Logan Langly is afraid. He’s afraid of the dark, of crowds, of empty spaces behind him. He’s afraid of footsteps and shadows in the street; he’s afraid of eyes he’s never seen, but always feels.
Most of all, he’s afraid of getting the Mark. The Mark is the passport to adulthood, granting the right to buy, to have a job, to go to a doctor. No civilized life is possible without it. But Logan’s afraid.
Swipe, by Evan Angler, is a dystopian novel, and it could go as post-apocalyptic, too. The earth has been devastated by war and global warming, but in Logan’s time it’s getting back on its feet. Beneath its feet are the Dust – the Markless, outcasts for whom no one cares.
Swipe is also middle-grade fiction. This is why the age of receiving the Mark is thirteen. I thought that Evan Angler handled his cast of twelve- and thirteen-year-olds well. There were lines of dialogue I thought beyond such (I’ll say it) children, and it is always hard for me to seriously care for romance between (I’ll say it again) children. It would have been better, I thought, if the age of receiving the Mark was put two or three years older.
Yet the negative effect was minimal. It did work. I was impressed, moreover, by the mature complexity of the story. There are themes of choices made and paid for, of friends who become enemies and enemies who can be friends. Angler brings out a diversity of motivations in his characters.
Any Christian reading this book will quickly pick out the specters of Revelation: the Mark, the rising world-empire. It is not clear, however, if Swipe is the beginning of an End Times series, or simply drawing inspiration from the Bible. I prefer the latter.
Religion, as such, has a small place in Swipe; I guess it will have a large place in the series. Angler inserts, with admirable subtlety, clues that his characters don’t understand but that his readers do. Some who show doubts about the new regime wear a “charm” – the Cross, we can easily guess. A forsaken building we recognize, by the description of a spire and stained glass windows, as a church is mistaken by the children for a warehouse on account of the crates of books they find in it.
A number of the characters use the names of two world leaders in quasi-religious phrases: “For Cylis’s sake”; “In Lamson’s name”. And we see another specter: the Anti-Christ.
I enjoyed Swipe; the characters were finely and realistically drawn, the story made unexpected turns, the world was grimly interesting. The book is the first in a series; the story goes on, and I plan to be there.