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I don't remember a huge amount about this book and haven't been able to find it even after resorting to just reading long lists of sci-fi books.

The government uses a sort of "soft" mind-control via chips implanted in the brain that cause pain when individuals have violent or otherwise "undesirable" thoughts.

I remember a specific scene

in which government agents are watching, via security camera, the protagonist struggle to obtain a tool (hammer or spanner maybe) from some sort of museum display case. He collapses over the display and the agents think he has given up from the pain. Really he takes the tool, replaces it with a look-alike, and walks away.

In another scene,

the protagonist is running from the government through suburban streets and receives help from neighbors (in minor forms [that I don't recall very well], lest the helpers feel pain at helping such a deviant).

I read the book at least 10-15 years ago, probably mid 2000s. I don't remember the cover except that I think it had a lot of black on it (not very helpful, I know).

Any help is much appreciated. Thank you!

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    Please edit your question to add the spoiler information anyway to aid in the identification of the story. You can start the line(s) with the spoiler with >! so that readers have to hover over the spoiler with their mouse to see it. – Null Sep 9 '16 at 18:14
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    Any time! Your question suggests that there are additional spoilers that you haven't revealed. Please do edit that information in (with the spoiler tag as needed), along with any other information you can think of -- when you read it, what the cover looked like, etc. This will increase the likelihood that someone will know which book this is. – Null Sep 9 '16 at 18:25
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It's definitely The Alliance by Gerald Lund. A group of apocalypse-survivors holed up in Star Valley, Wyoming are captured by The Major, a dictator of a small city-state that controls its populace via a wristwatch and an embedded brain chip that inflicts pain if it senses anger or guilt. If you remove the watch or the chip, the one left kills you.

In the scene you're thinking of, the protagonist breaks into a museum where they keep weapons from the pre-apocalypse world as a reminder of how barbaric it was and how much better everything is now.

He pretends to try to steal a rifle, knowing he's being watched, and when he collapses in failure, grabs some bolt cutters instead. The he hypnotizes his friend (so his colleague doesn't feel guilt) and his friend removes the chip while the hero cuts off the watch with the bolt cutters at the same time. For the rest of the book, the hero is a freedom fighter with the broad approval of the general population of the city state, who can't support him openly.

  • That's the one! Thank you very much! – Bryce Draper Sep 19 '16 at 13:44

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