Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

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ThunderheadTitle: Thunderhead
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published:  January 9, 2018
Series: The Arc of a Scythe #2
Genre:  Dystopian
Format:  Hardcover
Source:  Purchased

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

In Thunderhead, we pick up nearly a year after the conclusion of Scythe.

Citra has become a fully-fledged (junior) scythe. She still lives with Scythe Curie, but she has developed her own signature method of gleaning.

Meanwhile, Rowan is running out of the immunity granted him by Citra when she was supposed to glean him after becoming a scythe. He’s dedicated the last several months to ending scythes who (in his opinion) shouldn’t be scythes — the ones who show bias, glean without compassion, or give into any number of selfish or perverted behaviors.

Thunderhead also introduced us to a new character, Greyson Tolliver. Greyson is more or less on his own, with a family that keeps turning corners and doesn’t really care about him due to the fact that they’ve done it all before. Since he doesn’t have anyone, the Thunderhead — the benevolent AI that runs the entire world (except the Scythedom) — has stepped in to be the only parent Greyson has ever known.

The Thunderhead can’t interfere with the Scythedom, but what happens when it sees something that it should interfere with? That’s where Greyson comes in.

I really enjoyed that this book branched outside the world of the scythes and into the world of a few average people. Shusterman also did a great job illustrating some of the tense political dynamics in the scythedom and elsewhere.

But Thunderhead wasn’t perfect. I struggled with the pacing in the first half of the book. The plot just took a while to pick up, and I wanted something to happen quicker. Halfway through, things started to happen, but then by the end of it, a lot of the plot points felt too rushed. It just didn’t match the pacing of Scythe, which I thought was spot-on.

We also got more character development of Tyger… who I hated. He felt like the dumb hot guy archetype. Who could possibly be THAT dumb? He was just infuriating, and it didn’t make sense that he would have been such good friends with someone as intuitive as Rowan to begin with.

I also wasn’t sure what to think about the Thunderhead itself. In portraying an AI that became so intelligent it developed consciousness, I understand why the Thunderhead would have emotions, but the way it was portrayed bother me. If you’re programmed, can you really be free? And if you’re free, is it possible for you to be a program? Maybe the fact that I’m sitting here pondering this was Shusterman’s point.

Despite the issues with it, there’s a plot twist that definitely made up for a lot of my doubts.

Overall, I didn’t like Thunderhead quite as much as Scythe, so I can only give it 3 stars. BUT, it was still a solid follow-up and worth reading. I intend to finish the Arc of a Scythe series when the last installment comes out.

3 Star Book review

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