Kim Curran is an Irish-born, London-based writer of YA near-future SF. She has 4 published Novels to her name, plus a short story called ‘A Woman Out of Time’, which was on the James Tiptree Honors List 2014. And, apparently, she has her next book ready, at least in first draft.
Shift, the first book in the trilogy of the same name (the other two are Control and Delete), was her debut novel, which I picked out of a stack of freebies as it sounded interesting (I presume this was to promote the 3rd book in the series at the time).
It plays in a world very much like our own, in a London with recognisable locations. The main difference is that in this world there are people, no, children, who have the power to change their own decisions they made in the past, and thus affect the course of the present, the future, and history as we know it. This power is limited to Children and Adolescents only, and is lost as the Shifter (as they are known to those in the know) reaches a certain age. Any potential paradoxes from this are avoided by changing all subsequent events, so that the new reality chosen by the Shifter is internally consistent. The exception are some Shifters who can recall the other reality they moved from; and mapping out what changes to the world and its history the reversing of a specific decision would make, pre-switch, is a specialist subject.
Scott Tyler, a socially awkward adolescent from a dysfunctional family, and the main protagonist of the series, is one such Shifter. Except that his talents had not manifested themselves at the age when they usually do; so it comes a bit as a surprise when he, for once, hangs out with the ‘cool kids’, and, to impress a girl, climbs a pylon on a dare. From which he falls, to his certain death. Except that this had not happened, and all people knew was that he had fallen off the fence surrounding the pylon and made an arse of himself…
But he gets picked up for ‘shifting without a license’ by the very girl he tried to impress - arrested, and waiting for the Regulators from ARES (Agency for the Regulation and Education of Shifters) to pick him up, until she realises that he actually has no clue about his abilities, and absconds with him. But this train of events, plus a second, inadvertent shift, leave him in a reality where his sister is dead due to his fault; and he (with some help) shifts all of this out of reality, and decides to join ARES and the training/structure they offer voluntarily and of his own accord.
I’m not going to spill more of the story, but have to say that the coming-of-age plot is very very vanilla. Adolescent learns he has special powers, regulated by a secret agency which has hidden, trained, and used his kind throughout history, and is eventually taken in for training on using those. He learns of a group of renegades opposing the default group, of enemies to the Good Cause, and then also that not all is as it seems on the surface, and raises to the challenge…
So far so very generic and done ever so many times. Including, in my recent reading, done in a much more entertaining and colourful fashion by Charlie Human in his novels Apocalypse Now Now and Kill Baxter (and the plot summary very much reads the same).
Having said that, there is nothing bad here I could point at, this is enjoyable, well executed, and entertaining. And, to give special credit, the romance aspect of the story is handled just fine, which I very much appreciated!
Series Number: 1/3
Author: Kim Curran
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publisher URL: http://www.strangechemistrybooks.com
Publication Date: 2012
Review Date: 161001
Price: UKP 7.99
Topic: Magic Realism