The sins of the founding scythes now reap terrible rewards in this trilogy conclusion.
The Thunderhead—a benevolent, nigh-omniscient, nanite-controlling artificial intelligence—still runs the world but speaks only to Greyson Tolliver. Now deified as the Toll, prophet of the Tonists, Greyson attempts to advise a populace abruptly cut off from the Thunderhead’s gentle guidance. For the scythes—allegedly compassionate and objective executioners whose irreversible gleanings control the post-mortal population—the Thunderhead’s been silent for centuries, but recent scythedom unrest now tests the Thunderhead’s noninterference. Untouchable and unhinged, Scythe Goddard, self-appointed Overblade, encourages unrestricted and prejudiced gleanings. Formerly formidable opponents Scythe Anastasia (Citra Terranova) and scythe-killer Scythe Lucifer (Rowan Damisch) are now fugitives, saved from the sea but pursued by Goddard’s allies. Even in a post-national, post-racial world, Capt. Jerico’s meteorologically influenced gender fluidity surprises some, but as Goddard’s bigotry indicates, discrimination plagues even the post-mortals. Shusterman (Dry, 2018, etc.) wryly unravels organized religion and delivers a scathing takedown of political demagogues. Yet the whirlwind of narrators, sly humor, and action scenes never obscures the series’ central question: If most death is impermanent, and age can be reset, what’s the meaning of life?
Long but strong, a furiously paced finale that reaches for the stars. (Science fiction. 14-adult)