Book Review: Scythe
Reminds Me Of: Hunger Games
Warnings: Murder, now these fools call it "gleaning" but its straight up murder
Triggers: I already said murder...so like if you aren't cool with reading about murders then don't read this murderous book. Murder
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.
This book was recommended for us to read a while ago but we never had time to actually sit down and read it. Well here we are.
I'm not normally angry after reading a book but I was angry after this. Which I think is kind of the point. There's a lot of novels/shows out there that challenge societal hierarchy. Currently in the year of writing this, Squid Games is massively popular on Netflix. A show where class warfare is taken to the extreme and the poor and in debt are tasked with a series of games to win a cash prize that will allow them to restart their lives. Scythe is like that in a way. A society where all the human problems have been solved. What a world. One problem. We don't die and we don't stop reproducing. So how do we keep everything in check? Enter the Scythedom. A group of people tasked with "gleaning" people to maintain the population.
The Scythedom is kind of like the Catholic College of Cardinals I'd say. Members deemed "worthy" of the role based on their personalities. They're also not chosen at random. You must apprentice to become a Scythe and pass a series of test to be granted the honor of gleaning.
Back to my anger. It all starts with how the Scythe determine who to glean? Some Scythes do this by the book and use math and statistics to determine their next victims. So if say back during the days of death a teen dies via drunk driving about 5% of the time this Scythe would glean the popular football quarterback who enjoys a beer every now and then. Others see it in the person's eyes and just know they don't want to be here anymore. This is a result of this societies solving of all problems. So there's no such thing as an accidental death or suicide. However you can't rid yourself of human nature and eventually folks get bored. Some Scythes claim they can see that in a person's eyes. You be the judge. Finally there are those that disrespect the great honor bestowed upon them to glean and just go full rampage every couple months to catch up on quotas set forth by the Scythedom.
Which frankly none of that makes any sense. Why, in a world that has solved every conceivable issue, like hunger and lack of resources, can we not just also figure out the population issue? Seems like we don't actually HAVE to glean if we didn't want to. I get the whole folks being bored thing and humans don't actually WANT to live forever but this group of people determining the outcome is so annoying. Now I may be jumping to the series conclusion a bit early. This is after all a review of Book 1 of 3. However at the moment, I'm peeved.
There are some "redeeming"? (not sure that's the right word) qualities to the Scythedom. Take for instance the concept of immunity. Once a family member is gleaned all others within that family receive immunity from the Scythes for at least a year. Nice gesture I suppose? Ugh. Another is that the process of gleaning is commanded to not be felt by the victim. I.e. you can't torture the people. Yay?
I gave Scythe 4 stars though because its really well written and engaging. A classic young adult dystopian novel a la Hunger Games. Messed up society with some clear moral violations that only the young and unfettered minds can solve.
And in Book 1 that role goes to our protagonist couple, Citra and Rowan. These two are taken under the wing of a senior Scythe; Scythe Faraday (yea they take on these names of past memorable people of society as like some weird second birth thing). Faraday is an old-school Scythe and follows the ten commandments set by the original Scythedom in a more rigorous interpretation. A tragedy though befalls them in the first Conclave where the new school Scythe thinkers demand that Faraday release one of his apprentices to another. After much debate the worst outcome is realized. Faraday can have both apprentices however in the end only one will be initiated and the other shall be gleaned.
Great. More tragedy.
However a tragedy befalls Faraday and the two apprentices are released from his custody.
But then they are separated and still fall under the new rule applied to their fate. One must be gleaned.
But now here's where it gets interesting. The two factions of Scythe thinking are essentially groomed via our two protagonists. We see how each side trains up their apprentices and the deterioration of the Scythedom itself. Very politics. Very democracy dies in darkness. Very this is the most important election of the year.
At the last Conclave the two are pitted against one another in a final test. I wont spoil it there though because that's not fair but the twist in the end is just too good.
Here's to Book 2!
Drink Pairing: Grim Reaper Cocktail
I chose this drink pairing for a bit of an obvious reason. Scythes wear the shawl of the Grim Reaper as a sign of their status and role amongst society. Creepy, yet effective as evident in the book of the communal response whenever a Scythe is roaming nearby. Unless of course you are like some in the book and are into the celebrity of death and flock towards the Reaper. Have fun with that