(Originally Posted May 10th, 2017.)
As some of you may know, I am a reviewer of sorts when I feel the urge. And though I am not one who wants to spend all my time reviewing things, it is an itch I like to scratch on occasion. So, since I read a lot, I figured I might occasionally review a book for your enjoyment, and perhaps along the way swing someone to read a book they might not have otherwise.
But, if I’m going to do this, I have a few rules I will enforce on myself.
- I’m not going into the life of the creator. This is both for my own sake, and because it’s not my business what the author gets up to during his free time.
- When writing a review, I can be rather wordy. For these review articles, I will limit my word count to around 500-700 words.
- I’ll try not to reveal spoilers. I may fuck up, though, as sometimes I imply more than I mean to imply. You’ve been warned.
- You can find the basic plot of a book anywhere. Go on Amazon or Goodreads if you want just a synopsis. I’m here to talk about theme and execution, not so much the basic story beats. Plus, I’m doing this partially because I want you to read the book (or not read it, depending) so I will not let you cheat with my review.
And so, with that laid out, here we go! The first book on the chopping block: Scythe by Neal Shusterman.
- What’s It About?
Scythe, as a book, is an exploration of death in a world of almost-immortals. It continuously raises moral questions about what it means to be a death-dealer in a society where killing people is necessary to maintain a utopian society.
- What’s It Like?
Stylistically, it’s minimalist. 3rd person with a flowing narrator. The book seeks to cover morbid topics, which no adult could face without some introspection, and present them for a youngish audience. In a sense, it respects its reader enough to not shy away, and, in another sense, it is walking a tightrope to not say anything that’s potentially too much for the intended reader. Sexual implications and some harrowing would-be graphic scenes of murder appear with necessary aloofness towards this end. But, due to this detached way of working with the narrative, dialogue can come off as stilted, clipped. This is not so much because of a lack of character depth, but because of the need to keep the plot progressing and not linger on conversations beyond a few lines. For those who like quippy dialogue, this will not be your bag. The periodic journal entries offer some further level of digging into the characters’ neural landscapes—but these are brief asides.
- Potential Turn-Offs
It’s a heavy, heavy book. Mentally draining and morbid. Levity exists, and there are bits and bobs of calm moments, but, still, this is a thinking man’s book. Prepare to stare off into space mid-sentence. Slow and methodical and thought-provoking, it’s escapism in the sense the book will take you to another world, but will not take you to one of which you’d necessarily like to live inside. And, that’s understandably not everyone’s preference.
- Did I Like It?
Uh, yes. Duh. If you could not tell from the above, I am a pretentious fucking millennial and this book is a perfect storm of dark questions of morality, clever science fiction, and philosophical musings. Which are like my favorite things. Stuff that’s sharp, deeply smart, makes me laugh—and this book made me cackle with glee several times. My only major complaint is I saw the broad strokes of the ending coming, but that was more an example of good worldbuilding (because I knew the rules well enough to anticipate an outcome) than of the tale being predictable in Neal’s construction.
- Final Score? 9/10
- Digital or Physical? Worth a spot on a real shelf for the beautiful dust jacket alone.
- Devour or Savor? Savor, as otherwise your mood may plummet from all the darkness at once.