Top critical review
Breaking News: Even in the future, humans are corrupt and greedy for power.
Reviewed in India on 21 April 2018
In a dystopian (or utopian depending on your POV) world set centuries into the future, humans have conquered death, hunger, sickness and war. We are immortal and can reverse aging to make ourselves younger over and over again. All the worlds knowledge is contained in the Thunderhead, an AI consciousness that acts as a surrogate parent for humanity. In this world of immortality, how do we curb population growth? Enter the Scythedom. A group of humans ordained with the task of culling the human population. The face of death in an immortal world. We meet Citra and Rowan who are two teenagers apprenticed to Scythe Faraday. At the end of their apprenticeship, one of them shall be granted scythehood. The problem? Neither of them wants to be a scythe. At first because they both find the task despicable. But also, because they soon discover that, while humans may have conquered death, it had yet to conquer corruption and greed. When it comes to human nature, no matter what age we live in, absolute power does corrupt absolutely.
Ssssh! Hear that? That’s the sound of my hopes being dashed to the ground. I had much higher hopes for this book. Right off the bat, I found the rationale of establishing the Scythedom a bit flimsy. We’re supposed to believe that there were no other possible solutions for controlling population in this technologically advanced world? So, after conquering death the only solution was for humans to establish a group that would administer death randomly based on death rate statistics taken from the earlier age of mortality. Um, ok. And the scythes answer to no one but the Scythedom i.e. themselves. Regular people do not have any authority to question them nor does the Thunderhead. They walk around in flowing robes administering death (in all kinds of unnecessarily flashy ways I should add here) and immunity as they see fit. Yes, that sounds like a brilliant idea. We may have conquered death but apparently, we still do not understand basic human nature even in the future. No one in all those centuries thought to say, hey, maybe we should have some checks and balances in this setup? Just in case somebody gets too high on the power? The premise was not well thought out. There were many questions about this premise and this world that were not answered and the reader is just expected to go along with it.
From a character standpoint, I did like Citra and Rowan’s growth in the story. We see the emotional turmoil they go through during their apprenticeship. The instalove between them, I could’ve done without. Scythe Faraday was the most interesting character. I was also very intrigued by the Thunderhead. Unfortunately, we see only a snippet of the AI in this book. The pacing was a huge problem because the story really dragged in parts. The book alternates between training montages and journal entries by various scythes interspersed with some action in between. At first the journal entries with philosophical musings on our existence, on morality in an age of immortality etc made me pause and ponder but after a point, even those started to get boring. The plot reveals are quite predictable. I’m not sure if I should pick up the sequel at this point.
In summary, I was drawn in by the concept but it was hampered by the slow pace and the plot holes. 2.5 stars.