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Buy *Signature* by Ron Sanders

Ron Sanders
166 pages
January 2008
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Two friends, Professor Abe Joshua Lee and Doctor Israel "Izzy" Weaver, are celebrating the New Year of 1347 in a Colony world. Famous scientist Titus Mack has sent them to meet Professor Moses Amantu and to bring him to Mack's tower in the middle of the dangerous Outskirts of the City. Mack has made headway in his investigation into humanity's racial memory, and Amantu is eager to discuss it.

However, Amantu does not share the other two's festive mood and refuses to drink, even though Izzy goads him. Shortly, Amantu suffers a minor heart attack. An illegal telepresence offers him illegal stimulants to make him feel better, and Izzy almost forces Amantu to take them. Emboldened by the stimulants, Amantu also buys an illegal weapon, scuffles with Izzy, and fires. The police investigate, and only the only thing that keeps the trio from jail is that Mack vouches for them. The police escort them outside the city, and from there they have to travel the Outskirts on foot. Through it all, the three men become fast friends.

They do not get far before three Outs ambush them. The city-born trio, terrified of the Outs' violent behavior, are dragged underground to a huge network of caves and tunnels. They are able to use the darkness to their advantage and escape back to the surface. Even though the Outs' chase them, the trio manages to get inside Mack's tower. There the scientist tells them with words and holograms what he has managed to glean from the racial memories, and about a centuries-old government conspiracy to conceal the existence of a phenomenon which they thought so dangerous that even now anyone who believes in it is called a carrier and either executed or isolated by the government. That phenomenon is called religion.

Or rather Christianity, since there is no mention of other religions in the book. Mack shows the trio wars and disasters which apparently have been imprinted onto the subconscious of humanity. These include the Flood and the World Wars, but also the American Civil War and the disastrous events that followed the actions of a charismatic religious and political leader in the U.S.

The three men are skeptical at first, but slowly they realize that Mack might know what he is talking about. Unfortunately, the Outs find a way into the tower, defeat them again, and drag them back to their caverns. There the four men are subjected to violence and torture, and also to a bizarre interpretation of Christianity which glorifies suffering. The men try desperately to get out of the hellish place.

Signature explores religion and oppression. What happens when the written records are gone, and people have to invent the core of their religion again? What happens when a government tries to ban all religion? What happens when history is rewritten? How far is a government entitled to go to protect its citizens?

The world of the book is divided into two: the clean technological city where religion and weapons are banned, and the brutal Outskirts where people have to fight to survive. The shock when the intellectual men are forced into the second world is palpable. Although we do not see much of the city life, the men's reactions tell much about that way of life in contrast to that of the Outs. But both of these worlds have their own disturbing sides, and neither of them is perfect. This future is very much a dystopia.

Both the beginning and the ending of Signature are a little bit confusing; it takes a while to understand what is going on, but the reading experience is well worth it. Sanders uses a lot of very long words which sometimes seem out of place in the dialog, but the atmosphere and the characters are handled very well.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Mervi Hämäläinen, 2008

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