I struggled with rating Scythe
because I initially liked the concept. A post-mortality society sounded interesting, but I just can't overlook how boring it was
. I'm someone who finishes the average YA book in a couple of days, and this one was a painful week-long process.
In this future world, natural death is a thing of the past. The Internet is an all-powerful sentient being called the Thunderhead and all knowledge has been acquired. There is nothing left to learn. People have nanites in their blood that heal them and mask pain and, if they do die, they can be revived quickly and painlessly. However, in order to solve population issues in this utopia, appointed "scythes" perform random gleanings - true deaths from which one cannot be revived.
After demonstrating their strength and compassion, teenagers Citra and Rowan find themselves the newest apprentices to Scythe Faraday. Only one of them can become a scythe when their year of apprenticeship is up. Then the stakes get even higher when the scythes decide that the winner will have to glean the loser.
I think a whole lot about this world and the workings of it haven't been thought out very well. The morality is very black and white
, making the characters equally so - the villain is a cackling, plain evil mad man - and so many things are left unexplained because it doesn't suit the plot to delve into them. Why, for example, are scythes simply allowed to kill people in any way they choose? Why have that rule in a supposed utopia? All it means is that the "good" scythes will choose quick, painless deaths, and the "bad" scythes will cause as much pain and fear as possible.
Similarly, a major decision the scythes make in the book seems so silly and contrived. Why do they do it? Just for shits and giggles it seems
. Pretty much everything done by the evil characters is done simply because they can. They start firing flamethrowers at groups of people because YAY!
But, honestly, I think these things were trying (and failing) to add some excitement to a story that was actually quite dull. For the most part, Scythe
is a 450-page apprenticeship, and it creeps along at a snail's pace while Citra and Rowan are learning important scythe lessons. An interesting concept dragged out far too long. Also, that reveal was so obvious
. I was literally waiting for it to happen.
And, though it's not a romantic book, the romance that predictably surfaced between Citra and Rowan was devoid of any chemistry and felt so out of place. There was nothing, in my opinion, pulling them together. They seemed like friends at best, but they didn't even have much platonic chemistry. In a way, this reminded me of The Crown's Game
- male and female competitors pretend to actually be trying to win but really don't even bother because ROMANCE.
In fact, I never really warmed to either Citra or Rowan. Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie were far more interesting characters and it was a shame we didn't get to see much of this world from their perspectives.
I can't say for sure, but I wonder if this ultimately didn't work because it wasn't that much of a dystopia. The utopia really did seem like a utopia to me. Everything bad and angsty that happened felt unnaturally thrown in to shake things up - pointless rules left unaddressed, and the Scythe Council being deliberately stupid - when really this society didn't seem that bad. I think Shusterman actually created a utopia that was, uh... utopian, and then was left without a nasty story so he had to orchestrate one. That's how it felt to me.Blog