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Scythe

by Shusterman, Neal

Publishers Weekly In the future Earth of this grim novel from National Book Award-winner Shusterman (Challenger Deep), the digital cloud has transformed into the self-aware Thunderhead, whose benevolent totalitarian rule has turned the planet into a utopia. There's no poverty or crime, and everyone is guaranteed immortality. Well, almost everyone. Because babies are still being born, population growth must be limited. Thus evolved the Scythes, an organization whose members are charged with "gleaning" citizens at random. Sixteen-year-old Citra and Rowan are chosen by a Scythe named Faraday to train as apprentices. Neither likes the idea, but they're given no choice. Later, Citra becomes an apprentice to Curie, a legendary Scythe, but Rowan is apprenticed to Goddard, who kills for sadistic pleasure. Calling to mind Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Shusterman's story forces readers to confront difficult ethical questions. Is the gleaning of a few acceptable if it maximizes the happiness of all? Is it possible to live a moral life within such a system? This powerful tale is guaranteed to make readers think deeply. Ages 12-up. Agent: Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary. (Nov.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 8 Up-In a world where humanity has conquered death and a fraternity called Scythes are the only ones allowed to kill people in order to curb overpopulation, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch must cope with their newfound and terrible responsibilities as apprentices in killing. A brilliant and gripping sci-fi thriller that acutely explores the consequences of worldwide immortality and asks readers to think critically about the nature of morality. Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *Starred Review* In the year 2042, humans conquered death. Now, in the postmortal society of MidMerica, people can live for millennia, either reanimated from fatal accidents or turning the corner when they get old by resetting themselves to a younger age. But Earth remains the only habitable planet and so exist the Scythes, tasked with keeping the population in check: those who a Scythe gleans stay dead. Citra and Rowan are two teenagers in this world, chosen to apprentice the Honorable Scythe Faraday (Scythes abandon their own names and take the names of historical innovators). Neither teen wants to learn the ways of a Scythe, and neither wants to begin gleaning lives, although Faraday tells them that, actually, only the uneager have any business accepting the mantle of a Scythe. The plot, which follows Citra's and Rowan's year-long apprenticeships, is certainly interesting enough: the two are both allies and competitors, as only one will be given the dubious prize of Scythedom, and there's an inevitable hint of forbidden love. More fascinating, though, are the questions that Shusterman raises in his exploration of this seemingly perfect future. Murdering teens are nothing new, but this is not the brave new world of The Hunger Games (2008). This society isn't a totalitarian regime masquerading as a paradise, nor is it a postapocalyptic wasteland. It's an actual utopia, a place where a sentient Cloud, known as the Thunderhead, has wiped out poverty, racial inequality, and mental and physical disease a place where lives are long and death, even with the Scythes, is virtually nonexistent. (The statistics: Everyone knows the chance of being gleaned in this or even the next millennium is so low as to be ignored.) The world is at peace and tragedy has been minimized and, honestly, it's kind of boring. There have been, of course, other future-facing books that deal with the eradication of death, like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (2005), and others that explore the bounds of immortality, as in Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting (1975), and this pairs wonderfully with both. But few endeavors ask the questions Shusterman faces head-on: in a world without death, what becomes of life? On a field trip of sorts, Faraday takes Rowan and Citra to a museum, and Rowan notes that postmortal art lacks the urgency and turbulence of art created before the eradication of death. Similarly, Scythes are required to keep journals, and frequent musings from Scythe Curie (The Granddameof Death) appear throughout the narrative. We are not the same beings we once were, she says. Consider our inability to grasp literature and most entertainment from the mortal age. To us, the things that stirred mortal human emotions are incomprehensible. Only stories of love pass through our postmortal filter, yet even then, we are baffled by the intensity of longing and loss that threatens those mortal tales. And then the more troubling question: If we are no longer human, what are we? Static and stale, for one. Many of Shusterman's secondary characters here come across flat and bland because their world has made them that way. There's no struggle, no desire, no vibrancy. It's not to say there's no tension in this world Citra and Rowan face increasingly higher stakes as they race toward the end of their apprenticeship. A rogue group of Scythes begins killing beyond their quota, corrupting the power they possess to take a life, and a sequel is heralded by the explosive ending. But the world around them spins contentedly on. Shusterman is no stranger to pushing boundaries. Scythe owes an obvious debt to Unwind (2007) and its sequels, and this succeeds as a sort of shadow companion to Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy: instead of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, this deals in what happens to men when there are no monsters. When our reach does not exceed our grasp, when comfort is more easily obtained than struggle, when our essential humanity doesn't burn out but becomes slowly irrelevant, what becomes of us? Readers will find many things in these pages. Answers to such unsettling questions will not be among them.--Reagan, Maggie Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 8 Up-In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today's cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world "gleaning" people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself-so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.-Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.