The Toll (Arc of a Scythe) by Neal Shusterman
This is one of the the few series that both my son and I have read. Shockingly, to me, we don’t have much in common in specific books. Though, on the face, we should.
Neither of my kids read as much as I envisioned when they were little, as I read to them every night, for probably a decade. They both have a love of story, there is no doubt. But picking up a book is rarer than I’d like.
Their counter-argument is that they read *all the time*, by which they mean social media. And they’re not… wrong. And maybe my way of thinking is old-fashioned. Of course, I know there was disappointment in some quarters when I didn’t immediately dive into a Christmas-gifted edition of Tom Sawyer when I was 9 or 10. So perhaps we all fail to live up to elder expectations.
But it makes having a series in common all the more rewarding when it happens.
The Arc of Scythe series is good, though it requires me to do quite a bit if disbelief suspending in its very premise. Society has become “post-mortal” due to nannites in the blood that repair the body, and rejuvination processes that can rebuild a body if the brain has not been destroyed. People are generally “deadish” instead of “dead”. So that’s fine.
There is also an ubercomputer that manages everything for everyone. It has the sum of human knowledge at it’s disposal, and runs simulations on actions and outcomes to determine the best possible path. That’s fine, a common sci-fi trope. It’s a benevolent entity that is firmly grounded in Asimov’s laws-like principles.
But– now we have an overpopulation problem. To solve that overpopulation problem, they decide that some humans will become “Scythes”, an organization outside of the uber-computer’s control that are tasked with killing a certain percentage of the population.
Why not branch out to other planets? Settle the moon or Mars? Well, they tried that, and everyone died in explosions.
Why not keep trying, if the alternative is people getting randomly killed on Earth? I DON’T KNOW.
Well, there’s a bit of a reason, and it relates to the ending of The Good Place. [SPOILERS AHEAD]
It boils down to infinity being just too much. In order to live with purpose, time has to matter. If you have all the time in the world, a lack of motivation settles in and everything goes to crap. If you don’t know how much time you have… well, best get to livin’!
If you accept that premise that death gives life purpose, then this is a pretty satisfying series all around.
Myself, I’d prefer to give infinity a whirl.