Tuesday, December 27, 2016

scythe: stardust reviews

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)

Neal Shusterman



Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Full review under the cut!

I wasn't really planning on picking this one up when it first came out. I had heard a ton about it, but didn't really think that it was going to be my thing because I'm not super into dystopian or utopian novels. However, I read the first few pages of it in the bookstore on a whim and was hooked immediately. The premise of this book is that the Cloud, with all of our data, evolved from what it currently exists as into something called the Thundercloud, which then gained the ability to have infinite knowledge. The Thunderhead helped humanity facilitate the end of war, hunger, and even death, and it watches over a human race that has no government, no disease, and no terrible things at all. The only problem was: with no death, the population would continue rising infinitely, which the earth could not support. And so the order of Scythes was created. Scythes are humans who decide who lives and who dies in order to control the population. They are supposed to hold to a quota, never show any sort of bias, and be humane in their act. And Scythe apprentices are chosen in adolescence and trained under acting Scythes in the art of death.

The book opens on two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, as they are on the cusp of being chosen to be apprenticed to the Honorable Scythe Faraday. Neither one of our main characters actually want to be a Scythe, but if they accept the apprenticeship and earn Scythehood, for only one of them will, their families will be immune from being reaped by a Scythe for as long as they are one. So Citra and Rowan accept, and begin to train under Faraday. I thought that both of our main characters were super interesting and mature for their age, and I didn't know whether that was due to Shusterman's writing or due to the society in which they grew up. Maybe people mature more quickly when there's no rebellion because everything is perfect? I'm not sure, but I thought their voices were distinct from one another and also read really well. I also enjoyed the fact that there was very clear character development throughout the novel, the characters were very much not the same people at the end of the book as they were at the beginning.

This was one of the first utopian novels that I've read, and I thought the mechanics of writing a world like this were super interesting. Like, how do you facilitate conflict when your world exists free of conflict? But I loved the way Shusterman developed everything in this world. The world building was great, because I learned so much about how everything functioned without a ton of info dumps. I also liked that there was an element of conflict between Rowan and Citra, because only one of them will become a Scythe, and that there was an added bonus of some romantic tension between them as well. I liked that there was a very clear antagonist in Goddard, but that Rowan was sort of ambiguous in his goodness even towards the end. Even the whole idea of there being an entire order of people who have only one job: to kill, is very odd to read about. Because obviously something like that would be necessary in a world with no natural death, but there is something deeply troubling about the practice of killing for a job. This book definitely made me think and grapple with some deep questions while I was reading it, and I think that was something I wasn't necessarily expecting.

In the end, I liked this book for different reasons than I normally like books. It was dark and twisty and definitely made me think, and it also made me uncomfortable in places. I will definitely be continuing on with the series, because I think Shusterman is doing something really interesting and different with this world and these characters. The reason it is 3.5 is because I felt like it dragged a little in the middle for me, but other than that I really liked this one.


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