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.

Word Wednesday.

Defenestration / Defenestrate

Noun / Transitive Verb.

1: a throwing of a person or thing out of a window.

2: a usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office.)

– defenestrate, transitive verb.

[Origin: de – + Latin fenestra window.]


Due to the limitations of early Krakau translation software, the first words broadcast to humanity by another sentient species, in Earth Year 2153 and at a volume of 104 decibels, were:

“We come in harmony to defenestrate your dingo.”  – Terminal Alliance, Jim C. Hines.

Defenestration is an act with a very long history, intimately intertwined with politics, and more than once, the start of a war.