Who knew death could be so much fun? What a creative and unique world Neal Shusterman invented for us through his Arc of the Scythe series. I ate this post-mortality concept up. How did he do this? I’ve read a lot of dystopian literature, and I think this one might be my favorite. It gave me the same feeling that The Hunger Games did, in that I was transported into a world far from where we find ourselves now. This reminded me why books are magic. In a year where we are inside all the time because of a deadly pandemic, you will feel far from quarantined once you enter the world of the Scythedom.
The breakdown: What would happen if we became so technologically advanced that disease and death were eradicated? Where if we were hit by a car and rendered “deadish” we could be sent to a “revival station” and be brought back to life? Wanna look younger? That can happen, too. The one problem: How would we control the population? Shusterman gives us the answer with his creation of the “Scythedom”: a superior and respected group of people who kill others in order to prevent overpopulation.
At the center of this amazing series are two teenagers, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, who undergo training as apprentices to Honorable Scythe Faraday (I loved Faraday so hard). Each youth struggle with the “art of killing”, and eventually become extremely important to the future of not only the Scythedom, but to life on Earth as we know it.
Technology is also the star of the show. An advanced computer system known as the “Thunderhead” controls society. Who is preventing plane crashes, sinking ships, and terrorist attacks? The Thunderhead, that’s who. Yep, and it’s watching when you accidentally electrocute yourself and need to be brought to a revival station? The Thunderhead sends reinforcements to bring your fried ass back to life. The Thunderhead is a form of AI that does not make mistakes or have regrets, and serves the population in life, while the Scythedom serves us through permanent death. It operates separate and apart from the Scythedom. In the second and third books, we see how this AI tries to save humanity from itself after the Scythedom goes rogue. And how it’s inability to interfere with the Scythedom complicates matters. What a testament to show that even without disease and death from violence, the same things lead us to hurt one another: greed, power, jealousy, and groupthink.
I loved these characters, even the horrible ones. I also liked to imagine what life would be like if this were real. Would I be a Scythe? Hell no. Would I enjoy getting the 18 year old version of my ass back every few years? Hell yes.
As an aside, I loved the words and concepts Shusterman created. Examples: “Gleaning” (permanent killing), “MidMerica”, “Tonists”, “Revival Stations”. It goes on. The names he gave the Scythes, too. So much fun.
The Arc of the Scythe series is worth your time. Read (or listen) to all three books. If you choose to listen to the audiobooks, you won’t regret it: Greg Tremblay does a fantastic job bringing each character to life.
Scythe Faraday: Liam Neeson
Scythe Curie: Viola Davis
Citra aka Scythe Anastasia: Jenna Ortega
Rowan aka Scythe Lucifer: Alex Lawther
Scythe Goddard: Mads Mikkselson
Scythe Rand: Lucy Liu
Greyson Tolliver: Levi Miller
Jericho: Jade Hassouné
Monira: Selena Gomez
Thunderhead: Morgan Freeman