24 October 2012 Leave a comment
This story began in Swipe, book one of this series, which describes a world in which all citizens must obtain the tattooed Mark or be forced out of society and treated as criminals.
DOME’s Mark Program [was put in place so that all] who wish to gain the rights of citizenship may receive the Mark in exchange for their binding Pledge of allegiance to Lamson, Cylis, and country.
And it was around this same time that the chancellor and the general cooperated to bring about the worldwide Inclusion — the doctrine that systematically rid our world of all religions and conflicting worldviews, replacing them with a single, unified belief that the Mark is the only answer, the only security, the only peace anyone will ever need.
Every schoolchild knows that through these two initiatives — the Mark Program and the worldwide Inclusion — General Lamson and Chancellor Cylis are working toward a Global Union, promising a future of peace and prosperity for the entire world.
While this kind of peace may sound like a good thing, we Christians know that it is a plan for evil. The Swipe series is set in a not-too-distant future in which the prophecies of Revelation 13 have been set in motion, and a group of young people have chosen to stand up against the current system and reveal the truth that is being hidden from the world. This second book in the series, Sneak, continues to follow Logan Langly after he was faced with the life-altering decision of whether or not to take the Mark for himself. Sneak also offers a greater look into the rebel group known as The Dust, which is responsible for the kidnapping of young people before they are allowed to make the Pledge to Cylis. Like the first book, Sneak is fast-paced and provocative. This world of global unity and nanoink tattoos that track a person’s every move is simply not that far-fetched, and these books offer a look into the future that is easily imagined. It is also terrifying to those of us who acknowledge God’s plan and believe His Word. In that chief regard, this series is compelling, and of the two books thus far, Sneak is the greater. It has more action and more roads to travel, yet it is obvious that all subplots are leading to the same destination. But the journey to get there is highly entertaining.
Sneak offers even greater imagery than its predecessor, and I truly could not put the book down. I had just participated in the 24 Hour Readathon, yet all I wanted to do the very next day was sit by the open window and continue to read until this second book was completed. Of course, now I have to wait another year for its conclusion (or next installment?), but I was consumed by the story and the twists and turns that came about. I’m invested now, and I’m excited to return to this (very believable) world.
Be warned: this is a continuation of the story from Swipe, so some of these passages will give away parts of the plot. It’s not likely that either book would be ruined by reading these excerpts, but if you want no information whatsoever, you should read no further. I will say, though, this first passage is one of my favorites. Its description of the capital city that stretches miles into the sky is remarkable. And it’s such a sharp contrast to the passage that follows it here; one a gleaming city of technology and the other a community cobbled together from cast-offs.
The apartment was seventy-eight stories high; about halfway up the building. Out the window, two stories above, was the third layer of Beacon’s multi-tiered road-and-sidewalk grid, and taxis and electrobuses whizzed by like the pumping of the city’s blood.
Beyond the apartments across the street, hundreds more buildings stood, poking up into the sky with neither tops nor bottoms visible through such an elaborate suspended network of streets and elevators and ramps and bustle.
And beyond all of that was the ocean. From this distance, its waves looked still, frozen in time, same as they ever were.
On the sides of each building, from the ground floor to as high as [one] could see, were advertisements — bright, flashing, skyscraper-sized screens, demanding that A.U. citizens buy the newest tablet or rollerstick or soyshake… compelling them to vote for so-and-so or such-and-such in the upcoming spring elections…
And in the midst of it, hundred-foot-tall projections of Cylis walked from one skyscraper to another, superimposed on top of all of the other ads, each building coming together to make a citywide video screen just for him, so the chancellor could address everyone all at once, and speak “one-on-one” about the myriad advantages of the Global Union merger.
Still other buildings displayed bar graphs showing which stocks on Barrier Street were rising and which were falling. And those buildings even seemed to have Markscans where they met the roads, so that anyone who wanted to could walk right up and buy or sell or trade stock as they watched the graphs shift in ten foot increments overhead.
Above them, a grid of streets and walkways five layers thick stretched up into the sky, connecting buildings at their fortieth, eightieth, one hundred twentieth, one hundred sixtieth, and two hundredth floor entrances, though only a handful of skyscrapers actually rose quite that high, and the network of streets in the grid thinned substantially in its upper two layers.
Erin exited her apartment building on the eightieth floor, onto the third-tier sidewalk of the Beacon grid, and for all her loneliness, it did feel good to be home. The crowded streets, the angry, late pedestrians, the endless line of cabs and electrobuses, the fast-moving sidewalk treads, the lights so bright you had to squint when you came out, even at night. (Chapter Eight: City On The Hill)
She brought Logan to a pillar at the edge of the huddle’s space in the underpass. At its base was a row of boxes, each labeled with something along the lines of “Fiction A–F,” or “History O–Z.” The flaps of each box hung open invitingly.
“Books?” Logan asked. “Printed books?” Outside of museums, this was only the second time in his life that Logan had seen so many.
“You bet,” Bridget said. “Gotta keep the mind sharp somehow. And we Markless sure ain’t gonna be reading off tablets and plastiscreens anytime soon.”
“But where’d you get them?” Logan asked. “How’d you get them?”
“There’s been a book circulation for years now among the Markless in New Chicago. Who knows what the source was. There’s rumors it was this kid Peck… but people say a lot of things about that guy.” Bridget shrugged, looking over the collection. “Anyway, this is what’s left after all the raids. We all took what was most valuable to us and ran.” Bridget smiled. “Usually, that was our huddle’s stash of books.”
Logan flipped through some of the yellowing pages in front of him. “Any recommendations?” he asked.
“Oh, lots,” Bridget said. She passed a thick one his way. “This one here’ll keep you busy for a while.”
“Wait a second,” Logan said. “Is this—”
“A Bible. Yeah,” Bridget said.
Logan stared at it.
“We have all kinds of religious texts here, if you’re interested. Not to mention philosophy, politics… any of that sort o’ stuff. It’s all banned, so naturally it’s pretty popular among the Markless.” Bridget winked. “If it’ll get you arrested, we probably have a copy somewhere.”
As they walked, Logan began to appreciate what the huddle had done. The surrounding streets were crumbling. The buildings were falling down, and the sidewalks were charred and split from long-ago gunfire and explosions. But the underpass was different. The underpass was bright and warm, like a home. All around it, there was art… finished paintings just lying on the concrete, sculptures scattered about, a shortwave radio chattering in the corner, tapestries hanging by string, poems graffitied onto each rusting pillar… all of it as if out of another era entirely.
“We still have time on our hands,” Bridget said. “In fact, it’s pretty much all we have. So we draw, or we write… we do whatever we can to contribute to the huddle.” (Chapter Three: The Setup)
CHAPTER THREE: The Setup
Chancellor Cylis has taken our rights, our freedom, and our dignity. He has divided us against our own families and friends with nothing more than a Mark. If we turn on each other now, what do we have left?”
“When Lamson came along… when he teamed up with Cylis like that… it was either take the Mark or lose the farm.”
“‘Can’t sell crops without a Mark,’” Papa recited. “‘Can’t own land, can’t sell crops’…. How many times did I listen to those excuses?”
“Jean never wanted it,” Mama said to Blake. “Like Papa and me, Jean knew something wasn’t right about Lamson, about Cylis, about their whole scheme… didn’t sit well with any of us. But this farm meant the world to Robert. So he and Jean pledged.
We’re helpless without organization,” Mama added. “But that’s exactly what makes our work here on this farm important.” She pointed to the branches in front of them.
“Trees?” Tyler asked. “You… you want to start a new society in the trees?” He began to laugh until Jo punched him on the arm.
“Look closer, Tyler. What’s in these trees?”
The Dust looked more closely.
“Wire,” Jo said, squinting up at the branches. “They’re strung up with wire.”
“That’s right!” Papa told her. “Antennas. The fact is, kids, this ain’t really a farm anymore anymore. It’s a radio station.”
“A Markless radio station! Shortwave. With our equipment, we can broadcast all over the globe. They’ve been doing it in the countryside for years… but ours was the first in the New Chicago area.”
Dane, the one musician of the group, was visibly excited. The rest of the Dust just stared.
Somehow the idea of it didn’t immediately light their imaginations on fire.
Papa Hayes laughed deeply. “I’m showing my age, aren’t I?” He clapped Blake on the back. “I know, I know, not exactly cutting edge. But, kids—that’s the whole point. You don’t need tablets to hear a radio broadcast. You don’t need fancy computers or the Internet at all. No power, even! Just a foxhole radio made from junk you can find on the ground. Wire for the antenna and the tuning coil, a clothespin, a rusty razor blade… that’s all it would take for you to hear our broadcast anywhere from here to the other end of the city. Get a little fancier, maybe upgrade to a crystal radio or a vintage radio, like the kinds they used to sell in the pre-Unity days, and with the power supply we have on this farm, you’d be able to hear our station halfway across the country.”
The Dust looked up at the tree.
“So we can communicate,” Blake said.
“Even with no money, no shelter, no tech. We can still organize.”
CHAPTER FOUR: Shot In The Dark
“Cylis gave the world the easy path, and the world took it. Can’t blame anyone for that, really—we’d had it pretty hard up until then. War, famine, plague, a devastated economy, environmental destruction…” Peck was quiet for a moment. “The things we fight for… have fought for, throughout history… they’re the liberties. The right to speak your mind, the right to be happy, the right to worship the way you want, to be treated equally…
“Dictators of the past took these freedoms away. And the world always fought back.
“But Cylis never took anything. He offered. Offered alternatives to freedom that made life so easy, who could turn them down?
“The Mark, the Religious Inclusion, the Global Union… they all share a single goal: to give us a life so easy that we want to surrender our freedoms. A life so easy that we want to hand over our individuality and abandon choice. Because to keep them is to take the difficult path.” Peck sighed.
“The world was ready for things to be a little easier. And choices are hard.”
CHAPTER SEVEN: House Arrest
Hans sighed. “Warfare, environmental destruction, the Mark, the Inclusion, governments unifying under Cylis… any of that sound familiar to you?” He stood and walked to a side room, to a little library with a single shelf of paper books. He pulled one out and brought it over, laying it gently on the table. When Logan looked up, he recognized it right away. It was the same as the book Bridget gave him back at the underpass. It was a Bible.
“I expect you kids haven’t heard much about what this book has to say. But it’s all in there. Friends… I’d suggest it’s time you start getting your things in order.”
CHAPTER EIGHT: City On The Hill
Her entire childhood, Erin had grown up fearing [the Markless], resenting them, thinking they wanted nothing more than to have what she had, than to be who she was.
Tonight, for the first time, it occurred to Erin that maybe they were who they were by choice, that maybe they saw her and her shiny Mark with the same mix of pity and contempt she’d always felt toward them.
“What’s the real purpose of a Mark, huh?” he asked. “From DOME’s point of view, I’m speaking.”
Erin shrugged. “To separate upstanding citizens like me from riffraff like you?”
“EEEH—wrong! Erin Ms. Marky, thank you for playing . . .” Shawn made a little bow to her, like the host of a talk show, and he waved her along.
“Hey, wait—seriously.” Erin laughed. “I wanna know!”
“Listen, if that’s all DOME wanted to do, they wouldn’t go through the trouble of giving each person his own unique Mark.” He picked up Erin’s hand, and pointed to the tiny numbers in the lines of her tattoo. “No. No—the point of the Mark is that with it, DOME knows everything about you. Think about it. Every time someone buys a sandwich, what do they do? They scan their Mark. Every time someone enters a building, what do they do? They scan their Mark. Every time someone goes to the doctor, or approves a document, or gets on a Metrorail, or goes to a sports game, what do they do? They scan their Mark.
“It’s all digital. And all those little scans—everyone’s scans— they go straight into DOME’s network, where they’re logged forever. If you’re Marked, DOME doesn’t just know you’re a citizen— they know what kinds of food you like, they know how you get to work each day, they know what kinds of movies you watch, what kinds of prescriptions you’re on, where you’ve been, where you’re likely to go next… for all intents and purposes, they know everything about you.
“It’s control. The Mark is control. Over you. Does DOME invoke it much? Maybe not yet. But they could. And they will when it’s useful to them. So of course DOME wants everyone to be Marked. To be Unmarked is to be off the grid! To be free!” He held up his own Unmarked wrists.
“Maybe the reason Cylis and Lamson are scared for us to talk about pre-Unity history and religion in this country is because history and religion are true and inspiring! They show us that people can stand up for something real. They give us something to believe in. These stories really happened and they remind us that it’s okay if we’re not here right now to finish everything. Because we’re definitely here to start something. Big. And maybe that’s enough. Things weren’t always like this. We have to start making it right.”
CHAPTER NINE: Beacon’s Shadow
“I noticed the book you’re carrying in your pocket,” Peck said. “So I figure you’ll be interested in that area over there too.”
“What is it?” Logan asked.
“Church.” Peck laughed. “Don’t look so surprised. You do realize there was a time when every community had one, right?”
“I guess so… ,” Logan said.
“I mean, not since the Inclusion, of course. ‘No god above Cylis’—that’s the whole point. But underground… underground is a different story.”
“Isn’t that still kinda dangerous, though?” Logan asked, fingering the tattered old cover and the whisper-thin pages of the book in his pocket. “I mean, it’s one thing to have a Christian book lying around, but to actually get caught with a real, Christian church down here—”
Peck’s laugher interrupted him. “A Christian book? Logan, that’s not a Christian book you’re holding. That’s the Christian book. It’s the Bible—”
“The entire religion is based on it! It’s all in there—the whole history of God and His promises to His followers.”
Just look around. It may not seem like it, but this space you’re seeing—it’s freedom. Concrete walls and all.” He nodded. “You can think, believe, and speak just as you choose.”
“It’s a growing thing, then, isn’t it?” Logan said. “This Christian movement.”
Peck frowned. “Look. Everyone has his own reason for going Markless. Plenty of people down here laugh at the Christians. But there’s a good bit of us who take this stuff very seriously. Just like they used to, pre-Unity.”
Logan nodded. He was a little nervous, even now, just hearing these words—religion, church, God… he couldn’t remember a time when they weren’t taboo. But it was nice to see Peck so excited. And it was nice, finally, to feel part of a community again.
Deep down,” she said, “Cylis is a vicious, vindictive man. I can see that now. The idea of people anywhere, at any time, not pledging complete allegiance to him… it makes his blood boil. So he had Lamson build Acheron — and all the other places like it—to punish them.
“But I think Cylis soon realized that punishment wasn’t going to be enough. Punish people… and they only resent you further.” She shook her head again. “But if you can break them… if you can bring them over to your side…” She shrugged. “Cylis may be vicious… but he’s also brilliant. So he made a brilliant decision. Who, in any country, is more loyal than a soldier? Throughout history, an army has been the very symbol of patriotic loyalty. To fight for your country, to die for your country… there is no greater commitment.
“If Cylis could take those who had committed themselves to him least and turn them into those who had committed themselves to him most—turn them into his own soldiers—then, truly, Cylis could rule the world. It does more than kill two birds with one stone—it proves a point. That there has never, in history, been anyone more powerful.”
Man, am I ever thankful that this is not the end of the story! Not in the Swipe series and not in God’s story. To be continued!