Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I found the premise of this book absolutely fascinating. In a future that feels much like our own, death has been conquered. All disease has been cured. Anyone who accidentally dies can be brought back to life at a regeneration center. Effectively, everyone lives forever. In this society, a need was felt to mitigate this with people whose job it is to select people to be “gleaned”, that is killed permanently by a special class of people referred to as “scythes”. This premise sets up a lot of questions about ethics and population control and what meaning does life have if it effectively has no end? And the book delivers on that promise.

While delivering on the philosophical aspects of its premise, it also tells a rip roaring adventure tale of mystery, intrigue, and suspense. The two main characters are teenage apprentice scythes who once they graduate will be licensed to glean on their own. Their teacher is a scythe of the old school who takes his responsibility very seriously. In fact, he feels that anyone who wants to be a scythe should not be. He sees something in these two teenagers that he feels would make excellent scythes. In contrast to this is a group of newer scythes who revel in what they do and feel constrained by the ethics of their order.

This is my favorite kind of science fiction. It takes a “what if” position and nudges it into our future. Then it extrapolates and explores what might happen in those conditions. At the same time it tells a rousing story of everyday people trying to find their way in this world. This is the first book of a series. I cannot wait to get started on the next one.

My rating: 5/5

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