Mike Merrick is a Watcher, but he's no passive observer. In this future society, the Watchers are an elite government task force: judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Think Judge Dredd and you'll begin to get the idea — but unlike Judge Dredd, who's only ever after "perps" (perpetrators), the Watchers are simply after people: people surplus to requirements.
That's anyone who's elderly, sick or disabled; anyone who can't get Credit; anyone who follows any religion other than the official state religion... or anyone else the Watchers take a dislike to. You want to live? Don't cross a Watcher.
Any society needs safeguards, however: legitimate citizens, including the Watchers, are "coded" — quite how, we're never told, but the Watchers carry Laserscan rifles that they can use to decode other citizens at will. After decoding comes dumping: it's a segregated society, New Towns - safe, secure fully-serviced areas full of happy, healthy people - surrounded by the debris of the old Cities, derelict and desolate, the dumping grounds for Illegals. Beyond the Cities, the Deadlands, uninhabitable areas ruined by pollution. The only way out is in: there's always hope for a return to the New Towns, a possibility of rescue by the Aid Workers.
But Mike hears rumours: Illegals leaving the City, escaping "over the water". He sets out to investigate — and finds his world turned upside down. He's injured in a fight and captured by the Illegal smugglers, a group of Christians, detested and outlawed — but instead of killing him, treating him the way he'd have treated them if the tables had been turned, they take him in and take care of him.
But there's conflict: the Christians aren't united. This is a story of trust and mistrust, of hopelessness and hope restored, of anger and betrayal, hate and rage — it's a grim future that Sheila Jacobs paints for us here and there's no pretence that trusting Jesus will make all your problems go away. It forces questions: you know what you believe, you know what Jesus taught about loving your enemies — but can you hack that when your enemy is there, in your midst?
By the time you've finished this book you'll be praying that a future like this never happens. But if it does, which side of the line will you be on?Order Watchers from Eden.co.uk
Phil Groom, October 2004
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.
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