Scythe – book review

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by Neal Shusterman
Science Fiction
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)

In the future, humans have given over the governing and control of society to an artificial intelligence known as the Thunderhead (which evolved from the Cloud/data storage). “…[T]he Thunderhead was incorruptible. Not only that, but its algorithms were built on the full sum of human knowledge. All the time and money wasted on political posturing, the lives lost in wars, the populations abused by despots – all gone the moment the Thunderhead was handed power” (p. 53). Similar advances in medicine and health care have made it so that people can basically live forever. The Scythedom was created to manage the human population, and its members, the Scythes (highly trained in weapons, martial arts, poisons, and other killing methods), must glean/take a number of human lives in order to meet quarterly quotas. Each Scythe must follow the 10 Commandments of the Scythes, and each selects their victims according to a system of their own choosing. Citra and Rowan, teenagers, are chosen to be apprentice Scythes to Scythe Faraday, who recognizes their superior moral qualities, but when the Scythe Conclave learns he has 2 apprentices, they set them against one another. Whomever passes their test with the highest marks will become a Scythe whose first act will be to glean the other. Distraught by this turn of events, Faraday gleans himself to release his apprentices, but his sacrifice is for naught. Other Scythes take them on, the challenge stands, and Scythe Goddard, Rowan’s new master is a psychopath/serial killer, who is determined to break and corrupt his charge.

This is a future one can easily imagine coming to pass. And the moral quandaries faced by the Scythes and their apprentices are ones that will both fascinate and horrify readers. Brutal, but intriguing, this page-turner will leave you breathless and eager for the next chapter.

Reviewed by YA Librarian

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