Thunderhead

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genres: Science Fiction
Read: Jan. 2018 (Pub. date: Jan. 9, 2018)

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read Scythe at the end of 2017 and had somewhat mixed feelings on it. I found the first half kind of boring, but the book tackled a lot of complex concepts and themes and it really made me think, so I was interested to keep going with the series, even if I wasn’t totally in love with the writing.

Thunderhead is the sequel to Scythe and they are both set in a world in which humans have perfected technology and achieved immortality. Government has been replaced with an all-knowing “cloud” called the Thunderhead who maintains world order and essentially controls everything. The only thing outside the control of the Thunderhead is the Scythedom. Scythes are people who have been tasked with “gleaning” or killing people in order to somewhat maintain population growth. Scythes are supposed to be humble and just, but over the years the Scythedom has split in to two factions: the new-order scythes who envision a different way of doing things, and the old-guard, who want to maintain the original ideals of the Scythedom.

Scythe introduced us to all the different Scythes and their opinions on the best ways to glean. I liked Scythe because it introduced a lot of ethical issues concepts and it really got me thinking. It was mostly an introduction to the world Shusterman has created and sets us up for a much larger story. Thunderhead delves more into the story of the struggles and conflicts between the two Scythe factions and the fight to keep the Scythedom honest and ethical.

I’m thrilled to get an advanced reader copy of this book, but unfortunately I was disappointed with Thunderhead. The story definitely progresses in this book, but like the first book, I didn’t love the writing and I found it another slow moving story. My copy was 500 pages and I feel like I got a lot of info I didn’t care about. Like in the first book, each chapter is separated by a short note, but instead of excerpts from the Scythes journals, it’s brief thoughts from the Thunderhead. I thought Shusterman introduced some more interesting concepts in these excerpts, but they weren’t really developed any further in the actual plot and I found them less meaningful.

The Thunderhead is supposed to be a perfect artificial intelligence, but it’s terrifying how emotionally sentient it is. It becomes evident that the Thunderhead is just as prone to love and anger as humans, which is terrifying in an all-governing robot. Shusterman explores some ideas about what it might be like to live in a society governed by an all-knowing computer, but I found the main plot of the story, which was the continued clashes between the new order and old guard, to be a bit repetitive. Side note: the synopsis on goodreads is not very accurate. Citra does not risk going deadish to talk to the Thunderhead in this book.

The story still follows Rowan and Citra, but expands to include the viewpoints from other Scythes as well. It was constantly changing viewpoints, which I somewhat liked, but also found distracting. Again, the last 100 pages of the story were very eventful and went in a totally different direction than I was expected, but it wasn’t enough to redeem the first half of the book for me. Overall I found it slow moving and it didn’t make me think as much, which is what I enjoyed most about the first book.

Still a 3-star book though and it ends of a pretty big cliffhanger, so I’ll probably keep going with the series because I do really want to know what’s going to happen.

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