Shift by Kim Curran

August 31, 2012

When your average loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not sow average after all. He’s a “Shifter” – he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. 

At first, he things the power to Shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him, he realises that each time he uses his power, it results in terrible, unforeseen consequences. In a world where anything can change with a single thought, Scott has to decide exactly where he stands.

Everyone has done it haven’t they? You’ve made a decision and then immediately regretted it. You’ve said or done the wrong thing, and been forced to live with an outcome that you didn’t need or want. Just imagine if you could undo your mistake. Make everything better without anyone realising your error. Wouldn’t that be the best thing in the world? I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott is just a typical teen, not terribly good at anything and unsure what to do with his life. A moment of madness, a reckless dare involving an old electricity pylon, leads to a decision that changes his entire future. Suddenly Scott is exposed to a section of society that he never knew existed, and he has to begin an entirely new way of life. I liked the idea that Scott is on the back foot for almost the entire novel. Most of the time he has no idea what is going on. The reader gets to share each of his discoveries as he makes them.

Once the world of Shifting is revealed to Scott, he is given the chance to join the Agency for the Regulation and Evaluation of Shifters (ARES). He gets to learn how to harness his burgeoning powers and understand their limitations. Most Shifters learn to control their powers much earlier in life so Scott finds himself in the beginner’s class with children half his age. This leads to a few funny moments, and there are some great characters introduced at this point. The gruff class instructor Sargent Cain, and Scott’s diminutive classmate C.P. Finn are personal favourites.

Scott’s initial training contains some of the best scenes in the novel. Curran has a good eye for action and does a great job describing how two Shifters fight one another. By using their powers to warp potential realities, the final outcome is decided before the first punch has even been thrown. This is the sort of thing that would be breathtaking to watch, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a movie version.

Every good story deserves a thoroughly unpleasant villain, and Shift has the thoroughly unpleasant Benjo. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything but even his description is just plain nasty. I do love a novel that has a bad guy who is out and out nasty. Benjo’s methods for dealing with his enemies are extreme and unpredictable, for a young adult novel I was surprised just how dark he was. He has what can best be described as ‘unusual tastes’, and indulges these regularly. Always a good sign when an author can write something that makes you ‘Eeewwww’ out loud.

I do hope that there will be more books set in the Shifter-verse; it feels like we’ve just been offered the glimpse of something that has the potential to be much larger. The author teases with a few tantalising references to Shifters elsewhere in the world and I would love to see this idea explored in more depth. I would be great to learn more about ARES foreign counterparts, not to mention the members of the mysterious organisation, the Shifter Liberation Front.

I think we can all agree that a young person discovering that they have special abilities and then getting drawn into a secret world/society is hardly a new idea. That said, Shift is right up there with best examples of this type of story. It is an intelligent, well paced, science fiction story that is well executed with a compelling edge. It’s so well executed in fact, that I had to keep reminding myself that this is debut novel. I honestly can’t think of a better introduction to the new imprint Strange Chemistry. Curran has written a cracking story that plays around with the laws of reality like some sort of teen-friendly version of Inception. I would say it is well worth checking this novel out.

Shift is published by Strange Chemistry and is available from 6th September 2012.

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