Sometime in the future humanity creates the thing it has feared for decades, the moment when technologically is sentient enough to rule over humanity; and it’s awesome. The computer overlord, the Thunderhead, generally stays out of the way and just makes sure things don’t go wrong. People can interact with it and the Thunderhead holds all the knowledge that has ever been acquired and it is available to be accessed at anytime (granted now that it’s all there people rarely seem to). Technology has even been able eliminate death. People grow old and when they feel like it “turn a corner” and reset themselves to whatever age they like. Unfortunately, there is still the issue of over population, and even though with the vast knowledge of the Thunderhead available, the earth is able to sustain far more than it once was, people still need to die sometimes.
That’s where the Scythes come in. Scythes are given the power to kill people, and once a Scythe has decided to kill someone they cannot be revived, and (so it isn’t all bleak) grant people immunity from death. Both Citra and Rowan cross paths with Scythe Faraday during his gleanings (the new word for taking a life) and he decides to ask them to be his apprentices although only one will be made a Scythe at the end of it. As they enter the world of the Scythedom they realize not all Scythes are on the same page on how gleanings should be conducted and what type of life they should lead. Being the only humans outside the power of the Thunderhead may be taking it’s toll on the group.
The future in Shusterman‘s newest book appears to be more utopian than dystopian, but can having one group with it’s own rules and power shift the balance? Also, what becomes of life when no one has to fear death, or even ageing?
A great page turning, but still thought provoking read.
Side note: Even though the Thunderhead has solved world hunger and poverty and death (and isn’t even nit picky about people following the rules to a T) , I can’t totally shake the feeling of, “No, don’t listen to the computer overlord it will eventually enslave and/or kill you all.” Probably just too many books, movies and television shows that employ this trope for the technological future, but I’ll still have an eye on the Thunderhead for the rest of the series, just in case.