I’d give Scythe 4 gleanings out of 5.
This is a fun book filled with well-rounded characters, an engaging plot, and a very interesting world draped in religious overtones with hints of sci-fi. For me, this amounted to a curious mix of environment and feeling that the author, Neal Shusterman, pulls off well.
Scythe is set in a distant future but feels like its set in the near future in some ways. Countries are organized and named a bit differently, but they still feel familiar. America is called midmerica, for example, and you’d recognize many of the same things we do today, like pool parties. But there are bigger things that are quite a bit different from our world today. Civilization is more, well, “civilized.” There is no real crime, and, ironically, everyone has agreed to let the Scythes, modern-day grim reapers, stalk the world and “glean” people in order to keep the population totals under control. The book explores how people hold the honorable Scythes on a pedestal and the various human traits that surface in an environment with those dynamics. Very interesting stuff.
Technology has also evolved. The cloud *(Internet and data accessible from anywhere) has become the Thunderhead, a benevolent overseeing Skynet type that is in the background of the story until… it’s not.
Nanites have been made available to everyone to help them heal, or deal with the pain that would have been experienced in the “age of man.” Society can even leverage the nanites to shape or reshape their bodies to their liking.
This makes the whole notion of killing almost moot. If someone dies, they are “deadish,” and can be revived at a healing center. Only when someone is gleaned (or burned) are they truly gone, and beyond help.
In short, the plot revolves around two children that are selected to become Scythe apprentices, both under one single honorable Scythe—an unprecedented move. Their worlds are turned upside down as they come together only to get torn apart by warring factions and belief systems within the Scythe conclave.
What results is a fantastic adventure that easily held my attention, and drug me along for the wonderful ride.