The publication this August of Control, the latest in Kim Curran’s Young Adult science fiction trilogy, prompted me to do what I should have done a year ago – read its predecessor Shift. I was not prepared for the full force of its power… I picked it up late one evening and the following morning I couldn’t do a thing until I’d finished it. Shift is one of the most compulsive Young Adult reads I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy and now that it’s done I look forward very much to Control and part 2. Instead of reviewing the two together, I thought I’d write a post on Shift first and that way you might just do what I did: pick up Shift and love every page of it without having a clue of what we can expect in Control. Shift is for young readers but be in no doubt. This well-written science fiction adventure sets out from the very first page to entrap readers of all ages, sucking them in and only spitting them out with the end of the very last sentence.
Imagine if you had the power to go back and change those decisions that had such an impact on your life – whether to save a life, to have on a dry pair of shoes, to not do something totally stupid, to win at a game, or give yourself a future. If you had this power, then you would be a Shifter. Shifters, it seems, have a place in all levels of society and government, helping to steer companies and countries. But only the young can shift; with adulthood it disappears and then, should you choose, you could be a Regulator, helping to stamp out accidental illicit shifting and seeking out those who would use shifting for deviant or mere nuisance ends. The chances are that as a Shifter and/or a Regulator you would be employed by ARES – the Agency for the Regulation and Evaluation of Shifters.
Scott Tyler is our hero and narrator. Discovering relatively and dramatically late that he is a Shifter, Scott is guided into ARES by the enigmatic and tetchy Aubrey Jones. When it is discovered that Scott has an extra power – he can remember the result of past, revoked choices – he is promoted up the ranks and the two work together to investigate a rumoured threat to Shifters; that Shifters might be prey for a lethal and odious enemy that has its own use for their skill. All the time, though, Scott has to learn about the reality of his own shifting and the fact that it can have the most terrible consequences – and not just for him. This is the steepest of learning curves and not all mistakes can be undone. It’s an exhilarating lesson.
Shift is a first novel but you wouldn’t know it. It is a densely plotted and vigorously enthusiastic read, full of humour, thrills and vile monstrousness. Its premise is fascinating and the narrative and plot delivers on it. Apart from all that, though, the real strength of Kim Curran’s wonderful descriptive writing and worldbuilding is in her characters. Both Scott and Aubrey are brought to life with the lightest of deft touches and the dialogue is both natural and real as well as Scott’s colourful narration. And not just them either. The supporting characters are all well worth getting to know. They can also be a little more complicated than one first expects.
The villains of the piece are as nasty as any I’ve come across in a novel and how my skin crawled. The locations are vividly pictured and the premise of shifting stays true and clear throughout. There is such humour in Shift, though. Kim Curran never tries too hard and she never talks down to her readership. Shift is exciting to read but it is also such a fun experience, with the pages tripping through the fingers. I am so pleased that I have Control to read now. I’ll then have to wait for the third which will be called (wait for it!) – Delete.
Review of Control to follow shortly.