkable choice the two protagonists must make.
All the while, Shusterman masterfully preserves the suspense, ensuring the readers are on their toes, deeply invested in the fate of Citra, Rowan, and their dystopian society.
With “Scythe,” Shusterman takes the readers on a thrilling exploration of a future where immortality is the norm and death is a carefully orchestrated event.
The plot is a riveting blend of suspense, moral quandaries, and the intricate dance of human emotions.
Analysis and Evaluation
Themes: Shusterman’s “Scythe” is replete with compelling and profound themes that beg exploration.
The theme of mortality stands front and center, despite living in a world where natural death is virtually extinct, the inhabitants are still at the mercy of the Scythes’ gleanings.
The stark contrast between immortality and the Scythes’ ability to end lives places mortality in a new, unsettling light.
The theme of morality also takes center stage.
Scythes have their own commandments to follow, yet the interpretation of these commandments seems subjective, allowing room for corruption and power misuse.
The book questions the morality of granting a select few the power to control life and death. It challenges us to think about the ethical implications and the moral compass guiding such decisions.
The book also explores the theme of corruption and how power can corrupt even those with the best intentions.
It cleverly underscores how a utopian society, seemingly perfect, can still harbor the potential for manipulation, deception, and misuse of power.
Character Development: “Scythe” offers its characters plenty of room to grow and evolve, much to the readers’ delight.
Citra and Rowan start as ordinary teenagers, plucked from their daily lives and thrust into the deadly realm of the Scythes.
As they learn about gleaning, they are forced to question their own beliefs and their sense of right and wrong.
Citra’s growth is fascinating to watch.
Her inherent sense of justice and quick-thinking mind remain, but she develops resilience and a knack for playing the political games of Scythedom.
She matures significantly, while still retaining a piece of her earlier self.
Rowan, on the other hand, undergoes a drastic transformation.
From a relatively passive character, he becomes someone with significant influence and power.
His journey is dark and filled with internal conflict, offering a stark contrast to Citra’s path.
The secondary characters, including the Scythes themselves, are also well fleshed out, each with distinct philosophies and approaches to gleaning.
Scythe Faraday’s adherence to the old ways and Scythe Goddard’s lavish, violent philosophy embody the spectrum of morality within Scythedom.
Emotional Impact: “Scythe” delivers a rollercoaster of emotions.
The suspense and dread are omnipresent, every page turned leaves you wondering who will be gleaned next and how our protagonists will navigate their grim responsibilities.
The moments of grief, joy, and shared humanity within the pages resonate deeply.
The evolution of Citra and Rowan’s relationship also tugs at the heartstrings.
Their relationship starts as rivalry evolves into friendship, and gradually develops into something deeper and more complex.
Thought-Provoking Aspects: “Scythe” excels at making its readers think.
It forces us to question the moral and ethical implications of a deathless society.
It brings to the forefront uncomfortable questions about the sanctity of life, the nature of mortality, and the repercussions of absolute power.
The book made me reflect on the concept of utopia and whether it’s achievable without inherent flaws.
The seeming perfection of Shusterman’s world is underlined with profound imperfections, a reminder that even in a world where every human ailment can be cured, the human propensity for power and control remains.
The thought-provoking nature of “Scythe” is perhaps its most significant strength, leaving readers pondering long after the final page has been turned.
Comparison with Other Works
Comparison with Shusterman’s Other Works: Neal Shusterman has a knack for addressing philosophical and societal dilemmas in his works, and “Scythe” is no exception.
Just like in his ‘Unwind’ series, Shusterman uses a dystopian future to challenge our understanding of morality and ethics, albeit with a different premise.
However, while ‘Unwind’ focuses more on individual identity and the value of life in its entirety, ‘Scythe’ delves into the question of death, immortality, and who gets to control population dynamics.
One common thread between ‘Scythe’ and Shusterman’s other works, particularly ‘Challenger Deep,’ is his ability to create complex characters who evolve significantly throughout the narrative.
Both Citra and Rowan undergo considerable character development, akin to Caden’s transformative journey in ‘Challenger Deep.’
Comparison with Other Books in the Same Genre: “Scythe” occupies a unique space within the dystopian and young adult genres.
While many dystopian novels, like ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Divergent,’ deal with societies in clear decay or under authoritarian control, “Scythe” presents us with a society that is seemingly utopian.
This difference makes “Scythe” a refreshing and fascinating addition to the genre.
In terms of character development and world-building, “Scythe” can be compared favorably to the likes of ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry or ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St. John Mandel.
All three novels feature robust and engaging characters dealing with profound ethical dilemmas in intricately crafted worlds.
“Scythe” provides a thrilling exploration of a future where death is an event controlled by a select few, making us question our perceptions of life, death, morality, and power.
The character development is exceptional, with Citra and Rowan’s transformative journeys at the heart of the narrative.
Shusterman’s writing style is engaging, filled with suspense, and evokes a range of emotions, making “Scythe” a deeply impactful read.
“Scythe” is a powerful, thought-provoking read that combines an intriguing plot with complex character development and profound thematic depth.
It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from exploring uncomfortable ethical and moral dilemmas, while still delivering a captivating story.
Having finished “Scythe,” my anticipation for the sequels ‘Thunderhead’ and ‘The Toll’ is quite high.
I’m eager to see how Citra and Rowan’s journeys evolve and how the underlying issues of the Scythedom are addressed.
Given the strengths of the first book, I have high hopes for the subsequent installments in this series.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 signifies absolute perfection, I’d rate “Scythe” a solid 8.5.
The deductions arise from a few pacing issues and some secondary characters that felt like they could have used a little more depth.
However, these minor gripes do not significantly detract from the overall reading experience.
The compelling themes explored in the book, the complex character arcs of Citra and Rowan, the suspenseful plot, and Shusterman’s engaging writing style all contribute to the high rating.
The book scores particularly high in terms of its originality and thought-provoking nature.
“Scythe” by Neal Shusterman is an exceptional entry into the world of dystopian literature.
It’s a profound, gripping narrative that combines an intriguing premise with compelling characters and a storyline that consistently keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The philosophical and moral questions it raises are as unsettling as they are thought-provoking, and they linger long after you’ve turned the last page.
This book is much more than a young adult novel; it’s a profound exploration of life, death, morality, and the inherent flaws of a seemingly perfect society.
It challenges your perspectives, pulls at your heartstrings, and invites you to imagine a world where the only deaths are the ones ordained by Scythes.
Shusterman weaves a rich tapestry of suspense, emotional intensity, and ethical dilemmas, creating a narrative that is as unforgettable as it is unsettling.
This is a must-read for fans of dystopian literature and anyone who appreciates thought-provoking fiction.
“Scythe” has made its mark, and I look forward to the rest of this thrilling series.