SWIPE by Evan Angler
With my rekindled interest in BookSneeze, I stumbled upon an interesting new novel about a futuristic society in which all humanity is required to receive a Mark in order to function as a productive member of society. Without this mark a person cannot own property, purchase goods, or retain any civil rights whatsoever. In effect, this mark enables people to go about their business as usual, but without the mark they are labeled worthless beings and swept to the rundown areas on the fringes of society. To a Christian, this story is all-too-familiar; just take a look at Revelation 13. I was intrigued by this spin on the biblical tale because it centers around young adults and is set in a science fiction world, so I signed up to get a review copy in late September. And then I came across a note stating this new book was actually the second in a series. Hmm. I refuse to read a series out of order, so before I could fulfill my BookSneeze obligation I decided to read the first book, titled Swipe. Thankfully, it’s an interesting tale and very speedy to read.
Swipe follows Logan Langly in the months just prior to his 13th birthday, the day he is finally allowed to receive his Mark and must pledge his allegiance to Chancellor Cylis, the leader of the entire world. Logan is already hesitant about the procedure because his older sister died during her own pledge five years before, and since that day he has become increasingly paranoid. Logan is convinced that he is being followed, watched in his own home even. But he also wants to do what is expected, and without making the pledge and receiving the Mark, Logan will be forced to live outside the Law.
As his pledge date approaches, Logan finds a confidante in Erin, a new girl at school, and they quickly learn that Logan’s paranoia is founded in truth. There exists among the Markless a rebel faction called The Dust that is responsible for the kidnapping of several teenagers on the eves of their pledges, and the members of this group have targeted Logan. The story follows Logan and Erin as they run their own investigation in an effort to expose The Dust, all the while Logan is questioning whether to receive his own Mark or resist and take his chances.
What makes Swipe so interesting is the focus on youth and the descriptions of a future society in the “American Union.” I expected the book to be Hunger Games-esque, but Logan’s world is actually shiny and hi-tech and completely focused on “unity.” But the sinister elements are there, and the book’s teenage perspective is certainly meant to target the same audience. Swipe is its own entity, though, and it’s enjoyable to read. I was most impressed by its relatable take on prophecy. Throughout the book I was able to imagine the depicted world without it seeming so very far into the future. And that’s the biggest success of the Swipe series – that it presents a Global Society and Mark program in a way that could happen in just a few short years. Terrifying, to be sure, but something that should always be at the forefront of our minds.
Swipe is filled with strong imagery and references that made me shudder even as I was wowed by them, but the following segments stood out the most. The descriptions of the Mark itself were especially interesting to me; it’s nothing more than a tattoo placed on the wrist, but the ink is filled with nanites so that the arm must be swiped under a scanner in order for the Mark to be read. Everywhere a person goes and everything a person does must begin with a swipe of the Mark. Like, I said… this idea of the future is not that far-fetched!
CHAPTER THREE: First Day, New Face
It wasn’t compulsory, getting the Mark, but the idea of spending your thirteenth birthday doing anything else was unheard-of. In the ten years since it had been implemented, the Mark had quickly become the capstone of a childhood well spent, the crowning achievement in a young man’s or woman’s life, the opened door to adulthood and independence.
Out of the laughter, Grandma spoke quietly, but her voice cut through the room and commanded attention. “Shame on you,” she said. “All of you. How easily you’ve forgotten about life before the Unity. Before Lamson, and Cylis over in that awful E.U. It’s not a joke!”
“We know, Grandma,” cousin Jake butted in. “Paper money, citizenship from birth—”
“Walks to school in the snow—”
The family all chimed in, talking over one another and laughing. Grandma’s reminder of the old ways was one they’d heard a hundred times. Even Logan knew it by heart.
“You laugh now,” Grandma said. “If I could cut this Mark out right here, I would.” She fingered a charm on her necklace as she spoke. Logan had seen it before, but he didn’t know what it meant.
“That’s enough.” Mrs. Langly shook her head. “This is hardly an appropriate conversation to be having the morning of—”
“It’s the perfect conversation to be having the morning of the Pledge! While there’s still time to walk away!”
“Mama, stop it! Today’s about Unity, country, quality of life! The States War—we were falling apart!” Logan had never seen his mother so worked up, especially not at his grandma. “Who knows what would have happened without Lamson? Do you think we’d even be here? This town was burning when he turned the tide. Your home was burning.”
“Oh please.” Logan’s grandmother clawed at her Mark until the skin around it was red and chafed. “You all think—”
“So why’d you get it, then?” Aunt Susan interrupted. “Why not just turn it down and live with the rest of the bums on Slog Row? Huh? Think we would have missed you too much?”
“Well, if I’d have known then what it was starting.”
And it was true what his mom had said, that in the years before Logan’s birth, before General Lamson came along, his family and all the families in Spokie had suffered, had feared for their lives. There wasn’t a year in school Logan wasn’t reminded of this, of the war his generation was born into but just barely remembered, when states still divided the continent and fought horribly among themselves over things as simple as economics and religion and basic human rights.
Logan couldn’t remember which state his would have been. Wisconsin, maybe? Minnesota? They’d all been called such strange things. Even the American Union had a weird name—the United States—as if separate states could ever be united.
But was it also true what his grandmother had said? Had always said? About life being better before the Unity? It was hard to imagine. In school the lessons stopped short of any real exploration of the topic. They simply didn’t teach the time before the war, except to say that everything about it had led to the fighting, to the chaos, and was worth forgetting and never repeating. On the Internet, Pedia articles that might have explained the era were perpetually “Under Construction” or “Down for Maintenance,” even when the rest of the Web worked fine. And whenever Logan got up the nerve to ask a parent or teacher about it outright, whenever he wondered—innocently, curiously—what possible advantages the old government might have had, or what details separated the myriad religions prior to the Inclusion, he would be told only, “Not to worry, not to worry,” that it was best this way, no doubt about it.
“But can’t you just give me a straight answer?” Logan would ask.
And the adults would grow nervous and say quietly, “You just never know, Logan. You just never know which walls have ears.”
CHAPTER FOUR: The Invitation
The Inclusion was of particular interest to Logan, partly because it was so far-reaching, and partly because it was the least talked about of all the major historical events. Logan knew, from piecing together what he’d read, that there had been a time not long ago when people around the world practiced a variety of different religions, each with its own system of values and culture and beliefs. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism… the idea of it fascinated Logan, even though he hadn’t the slightest idea what those religions taught. After Lamson and Cylis instituted the Inclusion, everything that might once have been considered spiritual was just sort of lumped into a single, bland system that mostly preached patriotism and peace. Not bad ideas by any means, and yet Logan couldn’t help but wonder if somehow, in all of it, something important was being lost.
It isn’t a crime to be Markless, no matter what age you are.”
“It’s not, no. Not in itself. But to survive like that… no way to eat… nowhere to stay… it’d make a criminal out of you pretty quick.”
CHAPTER FIVE: Spy vs. Spy
When the elevator doors opened, it was to the disk on top of the [building that resembled an] Umbrella. Logan followed Erin out and he immediately felt a horrifying sense of vertigo. The disk was as big as his school’s cafeteria, and the entire enclosing structure was made of glass. Logan looked at his feet and saw nothing below him but the sidewalk, fifty stories below.
“It’s tinted so you can’t see from the outside,” Erin whispered. “But the whole floor’s made of glass. Don’t be alarmed.”
Thanks for warning me, Logan thought. To him, it felt like standing on a cloud, and about as safe. He tried to steady his balance as Erin led him through the space.
Even at this hour of the night, the room buzzed with the frenzied energy of a newsroom or a trading floor. DOME agents worked on long tables that wrapped around the space in concentric circles, the highest ranks at the outer rings along the Umbrella’s glass edge. The tables themselves were computers, their surfaces creating one large composite touchscreen over which each agent huddled, shuffling virtual documents with flailing arms and typing or writing with a stylus directly onto the interface.
Nothing was ever written on paper anymore, since everyone had switched to tablets, and yet here was a boxful of it, yellowed, handwritten, one of a kind, confidential. In an age of infinite digital documentation, paper was the last safe place for secrets. Not to be copied and pasted with the stroke of a stylus, not to be sent around the world at the press of a button, not to be recorded and stored forever in a million irretrievable pieces across cyberspace and time, paper was intimate … fragile. (from Chapter Three)
CHAPTER EIGHT: Logan’s Many Friends
Mr. Dirkin was teaching about nanotechnology. Logan and his current lab partner, Tom, had been given vials of nanosyrup, nanosleep, nanosolvent, nano-gas, and nanoink, and it was their job to isolate and determine the effects of the technology in each. The nanosyrup was easy— it’d been engineered to taste sweet electronically, without the need for calories or chemicals. The nanosleep was a little more complex, seeming to attack first the cerebral cortex, then the hippocampus, and then the cerebellum: judgment, memory, and motor skills, in that order. But beyond identifying the glowing green sections of the brain scan, Logan was having trouble deciphering what exactly the stuff was doing to the rats they’d been given to try it on, and testing the nanosleep on themselves had been strictly forbidden.
CHAPTER TEN: Street Cleaning
On Slog Row, the sun was bright and the air was warm. “I don’t like this,” Logan whispered to Erin. “This doesn’t feel . . . right . . . to me.”
“These people made their choice, Logan. They made their lives what they are. They had plenty of time to turn themselves around.”
Ahead of them, DOME agents were storming into house after house, dragging people out in electro-magnecuffs. Some were screaming, thrashing, cursing. Others just kept their heads down.
“Maybe they didn’t see it that way,” Logan said. “Maybe they were happy here.”
“Stop kidding yourself. Everyone on this block had to have seen this coming. In Beacon, it would have happened a long, long time ago. They should have gotten the Mark. It isn’t any more complicated than that. I can assure you, Logan—life, with it, is good. These people must be pretty dim not to have seen the obvious solution here.”
“Maybe they’re standing up for something,” Logan said. “Maybe they think we shouldn’t have to Pledge in order to be contributing members of society. There was a time when we didn’t, you know.”
“Yeah, before the States War. When everyone aligned themselves randomly, to whatever idols they wanted, killing each other over the differences between them. That sound like a better system to you, Logan?”
“I’m just saying—”
“Do you even hear yourself? You’re suggesting these people deserve A.U. benefits without being members of the A.U.”
“I’m not suggesting anything. I’m telling you what I think their point might be.”
“Their point is not worth thinking about. It doesn’t even follow logically. They’re angry at a government that is perfectly happy to give them full benefits and rights and pursuits of happiness as soon as they pledge allegiance to it—which they could do at any time—for the sake of everyone’s safety and quality of life. I don’t see the injustice here.”
CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Meeting Of The Minds
We live in the American Union, Logan. Soon to be Global. But true unity is not in a name. It’s a way of thought.” He went, now, to the podium. He planted his hands on the sides. “When the Mark Program began, it was the intention that the Pledge would bring us together. Would create peace. That our allegiance to Lamson and ultimately to Cylis would bind us—give us a common ground from which all ideas could grow, together.
Criminals, yes, but also kids who might grow up just to think different. Who might grow up to question. To doubt. They’re weeding us out, Logan. So that all who remain… may be… unified.”
Do you remember?” Logan asked. “Do you remember what it was like? The first thing about it, even? Your procedure?”
“Not really,” Erin said. “You go in, it’s a clean room, they give you a spoonful of nanosleep, and while you doze off, they ask you a few questions about—you know, the… test, or whatever. Then you wake up and you’re Marked.”
“A nanoink tattoo.”
“There’s a shot?”
“Well, yeah, in your wrist, so you don’t feel the Marking, but you’re already so dazed by that point—”
CHAPTER TWELVE: Pledge
“When I began,” he said, “it was for the cause. I believed in peace, Unity, Lamson and Cylis… I believed in the symbol of that cause. I believed in what it meant. For us to come together, one people, one mind-set… content.”
The room surrounding him was dotted with nervous kids fidgeting on felt seat benches, half a dozen in total. Each celebrating his or her birthday, like Logan, alone in the sterile, white room among the chatterbox televisions of the DOME Center for Pledging and Treatment. One frame projected a woman talking excitedly about all the many daily uses of the Mark—access to shopping, banking, health services, transit services, worker’s eligibility, no-hassle security clearance, voter registration… the list went on and on. Another frame projected a man discussing outreach to those who didn’t yet have the Mark, and welcoming those Markless who had finally decided to make The Right Choice and Pledge Today.
“You are here to Pledge your allegiance to General Lamson and Chancellor Cylis.”