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I have occasionally known films being made about the same subject, which unfortunately are released nearly at the same time; it’s not something I have experienced in books until now. I find myself with barely a quarter of the year gone reading yet another book about twins, who live in an oppressive environment.
The Sign of One (2016. 389 pages) is the debut novel of Eugene Lambert and is amusingly likened, by the PR Company, to The Hunger Games meets Guardians of the Galaxy presumably because the protagonists are young and it happens on another planet, when in fact it could not be further from these two franchises. It would be fairer to say that the book is very similar to the Fire Sermon Series, written by Francesca Haig. The novel was short listed for the Bath Novel Award.
Both posit worlds where one twin is born normal where the other is different, in the case of Lambert's book the difference gives one twin increased healing and strength. On the planet of Wrath, a human dumping colony, they are viewed as ‘Twists’ and held to be an evil, when discovered they are killed. However, that is not all that is going on and both books have a central hate figure that has plans for the less natural twin.
The hero of the story is sixteen year old Kyle. The structure of the book has been replicated over and over and remains one of our most popular stories, that of a young person who is born low, unaware of their power, until they go out into the world, which prompts a transformation with the young person finally meeting and vanquishing the big bad. It’s the story of Star Wars and it’s the story of The Sign of One and its form has been universally known since Joseph Campbell released his seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces back in 1949.
So, if it is not dissimilar to other books and falls back on a well-known story structure, what does Lambert bring to the table to make his story stand out? Although the story is set on a human colony world, Lambert uses very little of either the alien landscape or the chance to create something truly fantastical, it could just as well have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. On the plus side the book is fast paced with short chapters. For the most part the characters are well drawn, although personally I didn’t warm to the main protagonist, Kyle.
Lambert writes well enough, but I struggled to see why I would come back for another novel, he certainly leaves enough of an opening for at least a follow-on book. I guess with the plethora of really good young adult novels doing the rounds I just didn’t feel that the book had enough originality to stand out from the crowd.