Saturday, 8 December 2012

Shift by Kim Curran

Shift by Kim Curran is the author's debut novel and is not to be confused with the other book called Shift (by Em Bailey) that I read and reviewed this year.

The premise of Shift is fairly high-concept: some people have the ability to change decisions they've made in the past and "shift" the world on to the reality in which those decisions were the ones they really made. Of course there are caveats: only children between the ages of pre-teen and 18 or 19 can do it before they grow out of it, they can't influence events they weren't a part of, and they can only change decisions that were consciously made, not automatic, non-thinking reactions. Generally, they only remember the old reality for a few minutes before they assimilate fully into the new reality. The sixteen-year-old main character's — Scott's — extra-special power (apart from being rather powerful) is that he can remember other realities for longer.

And of course, there's a government agency regulating shifters and their training.

Shift was a fun, fast-paced read. There are a lot of explosions and surprisingly competent eleven year olds. The bad guy was truly horrifying (although, a warning for those that care, part of his ickiness is centred about his fatness and lack of personal hygiene) and reminded me a bit of Sylar in early Heroes (the TV show) when we still thought he was all-powerful and ate brains. Also, it's set mostly in London, which is quite refreshing, as was the slang and spelling.

I couldn't help but feel, when I got to the end, that Shift didn't quite deliver on what the blurb and prologue. I was expecting more shifting, more chaos, and more doom (admittedly, not more explosions; those were sufficient). I was reading carefully, noting each time Scott made a subtle conscious decision in the narrative, and the only time he actually shifted back to a point on the fly after learning about his powers was near the start (and, forgivably, pretty unsubtle). There were a few points during the thick of things when I wanted to shout at him to go back to that last decision point I'd noted to save whatever. I was also expecting it to end up being more complicated in terms of shifting between realities, Scott having old memories and what was real and what was really going on? A bit more like the movie Prime. Or, if not actually that insanely complicated, less linear than it was. Basically, I had higher expectations of the concept. But perhaps Curran will up the ante in the sequels.

That said, I did enjoy reading Shift and found it difficult to put down. I even set up my phone (for the first time in this way) so that it would read it aloud to me while I was driving. So it's definitely an addictive type of read (probably because of the explosions). I recommend it to anyone who's after a light, action-packed, quick read. It's mercifully not (very) dystopian, and has mystery and conspiracy to keep the reader interested.

4 / 5 stars


  1. I see it's published by Strange Chemistry, the YA branch of Angry Robot Books. That means I probably can't buy it for my library too easily. I suppose I can get it ordered in by Of Science And Swords bookshop. It sounds like something our boys might enjoy.

  2. Not to make your book-ordering life more difficult, but everything I've read from Strange Chemistry so far (which is everything out except for out book) has been very good.