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By: B.T. Keaton
Publisher: Ingleside Avenue Press
Publication Date: January 2020
ISBN: 978-1645701507
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: February 14, 2020

A rough-cut thief holds the key to saving society from its worst ills in B.T. Keaton’s deep exploration of an eerie future world.

About 100 years from now, Earth has become a mechanistic, highly controlled monoculture controlled by the Church, as much a despotic machine as a religious entity, with a never-ending set of illusions to keep humanity under its fist. The greatest of its secrets is transference, the process of moving souls from one body to another, giving the promise of everlasting life. The lowest strata in this bizarre set-up are men like Barrabas Madzimure, who for his crimes of thievery has been relegated to prison on a far-off planet where he and his scurrilous cohort are forced to mine a precious ore used by the Church for its continued domination.

The book opens when Barrabas has been confined for killing a warden. He has six days to live. Under interrogation he asserts that he is actually Thaniel Kilraven, a person of genteel upbringing who witnessed the first transference and was punished by the Church for his technological revelations, which it then co-opted. Since Kilraven, if it is he, would be of utmost danger to the Church, a mysterious, and not entirely unsympathetic interrogator, Corvus, is put on his case. Kilraven will learn who Corvus really is – or was - while in the act of escaping with a band of rough, tough miners. His goal – to return to Earth and find his family – gradually morphs into a determination to change, and save, the world.

Keaton’s book is remarkable for the wide range of ideas it presents and the thoroughly enjoyable way he mixes and matches those ideas. He contrasts the grit and recklessness of the criminal element with the arrogance and occasional graces of the elites, at home with the language of both as he constructs lively dialog. He postulates the pros and cons of life eternal in the theory of transference: if one’s soul can inhabit many bodies, not by the divine method of reincarnation but by the control of science, how will it react to the changes? Will it bring happiness or weariness to know one can never die? An admirer of Tolkien, whose fantasy worlds have elements of comparison with Transference, Keaton boldly takes on big themes and has created in Kilraven a hero big enough to deal with them. And, importantly, though Kilraven must tackle universal problems, what matters most in the end, it seems, is family love and loyalty.

Quill says: B.T. Keaton has created an imaginative tale that will have appeal for fans of dystopian fiction by engaging the emotions, as well as to those who enjoy the more technological and intellectual aspects of the sci-fi genre.

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