Scythe is Neal Shusterman’s latest novel set in a world where humans have achieved immortality. There is no hunger, poverty or disease, every one of these calamities have been eliminated by the Thunderhead, an all-knowing autonomous digital entity. There are even procedures that bring people back from the dead after accidents and make them younger once they’ve decided they no longer want to age. People work for the enjoyment of it and can have many different families over a lifetime, which brings us to the one problem in this society, population control. In order to make sure that the population doesn’t exceed the number that the Earth can support the scythedom was born. These assassins randomly choose people to kill, or “glean” according to their own governance, outside the purview of the Thunderhead. Citra and Rowan have been chosen to become the next generation.

I liked the premise of this book because I really liked the movie, In Time, where humans have achieved immortality, but after the age of 26 they have to purchase time in order to remain alive. If you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty fun. Ultimately, it’s a Bonnie and Clyde-esque heist movie with higher stakes. Scythe seems a little darker though, in that circumstances don’t kill people, people kill people and while everyone agrees that gleaning must be done there is another level of personal pain involved when you have to do it up close and personal. There is also the political element of the scythedom that I didn’t care much for. I’m not a politics buff and the idea of killing didn’t bother me as much as the idea of a governing body sanctioning the killing of people by scythes with questionable motives. There is a romantic element like all of YA, but I’m not sure if the romance was necessary. I kind of like the idea of the two apprentices being best buds and that’s it. The ending was really clean and satisfying, but I probably won’t go on to the next book, but that’s just me. I highly recommend it though, especially to anyone who hasn’t picked up anything in a while. It’s a fast and compelling read with the right amount of intrigue and action.

This book is for:

  • People who love science fiction
  • Anyone interested in immortality and the “singularity”
  • People who liked Ready, Player, One and were looking for something else

Discussion Questions:

  1. What things do you think would survive after the Thunderhead emerged? Language, dress, race?
  2. The US president and his entire cabinet were gleaned hundreds of years before the book begins. How do you think that impacted the world that emerged thereafter?
  3. Do you believe that art and progress would suffer if we became immortal?
  4. Citra and Rowan are put in an impossible situation together, is the romance justified or forced?
  5. Rowan makes a difficult decision regarding his mentor at the end of the book. Is he justified? Would you have done anything differently?
  6. Citra struggles with the final test. Why?
  7. Why do you think the Thunderhead is remaining silent in regards to what is going on with the scythedom?

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