Arc of a Scythe #1. Author: Neal Shusterman.
Thou shalt kill.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. (Goodreads summary)
Scythe was interesting, but it didn’t live up to the standards I’d been expecting. The concept was novel: a world so advanced that death has been virtually eliminated, and mankind has taken that role upon themselves. Our two main characters, a boy and a girl, provide contrasting arcs as they are sent down very different training paths, one under an abusive, unethical master and the other under one of the ‘good scythes’. However, because this is Neal Shusterman, I was expecting a heavier emphasis on the practical and ethical results of the worldbuilding, and possibly more unexpected twists. Instead, I got rather more violence, massacre, and action-movie style adventure than hoped for. Overall: Interesting, not quite as good as hoped, but I will be looking to read the next one.
Sexual Content: One instance of joking innuendo “laughingly threatened lewd liasons when he was of age”. More joking when one man is asked what his state robes will look like – “Invisible. I’ll come up the statehouse steps naked.” “Those’ll be some jewels.”
Language: 6 exclamations of “My God”, 2 scatological terms, 3 hell
Violence: Boy deliberately jumps from tall buildings and ‘kills’ himself multiple times (this is mentioned, not shown, and revolutionary medical technology means he is completely healed each time.) Scythe ills a boy with an electric shock – another boy, holding his hand, feels it and is nearly knocked unconscious. Scythe kills a woman with a poison pill. Multiple scythes together reap an entire plane. One takes a man’s estate by threat of death. Several gang up to beat up an apprentice. One group of scythes repeatedly enacts massacres, taking out whole buildings. Master scythe forces his apprentice to practice on real people (they are revived afterward). One character breaks another’s neck (again, no permanence).