Transference is a fantastical futuristic novel of epic scale.
A wrongly imprisoned man tries to rescue his family and topple the regime that convicted him in B.T. Keaton’s speculative novel Transference.
Barrabas has six days left before his execution. But perhaps he is not Barrabas; he could just as well be Kilraven, a near-mythical figure who poses an existential threat to the Prophet, the leader of Earth’s worldwide religious dictatorship.
With nothing left to lose, Barrabas escapes the prison planet where he’s been held for decades and returns to Earth. There, he joins forces with a small band of renegades to save his family and destroy the Prophet once and for all.
The story is set in the twenty-second century, when a process called transference allows people’s souls to move from body to body. As a result, no one is who they appear to be. This technology is used for many insidious purposes, including to reward those faithful to the Prophet with eternal life and to punish dissenters through forced transference and exile. Some of the book’s revelations regarding characters’ true identities are dramatic, though others serve little purpose to the story.
Chapters that introduce new characters are often laden with exposition, though most of it is integrated well. When it comes to Barrabas, such introductions are a crucial plot point. However, in one case, this exposition blunts a surprising revelation: a character relays important information well before Kilraven learns of it. In another case, explanations regarding character motivations come late and in the middle of a climactic scene, undermining a suspenseful and emotional moment.
Perspective changes come with little warning, though adjusting to new speakers is fast work. Each narrator’s perspective adds to the story. Terra, one of Kilraven’s rebel allies, is brave and boisterous; the Prophet is a strange figure, both ruthless enough to conquer the world and delusional enough to believe that he is generous for doing so. However, the book’s villains are prone to the threat of sexual violence against women prisoners.
Though intriguing, elements of the plot are underexplored. While Kilraven’s missing wife—who narrates a fascinating chapter—is a primary motivation for his return to Earth, she is less present in the text afterwards. But the prison planet and the future Earth are grisly settings that are made rich with intense rivalries and unsavory histories, and the book’s finale is triumphant.
Self-sacrifice, a desire for vengeance, and a mother’s love could save the world in Transference, a fantastical novel of epic scale.
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