The Toll (3) (Arc of a Scythe) Hardcover – November 5, 2019
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"Nothing else like it out there... Readers will want to be here to see how it ends." -- Booklist, November 1, 2019
* "Shusterman weaves together story lines of old and new characters to create an explosive series end... Fans of the first two books will be (and have been) clamoring for this finale. Get it to them as soon as possible." -- School Library Journal STARRED REVIEW, November 2019
* "The stellar conclusion to Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy is a gripping adventure that never stops building momentum." -- Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW, October 28, 2019
"A stunning and entirely satisfying ending... Breathless action sequences will appeal to readers more inclined toward an adrenaline rush, while thought-provoking interrogations of love, religion, humanity, and technology will intrigue fans of more contemplative dystopias." -- BCCB, December 1, 2019
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This book just got kind of bloated with the addition of new characters and storylines. We also had to be walloped with a healthy dose of social justice crap in the character of Jeri, who is gender fluid and sure doesn't give us a chance to forget it and just enjoy the character. In almost every scene with this character, they have to make at least one reference about being gender fluid, which I think really takes away from the character. Instead of being a valuable person to the story line who could have been so much more interesting, we are given a token player whose defining feature is that she feels like a woman when the sun is out and he feels like a man when it's cloudy. They also seem ready to fall in love with almost any other character at any time. Dumb and distracting. Jeri says at one point in the story that pronouns are a lazy way of addressing people...but then spends the rest of the book being honored (or not) when people check (or don't check) the sky to see how to address him/her. A whole chapter explaining gender fluidity with Scythe Anastasia is really NOT necessary and does nothing to advance the story.
With the addition of the extra characters and story lines, the book felt like a book of short stories versus a novel. Sort of disjointed and jarring. I would just sort of get a handle on what was going on and then we switch points of view. Then one POV would randomly disappear for hundreds of pages and reappear at the end. At least one major character from the past books just punks out lamely for almost the entire book, like the author just didn't care to continue writing about a character that he spent time developing and making into somebody who was actually interesting.
I wanted to love this book like I did the other two books. I approached with interest and excitement and really looked forward to sharing it with others. I wish it had been edited better, or maybe not had so much new material. It is a drastically different book from the first two. I wish the end didn't feel like such a cop out.
Overall, I wish that authors (and maybe this is a thing publishers are insisting upon, I don't know) would just STAAAAP with the social justice lecturing because great stories can be told without it. We read to escape the world, and we receive more than enough lecturing from everyday media. This is starting to invade almost ALL of the YA novels I've been reading lately, to the point where I think I may stop buying new releases. Note to publishers: if you want to sell books to people, maybe try not to disappoint the people who are actually spending money on your product.
You really have to check your brain at the door. I door with this book. Humankind’s response to what Goddard is doing is utterly preposterous. The response would have been immediate. The fact that no one had dug deeper into the moon or Mars colonies... absolutely unbelievable. It really is a mindless conclusion to a once promising series.
My only real complaint is with the ending. I feel that the indirectness of the confrontations should have built to something more direct but was not rewarded with that. Rather, it was in considering the sum of the three novels that I realized what a brilliant subversion of my expectations had occured.
Much like many experience in today's politics, I had made the mistake of conflating the novels' antagonists as the source of the problem rather than a symptom of it and expecting a direct solution to them as opposed to the situation. Don't get me wrong, as a culmimation of the series' affairs this final novel does handle those things, but it takes the wide and long view in ways that I feel readers will be rewarded for contemplating.
Thank you for this wonderful ride, Neal.
Top international reviews
The characters were so interesting they were all well formed and I could identify most of them would people in my life already!
thought it was really interesting but finale books always feel about rushed to me.
I'd love to know more about their space adventures. How exactly were they to create new infrastructures on the new planets? It seems like they wouldn't have the mimi thunderhead to help them on the new planets so surely humanity's mistakes would just repeat themselves?
I did like the idea of the conversations with the mini thunderhead. I love that the story seems to be told from the computer's point of virw.
What did you think of the "final" solution to mortality? Was it explained by the original scythes why this solution was avoided before? How was it better to have a sanctioned group of humans not under Thunderhead jurisdiction to carry out sanctioned killings when it was determined that humans would destroy themselves if left to their own devices? The scythes became dictators in pretty short order once the thunderhead stopped talking directly to humans for instance.
Surely by the logic that the world had been conditioned to accept the concept of scythes, they could be conditioned to accept inevitable random deaths every 20 years? The latter form would be much more reminiscent of traditional mortality than sanctioned murder. (Unless the answer is "for the plot" I guess 😂)
Linked to a previous point, again, if humanity can't be trusted, how is downgrading their communication with the Thunderhead a good thing? Would it only be generational? Surely newborns can't be held responsible? Don't you think that would create human hubris and eventually they would cease to see the incredible usefullness of the Thunderhead without its direct presence and consider destroying it? Perhaps convincing themselves that maybe even the Thunderhead was biased or controlled by an actor for private gains? (I dunno... Mind is jumping to potential scenarios following this storyline).
Related but off topic note, as per technology design, technology will always follow biases of humans. So it's interesting that the computer seems to be created to satisfy biases, beliefs and values of all cultures across the world. Or perhaps it is so far in the future that globalisation had taken over to such an extent that culture has become more blended than we could imagine? Except there is evidence shown that this is not the case such as the tone religious beliefs and the non-gender binary South American/Mediterranean sounding place the sea captain is from... 🤔
The Toll is a deeply ambitions novel with an even wider scope than Thunderhead. It tells the story is set over three distinct time periods, slowly revealing the state of things in the three years following the incident on Endura. The third person narrative this time around flits between several different characters, most predominately Citra, Rowan, Greyson, Munira, Ayn and newcomer Jeri, but periodically flitting to other minor characters. While this allowed Shusterman to show events all over the globe, it unfortunately really bogged the story down.
Despite being the major protagonists of the series thus far, Citra and Rowan don't actually appear until a quarter of the way through the story and never truly take the limelight. While Citra has some importance, Rowan virtually sits out the second half of the story and does not really do much until the climax. Greyson, on the other hand, is the primary focus of a majority of the story. Unfortunately, his attempts to influence the Tonists does not make for the most thrilling of reading and often felt a little repetitive.
That's not to say the whole story was bad. There are parts of the story that made me desperate to know what would happen next, especially as Goddard seemed to spend most of the plot teetering on the edge of sanity. My curiosity about what the Scythe "fail-safe" would be was the thing that really kept me reading, and Shusterman did a fantastic job of keeping me guessing about its nature until the climax.
The climax itself, as I already noted, was mostly satisfying. However, I do feel that it has the potential to divide fans. While I did rather like the subtle form that the fail-safe took, the Thunderhead's grand machinations did feel like a bit of a cop-out. Throughout the novel, Thunderhead made me think more and more of Deep Thought - the computer from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - and I'm not sure if that is necessarily a good comparison to be able to make.
In terms of character, the book was a bit varied. A lot of time was spent with Greyson and his sect of Tonists, but I felt that more balance was needed with the other major characters. Citra and Rowan, in particular, were under-used in this novel. Citra never even met Goddard face-to-face, and she and Rowan do not meet again until the climax. I felt that this was a shame, as their relationship was so clearly defined in Scythe and really deserved further consolidation.
Goddard was also a bit problematic. Given the way that Scythedom and State were previously divided, it's really unclear how he has managed to consolidate so much power across the globe now. In a world with no world leaders, it seemed unrealistic how he seemed to have gained such unchecked power to influence politics world order, or why no one truly threatened him when he clearly goes off the deep-end despite the fact that half of the Scythedom do not seem to support him.
I also felt that Jericho should have been introduced a lot early. I was not even really aware that gender issues were still a thing within this universe until this book, given their almost Utopian society and level of medical technology. Jeri's role early in this story is so vitally important that I do feel that they should have also had a role to play in the previous two books. I'm not sure if I'd argue that they were added purely to be a token character, but I certainly feel that their sudden addition to this already padded story took the focus away from the protagonists.
Anyhow, I think that covers everything. While I loved Scythe, I was largely disappointed by this sequel. Perhaps if it had been a bit shorter, the plot would have felt more streamlined and less of a slog to get through.
But I have left this series with more than I started with. Questions that I hadn’t thought intently about have flicked light switches of; “why have I not thought this through before?”, and disturbing realities of: “I am uncomfortable with how much sense this makes, yet how immoral this is.”
I’m still learning in this world, as we all are. But some things—especially in the today we face—require you to go just beyond your comfort zone, or simply step off that ledge.
So if you don’t quite know yourself yet, or you think you do, this is a must read.
After all, you can’t just let me tell you. I can only show you how to find it yourself.
This however, took it's toll (excuse the pun. Or may be not)
The book was slow to start and introduced some new characters whom I hardly cared about except for may be Jerico. He/she was an interesting character depending on the position of the sun. (Those who've read the book would understand this reference)
The original concept is very interesting and thought provoking which was also fun to read. The world was fascinating and world building felt so tangible that I was almost wishing it was real. The awesome world building continued in this last book and I was amazed at Neal Shusterman who managed to turn the world into a whole character in it's own right, that kept me riveted and interested until the very end. Scythe Faraday was a compelling character in the first book whom I loved to follow but was severely underutilised in this last installment in my opinion.
Rowan's POV was interesting and his struggles in this book particularly made me root for him more than the other 2 previous installments.
Citra was bland and could be replaced by any generic character. Now that I think about it, it is making me mad! She is supposed to be this beacon of hope for the entire world against Goddard's scythdom and yet she was so uninteresting and uninspiring that I couldn't be bothered if she lived or died! (I only cared for her well being because of Rowan's sake though their romance was severely lacking as it developed behind the scenes and I couldn't really get emotionally invested in their love story).
Anyway, the end was resolved very well and I am satisfied with all the threads that Neal Shusterman tied up all neat and tidy.
Would definitely recommend the trilogy to lovers of science fiction fantasy fans.
There are so many great characters and a hideously intriguing world that has been built here by Shusterman.
There's no doubt I'd read more if another trilogy was made of this series.