Author: Neal Shusterman
I received this book from Seguinte Publisher to review for the other book I review in, Starbooks, and it surprised me a lot. The whole idea and world the author created really makes the reader stop and consider life as a whole.
The book is set in an utopic future in which humanity has won all barriers of death. Technology has advanced to an extent that people no longer die from accident, natural causes or diseases. It’s all very beautiful, but as people keep being born and no longer dying, a population control is needed and, for that, Scythes were created.
They are people chosen to collect others after going through training and three tests. Scythes have a limited number of people they can and should collect during said period of time, but the method with which they decide to kill is up to each one of them. Besides, they own a ring that gives immunity during a whole year to whoever kisses it.
The book begins exactly when Scythe Faraday decides to choose two teenagers to become his apprentices, Citra and Rowan. Neither one wants the scythe position but, according to Faraday, that’s the main characteristic he’s looking for in a scythe: the desire not to collect others. Only one of them should become Scythe; however, throughout the book, this game of apprentices becomes much more lethal than any of them would have imagined.
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.
Let’s start by saying that this book is marvelous – the more I think about it, the more I like it. Ok, now we can move on.
I found the whole idea of the author very creative and, at the same time, thought provoking. To imagine a society in which people don’t die and we select humans to look after collecting others is simply disturbing. It’s even worse to imagine that, obviously, there are people in this world that want to be Scythes for the hunger of blood and death.
I found it extremely interesting that we get to see different shapes of Scythes and ideas of moral and society in the book. As some Scythes prefer to talk to the victim, others prefer to give them a quick and unexpected death; while a couple prefer to collect one person a day, others would rather wait out for months and then create a massacre, collecting many at the same time. This is one of the moments in which it’s possible to realize that, despite technology, humans are still humans and are different in their own capacities and opinions.
Humanity is innocent; humanity is guilty, and both states are undeniably true.
Another topic that also reflects a lot of current society is rejuvenation. It’s a process existent in the book, but not a mandatory one. That makes it all the more crazy, since there can be people who are 120 years old in a body of 25. Though there is no technology capable of creating bodies younger than 20, it’s possible to see once more different opinions on wether people should use the rejuvenation technique or if they should accept nature and grow older.
This is all put into question especially because of immortality. Since people live (almost) eternally, what do they live for? In a perfect world where even misery itself has been abolished, there is little to be done and many people fall into the void of not having a goal to fight for.
The whole situation is so ludicrous that, at some point, even a character in the book compares the reality of humans in this future to the cartoons we have nowadays. It’s very smart to compare the cure of death to rejuvenation, for example, with Coyote and Roadrunner – in which the characters always get exploded and come back alive on the following episode.
Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.
There are two other points in the narrative that I have to mention because of how smart they are: 1. Scythes are obliged to keep journals and, in between chapters, the reader gets to see their world and better understand the rules through Scythes’ eyes; and 2. there is an artificial intelligence system that rules the world but it does not have the right to interfere in Scythes business – so this doesn’t become a sci-fi in which the robot ends up dominating the world, since this is not the idea of the book.
My only critique is that, as you can tell from the review, I believe this book deals with a lot of hard topics and reflections that the reader is encourage to make. So, I believe it should be an adult book, rather than YA. I think that, at times, some of the issues would be better developed in a more serious matter and with deeper discussions than it is found in a YA book.
That being said, I thought the book was fantastic and I really recommend it to those who enjoy dystopias or even books with a greater reflection in mind. Although it’s a fast read, I enjoyed the issues it deals with and, to be very honest, I’m dying for the sequel!
If you prefer video reviews, here is the one I posed on my youtube channel: