June 27 2021
Thunderhead and The Toll, by Neal Shusterman
Title: Thunderhead and The Toll
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre/ issues: YA. Dystopian fiction. Sci-fi. Artificial intelligence.
I read Scythe last year, but didn’t immediately move onto the rest of the series. I’m glad now, because the dystopian world Neal Shusterman created has kept me somewhat distracted from my own personal and pandemic-related woes over the past 2 days as Sydney has gone back into lockdown.
The Arc of the Scythe series is killer. Pun intended. Characters I cared deeply about, moral dilemmas that hurt my head and heart, and one of my favourite concepts in futuristic and/or sci-fi novels – when does an AI cease to be “artificial”? The series starts with Scythe, as we are plunged into a future Earth where death by natural causes has been eradicated, but population control is still required. So, Scythes now glean people, with honourable rules around how this process is carried out. Citra and Rowan are apprenticed as scythes, but soon discover corruption amongst the ranks. Book 2, Thunderhead, sees Rowan acting as a vigilante tracking down and gleaning dishonourable scythes, whilst Citra finds her own path as the compassionate Scythe Anastasia. And whilst a terrifying plot unfolds around them, the Thunderhead, global all-seeing AI who observes and controls everything that the scythes do not, watches on, but can’t intervene … or can/will it? The final book, The Toll, sees the Thunderhead go silent, leaving the world in turmoil and under the apparently relentless control of the vicious Scythe Goddard.
I often find trilogies variable in engagement and storytelling. Many readers have opinions on the second book slump. Scythe doesn’t suffer from that – in fact, I think Thunderhead is my favourite of the three volumes. The storytelling across the whole series is sustained and masterful, and I was immensely satisfied at the conclusion of this fascinating exploration of life when death is no longer a constraint. I’m glad I hadn’t read book 2 without being able to dive straight into the final sweep of the arc – the suspense may have killed me! Fab reads, both.
And whilst my tally says 97 and 98, that’s only because I have a couple of reviews I can’t quite post yet – these books see me hit 100 books read in 2021, which was my reading challenge goal for the year! I’ve loved tracking this on TheStorygraph this year.