Margin Notes

Guest Writer Malcolm Mulligan Recommends Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Feb
05

The first in the Arc of a Scythe series, Scythe is set on a future earth where science has eliminated death and hunger and the world is governed by a computer called the Thunderhead. People are free to lead their lives in whatever way they choose. Most citizens marry multiple times and have several families because they can make themselves younger whenever they choose, most often before they turn “too gray”. One of the consequences of this ability is an awkward family reunion since children can end up being older than their parents!

Since natural death has been eliminated, the Thunderhead has decreed that scythes are necessary to keep the population down to a level that can be maintained. Scythes have complete control over who, when and where they will “glean” their selected citizens. When a scythe announces to a citizen that they have been selected for gleaning, they willingly allow the scythe to end their life because if they resist, their entire family will be gleaned. Imagine!

The story focuses on two high school students who have been randomly selected by a scythe to be his apprentices. Once selected, they must leave their homes and families to go live in a home with another apprentice to learn “the art of killing” and become a scythe: a government agent that has but one role – to assassinate citizens.

Weaved within the narrative are several topics of interest for students to consider:

* Having no choice in your future career and being forced to learn something you have no interest in, or worse, something abhorrent to your values

* State-sanctioned murder as a way to control population growth

* The meaning of life

* The implications of everlasting life on earth

* The effects of having a constant companion

This series will appeal to readers who enjoy fantasy and dystopian genres. The second book in the series, Thunderhead, is just as engaging, and I can hardly wait for the third book, Toll, to be released. In the meantime, I am flying through Shusterman’s first series Unwind.

Malcolm Mulligan has been teaching at Leo Hayes for the past eleven years. He enjoys scuba diving, photography, playing guitar, and travelling. His reading life includes an addiction to Science-Fiction and his new love for Young Adult Fiction.

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