By: B.T. Keaton
Publisher: Ingleside Avenue Press
Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Content Warning: Cannibalism (one chapter), Violence
“You may have heard of me…I am the one they call Barrabas… Now if I am indeed
this Barrabas of legend, as they say, then there’s a rather large kink in my little tale…
The real Barrabas died more than thirty years ago.” B. T. Keaton, Transference
B. T. Keaton’s debut science fiction novel, Transference, is unique, gritty, raw and runs the reader through a gamut of emotions. Transference starts right into the heart of the story on the first page with the interrogation of the main protagonist. No backstory, we have no idea who he is, where he is, but we do know he’s killed a man. The story opens in the first-person narrative and we come to find out this man is Barrabas Madzimure, or is he? He claims his real name is Thaniel Kilraven, and his soul or essence was transferred into the body of Madzimure against his will decades ago. The process of transference is commonplace for all in the dystopian future the novel is set in, It takes places using the mineral eridanium, mined on the prison planet Eridia, where we find out Madzimure is. Not accepting transference has dire consequences. Earth it is ruled by the Church (it is not any conventional Church, so no religious beliefs are attacked), centered in Neo York. The ruling prophet is Jovian, who controls transference by calling eridanium “venerated violet”, a mystical substance only he can wield. This allows him to control people, keep absolute power and control of their souls. The process can, however, be disastrous and begin to tamper with your own true memories. Those who do not want to transfer become outcasts, and if caught, can end up in the mining prison.
Mr. Keaton tells the entire story in the first-person narrative of several characters. The reader gets different perspectives from all the main characters and the plot flowed seamlessly from one to another. This made the prose of the novel excellent. This switching in the first-person perspective doesn’t always work well and can be confusing. In Transference, it was never confusing, but made for a far better read. This book has twists and turns you never see coming. It was so well crafted; it keeps the reader engaged at the outset and never lets up.
As the plot is revealed, we find out more about Madzimure /Kilraven. Who he really is, what happened to him, his family and what his life was like before transference. The emotions it brought out were heart wrenching as he begins to remember:
“In my mind’s eye, I’m instantly transported back to the moment I last held my wife. I looked her in the eyes and they were full of terror, and it was such a fright that I have never seen before, nor have I seen since. And I did nothing. I could do nothing.”
The perspective of other characters, Jovian; a man named Corvus who is sent to question Madzimure in prison; Iyov, a prisoner; Elisabeth, Kilraven’s wife; Trash; a young outcast on Earth; is also given in the narrative, but most is told from Kilraven/ Madzimure’s point of view. Hearing these other characters lets the reader into Madzimure’s life, and eventually, we see him as Kilraven. It all begins to come together, building to one hell of an intense ending. Transference was excellent science fiction, and I highly recommend it.
Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)
Rebellion. Revenge. Revelation.
Barrabas Madzimure is banished to the desert planet Eridania for his many crimes. Slaves to the Church and to the will of its prophet Jovian, a charismatic figurehead who rules everything on Earth, Madzimure and his cohorts toil underground digging endlessly for the substance eridanium—the source of Jovian’s alien power.
But Madzimure can no longer hide from his past. Facing execution, he claims to have once been Thaniel Kilraven, transferred decades earlier into the body of Madzimure against his will. Under interrogation the stories of both men are brought to light, and the terrible fate of the lost Kilraven bloodline is revealed.
Madzimure escapes, knowing the only way to salvage what’s left of the Kilraven name and confront his destiny—and Jovian—is by facing them head on. But the horrific truths he finds on Earth might be the undoing of all mankind. What if everything humanity believed about civilization was a lie? Will anything or anyone be left from the fallout?
Barrabas Madzimure/Nathaniel Kilraven: I loved how this character was introduced. No name, no backstory, where he is…nothing. We find out the details as we read and his life unfolds. A life that is filled with pain and sadness. The details come not only from his narrative, but the others as well. He has strong mental fortitude to do what is needed, and he is a strong fighter. What makes him a great character is that he is not superhuman. Transference does not impart superhuman abilities, so he is physically vulnerable. Kilraven is a likeable and relatable character. We feel his emotions when he speaks of his wife and all that he has lost.
Jovian: Jovian proclaims himself the prophet. Like most who call themselves one, he is a false prophet. He does, however, very much believe in transference. So here we have the despot and fanatic, which makes for a dangerous mixture. Jovian’s cruelty knows no bounds and it is at times hard to read about the things he does. That is, however, what great writing does-elicit emotional responses from the reader. His justification is his steadfast belief in transference and the quest for power. The real question may become what does Jovian want from Kilraven?
There are many other characters whose first-person perspective fills in the story of Kilraven. Each one plays a part in revealing his story, which ultimately reveals his destiny. The sadness of wife Elisabeth, the heroics of Iyov in the mines, the role Corvus plays, Trash, the young rebellion on Earth, Lord Alpha, Jovian’s closest confidant and executioner, all of them help put the pieces of Kilraven’s life back together. And wow, what a puzzle it turns out to be.
Transference is an excellent debut novel by B. T. Keaton. The transfer of souls to another body, the main plot of the book, was a unique and compelling science fiction. The pacing and prose were excellent. The reader was able to delve into the thoughts of several characters as it was all told in the first-person perspective. Nathaniel Kilraven was a well-developed protagonist who survives multiple trauma to finally do what he needs to in the end. The construction of the first-person narrative throughout the book was never confusing and filled in Kilraven’s life for the reader. In addition to Kilraven, the other characters were also well developed. Mr. Keaton nailed Jovian as the fanatical despot who truly believes what he is doing is for the betterment of humanity, thereby justifying anything he does. Transference was an excellent science fiction novel and I highly recommend it.
You can find out more on B.T. Keaton’s website: https://www.brandonkeaton.com/
Purchase Transference on Amazon
My thanks to Storytellers on Tour for providing me with a copy of Transference in exchange for an honest review.