Spanning from the end of the mortal era alluded to in Scythe to the period following The Toll, Shusterman’s amalgam of in-world extrapolations—many written in collaboration with creators including Joelle Shusterman and David Yoon—explore previously under-illuminated corners of the Arc of a Scythe universe. While a handful of excellent stories add notable depth to two of the trilogy’s most pivotal characters, and others flesh out personages mentioned only in passing, the best engage playfully with the established works’ rules and tone. These include a paranoid-feeling thriller (“Never Work with Animals,” coauthored with Michael H. Payne), a deadly game of cat and mouse occurring in a literal dreamscape (“Perchance to Glean,” coauthored with Michelle Knowlden), a romantic comedy starring an accident-prone pair (“Meet Cute and Die”), and a surreal feud that turns Barcelona into a murderous Rube Goldberg machine (“The Persistence of Memory,” coauthored with Jarrod Shusterman and Sofía Lapuente). Though the volume’s not a starting place for series newcomers, existing fans will relish the varied tales, which handle themes of art, meaning, and morality in a post-death world with an efficacious mixture of humor, violence, and gentle absurdity. Ages 12–up. Agent: Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—This work returns to the post-mortal world of the bestselling "Arc of a Scythe" series, telling more captivating tales of the Scythedom. In a society that has conquered hunger, disease, and death, Scythes are the sole arbiters of death, tasked with the responsibility of ending life through gleaning, each with a preferred, sometimes unique, method. This newest installment, presented as an anthology, reveals histories of familiar characters, while also introducing new figures that play a part in the rise and fall of the world that has triumphed over death. Shusterman, in collaboration with David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman, paints an enlightening picture of this dystopian world, exposing secrets spanning centuries, and shedding light on further terrors that lay within the Scythedom. The world of the series is brilliantly crafted, with precise and intricate details. In this collection, every chapter works as a standalone story, each with something new and interesting to offer. Standouts include "A Martian Minute" and "A Dark Curtain Rises," both of which expand on stories of familiar characters with cleverly executed twists. Also memorable is the elaborate "The Persistence of Memory" and the satisfying "A Death of Many Colors." Multiracial characters make up this civilization, and multiple characters are introduced as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. VERDICT Fans of the "Arc of a Scythe" series will be pleased with this thrilling continuation.—Amanda Harding
Welcome back to the post-mortal utopia of the Arc of a Scythe series.
In the original trilogy, Shusterman posited that even a true utopia is imperfect thanks to human nature. Here, he returns to the Thunderhead’s world with a collection of shorter works that explore moments before, during, and after the end of the Scythedom. While some stories need only basic contextual knowledge of the world, most are directly related to Citra’s and Rowan’s experiences: prequel tales of teenage Scythe Marie Curie (gleaning the last corrupt politicians) and Carson Lusk (later Scythe Goddard and unpleasant from the start); stories focused on Citra’s brother, Ben, and on the sister of the first gleaning Rowan attends in Scythe (2016); and even one from the perspective of the Cirrus, the multifaceted AI offspring of the Thunderhead. The always accomplished, straightforward writing is at its best when it moves away from the larger Scythe-Thunderhead politics and instead focuses on humanity, art, and love in a world without natural or accidental death. Standouts include “The Mortal Canvas,” focused on the first (and maybe last) post-mortal artist, and the slyly humorous “Meet Cute and Die,” about the niece of a domineering and needy Scythe in Britannia.
One for the legions of fans of this world. (Science fiction. 14-adult)