Scythe, Neal Shusterman.

I recently read Neal Shusterman’s Scythe. It’s a fast, easy read, with an interesting premise and engaging characters. We humans certainly spend a great deal of time striving for the ideal; we never quite give up on the idea of an utopia. That’s delivered in Scythe. AI broke through in a big way, it was not the monster doom people always thought, and now, society is perfect. There’s no poverty, no hunger, no inequality, no disease, and almost unlimited healing. All the things which routinely killed people before? No more. A person can launch themselves off a tall building, go splat, and wake up in perfect condition a few days later. There’s rejuv tech, so people can decide to ‘turn a corner’ as they age. As many times as they like. One thing which is not perfectly ruled: breeding. No laws, no restrictions, and people can breed for hundreds of years. So, a very small percentage of the world population is randomly selected to die now and then. The people who perform this duty are known as Scythes. You get the picture.

This is not a deep philosophical treatise on achieving eden; nonetheless, Mr. Shusterman does not shy away from many of the questions which would surface in such a world. The book makes for an excellent launch point into serious discussions. Probably what bothered me the most was the compleat inability of anyone to decide they wanted to die and to carry that out successfully. (Scythes are the only people allowed to suicide. Scythes are also prohibited from taking the life of anyone who wishes to die.) I don’t like the idea that a perfect society would consist of one in which my final act of autonomy was removed. But then, I’m not overly keen at not being in control.

Part of the book reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man, and the duel between Deaths, and why that duel took place. There’s a similar theme in Scythe.

It’s a good read, recommended.


  1. Raucous Indignation says

    Really? As quickly as I read, I still only have two eyes and one -- count ’em! -- one brain! I just can’t keep up!

  2. says

    Don Dueed:

    It’s not remotely like Logan’s Run, and I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. Logan’s Run is dystopic and ageist; Scythe is neither. People are, for the most part, quite happy in their post-mortality world. Climate problems have been arrested and fixed in part; animal populations are stable, as are wild and green spaces. People can still pursue education, and work. As far as rejuv, people can ‘turn the clock back’ to whatever age they choose. Someone who is elderly could choose to reset to 25 years old, or 60 years old. That’s a completely personal choice. There’s no death outside the random choices of the Scythes, and the odds of someone being chosen for death are around 1%.

    It’s not to say there aren’t problems, there are, and they are mostly what you would expect. The problems are of a philosophical nature for most, excepting the Scythes. They are the only humans without oversight, and completely human run. Naturally, that’s problematic.

    How in the fuck is that like Logan’s Run? This, or what I wrote in the OP?

  3. says

    Jim & Raucous Indignation:

    It really is a quick read! Geez, I haven’t even posted about reading the 6th book in The Hangman’s Daughter series by Oliver Pötzsch. :D

  4. jimb says

    Caine @ 5:

    Geez, I haven’t even posted about reading the 6th book in The Hangman’s Daughter series by Oliver Pötzsch. :D

    Oh come ON! *throws hand up in despair*

  5. jimb says

    Oh, it sounded pretty good from the synopsis on Amazon.

    I read a fair amount as well -- I bring whatever the current book is with me to work to read during lunch. But I’m adding books to the list faster than I’m reading.

    But continue with the recommendation, I guess. :-) I’ll get to them eventually.

  6. says

    They combine two of my fave things: Medieval history and mysteries. What’s cool is the author is descended from the Kuisl family of executioners, who are the main characters in all the books.

  7. jimb says

    Started reading this last week. I’m enjoying it. Thanks for the rec.

    FYI, the second book in the series, Thunderhead, is out.

  8. says

    It’s out already? Wowsa. Just started the latest in Cogman’s Invisible Library series, which is just out. I’ll grab it, thanks!

  9. jimb says

    Apparently it came out the same day as the latest Cogman book.

    So now I have to add THAT one to read soon! :-)

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