ShiftShift, by Kim Curran, pub. Strange Chemistry (ISBN 9781908844033)

What if you had the ability to undo any decision you ever made?  This is the deceptively simple premise at the heart of Shift, the début novel by Kim Curran.  Scott Tyler is an ordinary teenager who discovers that he has just that ability, but what initially seems like a brilliant ‘Get Out Of Jail Free card’ turns out to be much more complicated and dangerous than he could possibly imagine.  Scott quickly discovers that he is not the only one with this ability.  Fellow ‘shifter’ Aubrey Jones introduces him to the secretive organisation ARES which seeks out and trains similarly talented youngsters and tries to control the consequences of changing the past.

The book is written in the first person perspective, which can work wonderfully (The Name Of The Wind) but more often lead to a pretty dry read.  On the whole I thought Kim Curran handled it pretty well, but some readers will find it difficult to get past.  One of the strengths of this book is that it clearly sets out the rules and limitations of the powers.  This helps avoid any nagging questions about why the shifters can’t just do whatever the hell they like without worrying about the consequences.  Shifters can only make changes to their own decisions and only when a definite decision has been made.  The ability to shift is lost in adulthood, which raises a variety of deeper issues when so much power is in the hands of the very young.

This is a book which is aimed quite squarely at the teenage market.  It is fast paced and action-packed enough to keep younger readers happy but for me it lacked the cross-over appeal which some Y.A. books have to the broader readership.  Scott’s constant mooning over the feisty and pretty Aubrey might be an entirely realistic portrayal of a hormonal teenage boy, but it gets a bit dull for those of us who have left puberty far behind.  The target readership should be kept happy though, with plenty of fights, chases, explosions and a memorably revolting villain called Benjo.

As can be expected from the first book in a series there is a lot of set up (which is fine) but it has to be said, the ending seemed a little abrupt.  A lot of the major revelations are packed into the last few chapters without much chance to explore the implications.  However, given that the sequel (Control) is already available this shouldn’t be a problem to anyone left wanting more.

Overall Shift is a solid starting point and a fun read, though it might be a little lacking in substance for more demanding readers.  However the premise is strong enough to support a series and, as the world is opened up and the characters are developed, there could be interesting things to come.

Rating: 3/5

Reviewer: Clover Winton-Polak

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