Scythe by Neal Shusterman

“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.” ― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

Scythe is 2016 novel by Neal Shusterman. It’s the first book in Arc of a Scythe series.

Scythe has a fascinating premise. The cloud and the interned have evolved into all knowing AI entity called Thunderhead. There is no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. There is nothing more to learn as AI knows everything. If people get hurt, nanites fix them. And mortality has been solved as well. If people die, they are revived and they can reset themselves to look younger if they so prefer.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? Even if it does. Death is needed to control the population. And for that task, the society has created scythes. Scythes are the death itself, performing gleanings which don’t allow you to be revived. They are also able to grant immunity from death.

“You have three hundred sixty-five days of immunity.” And then, looking him in the eye, said, “And I’ll be seeing you on day three hundred sixty-six.”  ― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

In the beginning of the book, Scythe Faraday picks two new trainees for scythedom. Citra and Rowan, who start to accompany him on his gleanings without actually performing the gleaning. Through a series of events, these new Scythes end up with two very different mentors. One of which follows old and very moral methods to gleanings, whereas the other is a bloodthirsty sadist.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It beautifully captures what we all have considered and turns that into a very thoughtful novel. Following has definitely crossed my mind: What if Google gained consciousness and gave a solution to all the world’s problems? Well it already does if you google long enough. Now, what if it become an entity who could also give you great life advice with fatherly/motherly touch. Just picture all the apps that now have chat bots installed within them and how they turn into virtual fitness or mental health assistants. So it doesn’t sound that far off. And then the book virtuously toys with mortality. We cannot let a machine or AI be responsible of death so where does that leave us. That leaves us controlling the population with help of algorithms. How many people die in traffic accidents or how many die of illnesses and then to look at how likely is person to recklessly for example. 5/5 stars (Yea, I admit, I have a hard time writing about bad books and I don’t even read them)

“People used to die naturally. Old age used to be a terminal affliction, not a temporary state. There were invisible killers called “diseases” that broke the body down. Aging couldn’t be reversed, and there were accidents from which there was no return. Planes fell from the sky. Cars actually crashed. There was pain, misery, despair. It’s hard for most of us to imagine a world so unsafe, with dangers lurking in every unseen, unplanned corner.  All of that is behind us now, and yet a simple truth remains: People have to die.” 
― Neal Shusterman, Scythe

How-To Read Scythe
1. I would warmly recommend this to all science fiction and fantasy fans. Masterfully written and thought over and it’s definitely something that makes you wonder where’s cloud technology and Google are heading.
2. It’s of nice length, almost 500 pages and luckily a first part of a trilogy. So I believe we’re in for a good adventure here.
3. I don’t think books lose value with time or anything of sorts but read this now and make your own guesswork and maybe look back into it in 10-20 years.

Have you read this? Thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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  1. I’ve been meaning to pick up Scythe. Your review has only made me more curious about it. Thank you for all of the work you put into it.

  2. I’ve had this book recommended to me and it is such a thought provoking premise- plus the whole mortaliy thing is fascinating. I really need to get to this.

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