This book would not be gleaned!
Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Author: Neal Shusterman Published: 2016
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Fantasy
Setting: Earth in the future
Series: Yes, First in the Arc of a Scythe series.
Always spoiler free.
So, I read this in a two and a half(ish) hour reading binge from 11.30pm to 2am, and let me tell you, I am tired. So tired, in fact, that it took me three attempts to write the word ‘tired’ correctly because my brain couldn’t understand it in italics.
Citra and Rowan live in a future where everything is known, and the world is governed by the Thunderhead. In the perfect utopia, there is only one thing the machine does not decide – death. Instead, in a world where all are immortal, the Scythe’s are charged with gleaning (reaping/killing) the population at an appropriate level each year.
I really enjoyed this book. I really liked the characterisations as well, I felt there was depth and layers to the two MCs (male and female, respectively). I felt that their responses were realistic – it’s a tricky premise (reapers), and the book explored a variety of emotional reactions to death, which was interesting.
I enjoyed Rowan’s storyline more, probably because I like storylines that explore the ‘dark’ side and/or those that challenge the MC’s viewpoint of the world and demands some serious moral introspection. Citra’s storyline seems really tame by comparison, but she does become the counterweight of the moral argument in the book, showcasing ‘the other side’ of the argument (although, I’m not sure it’s actually a moral argument, it’s pretty clear which out of the two groups are ‘right’ or as right as they can be in the circumstances).
I did want the main characters to actually question the fundamentals of the Scythe society more, but that might come in later in the series? The concept is so simple yet opens the door to some really interesting ethical and moral questions – it’s the kind of good dystopian novel that leads you to question moral concepts.
I liked the world building – it’s a simple enough premise that it doesn’t actually need too much exposition, and you can get away with limited explanations (the experience of the two MC’s world-building as you go). It makes a much easier read as well.
I had a discussion with someone about a week ago about how some authors choose to ‘erase’ race in their future utopian/dystopian novels and how, while it is a personal choice, it’s something that I actually think is damaging. Race is touched on briefly here, but I don’t think very well. I would like to see better representation in YA dystopian novels in general.
I have a particular hatred of chapters that start with extracts from songs, poems, diaries etc. This book has them at the start of each chapter; reading on a kindle meant that I actually read some of them, but honestly, I dislike them so much I will often skip them. They just feel so…pompous. Anyway, that’s a personal thing.
So, yes, I like this book! I’m excited to read the rest of the series.
Well Red Reviews
Would I recommend this book? Yes
“Therin lies the paradox of the profession,' Faraday said. 'Those who wish to have the job should not have it...and those who would most refuse to kill are the only ones who should.”
“The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government.”
“I think all young women are cursed with a streak of unrelenting foolishness, and all young men are cursed with a streak of absolute stupidity.”