on 6 September 2012
Published by new young-adult imprint, Strange Chemistry, 'Shift' was an enjoyable and original debut by British author Kim Curran.
I loved the idea behind 'Shift' which is that certain teenagers have the ability to shift from one reality to another, where decisions can be changed, leading to different future paths. Like the main character Scott, I thought that would be such a cool ability to have. I mean imagine being able to right all those wrong choices with a single thought.
Very few young-adult books have male narrators so it was refreshing to see events unfold from the viewpoint of Scott Tyler, who unexpectedly discovers at the start of the story that he is a shifter. His whole world is literally turned upside down by this revelation and nothing in his life will ever be the same again. He meets lots of new people from here on in and one of the best is Aubrey who is smart and clever and explains to him the new life which now lies ahead of him. In places I thought that the dialogue seemed a little stilted which sometimes made it difficult to connect with all the characters but many of them had grown on me by the end of the book.
I actually thought that the story initially started a bit slowly and I wasn't sure whether it was going to pick up. Luckily it did and as the plot progressed, it got a lot more exciting with some unexpected (and on occasion quite grotesque!) surprises thrown in along the way.
I don't know if this is a stand-alone novel or not, but I'm guessing from the way it concluded that there will be a sequel. It will be interesting to see where Kim Curran takes the story next as at this point she could take it in several different directions.
on 17 September 2012
Shift takes a great premise (Shifters can change their decisions and alter reality as a result), and builds a strong, pacy story around it. Curran writes well and has a real flair for cliff-hanger chapter endings.
It was prevented from being a 5*book for me because when things speeded up heading for the denouement, I found our narrating hero was reaching conclusions that hadn't been foreshadowed enough (for me)and took me by surprise, whereas the heroine didn't seem to know what was going on and was too passive for my liking.
But overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I'll buy her next.
I loved Scott's narrative voice, he is an utterly realistic 16 year old. The world in which he lives is brought to vivid life with Kim Curran's descriptive, relatable writing style. Scott's life is utterly normal, parents who argue constantly and a younger sister that out shines him in nearly every way, that is until Scott discovers he can `shift' quite by accident.
The portrayal of the actual time travel or `shifting' in this book was fascinating, well thought out and developed. The consequences of a time shift clearly shown within the narrative, even the slightest change has a ripple effect and this aspect was a very clever inclusion. The concept of not appreciating what you have until it's gone is a consequence that I had not previously considered with the thought of time travel, it is generally the thought of getting back what had previously been lost.
The limitations on the `shifting' ability added depth to the plot and provided a means to direct the story in a number of surprising ways. The use of secret government departments, their opposing group and their interactions maintained the action alongside a sense of tension as the plot unfolded. The plot in itself provided a number of unexpected twists. The use of power and how it corrupts as well as the lengths some people go to in order to acquire such power is chilling in its portrayal.
While I enjoyed this book I have to say that I wasn't expecting it to be quite so gory. For those of you that know me you will already know that I have a vivid imagination and can't cope with too much gore. So I have a warning for you - what ever you do - Don't read this book while your eating breakfast, especially the part with the cats. Seriously you won't be able to look at a cat the same way again.
on 6 September 2012
I loved this book -- a combination of well-drawn characters, intriguing plot, humour plus a twist at the end. In the tradition of all the best YA fiction there is a concept - shifting - that you wish you had. Can't wait to read the next one.
on 2 September 2012
(Written by my daughter, Tallulah)
I really enjoyed Shift, it keept me gripped and I loved all the action!! I really liked the characters. Tyler is great and I think the idea of shifting is very cool and fun. I wasn't expecting the twist at the end, plus all the explosions made my heart race!! I think Kim Curran is an amazing author and I look forward to more.
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.
on 2 September 2012
Scott's never been one to show off before so he's not quite sure why he's climbing a pylon to impress a girl. When he slips, he really thinks he's a goner, but instead of breaking all the bones in his body, he comes round lying on the grass with a memory of falling over the fence. Did he climb the pylon or not? Next thing he knows, he's being dragged off by the girl, Aubrey, and being told off for shifting in public. If he can just avoid being captured by ARES, his knew found gift to change his past decisions is cool, right? Instead, he learns that every shift has consequences...
Shift is like a British, young adult version of The Butterfly Effect with just as chilling effects and served with a side order of humour. Scott's your average teenage boy, and despite his new found powers, he never really gets past his averageness which makes him a refreshing narrator. He is a little more unusual than the average shifter; he is late to discover his powers and he can remember past realities. He doesn't come across as the brightest spark, being a little bit gullible and not thinking for himself. Of course the secret organisation has his best interests at heart! Bless him.
I wasn't entirely convinced by the covert groups of children using their shifting powers to aid the government. Shifters reach entropy when they get into their twenties and their power fades away. So the shifters are all young adults or children, some as young as nine. Was it all a charade? After all, shifting only changes personal decisions and what decisions do children make that would change the world? Maybe I missed something here but it wasn't clear.
There's a pretty terrifying villain too and Kim Curran has done a great job in creating a character that gives you the chills. Later on, some of the unpleasant revelations are rushed over but I imagine this is done for the younger audience. Though I must say near the end, it does go a bit James Bond, where one of the bad guys stands around and tells them his dastardly plan in the belief they'll be dead any minute now...
Scott Taylor is a pretty average teenage, who one evening decides to hang out in the park with the popular kids. He's persuaded to climb a pylon, and finds himself the falling. The next thing he knows, he's lying by the fence, and has apparently not tried to climb it at all.
He soon finds out that he is a Shifter - someone who has the ability to change their past decisions, and therefore `shift'. Immediately as a reader you start imagining what it would be like with this ability.. every time you make a bad decision in life, you could go back and make a different one.
Almost as if expecting this reaction, the author shows us early on what affect this can have, as Scott makes a shift with devastating consequences. We're also introduced to an agency which wishes to teach and regulate shifters, and an organisation fighting against this regulation.
Scott is a brilliant main character, typical of an average teen thrust into a strange world. Instead of simply accepting it, and becoming a hero, he often questions the decisions and actions of others, and has a realistic response to events. Even with this though, you can see him grow and change.
There's also a good cast of supporting characters, from the other shifters Scott meets, through the adults involved, right up to the rather gruesome baddie!
I loved the idea of shifting, and there is so much potential. It's story in itself, but there is room for more. I believe there are two more books to come, watch out for my interview with the author to confirm this.
This is a book for older teens - there is a sprinkling of swear words, but they really don't feel out of place, and some of the content when the baddie is involved is probably not for younger readers.
The male viewpoint is refreshing, and completely accessible to both genders. It's action-packed, it makes you think, and it also has a touch of humour. I actually miss Scott now I've finished the book, and I still kinda wish shifting was possible!
on 14 September 2012
When I pre-ordered Shift, by Kim Curran, a mere handful of weeks before its release, I did so on a bit of a whim--it was another Strange Chemistry title and being so enamoured with the idea of the imprint and eagerly awaiting the eventual releases of Laura Lam's Pantomime and Cassandra Rose Clarke's The Assassin's Curse, I hopped on the bandwagon and despite not being totally sold on Shift, ordered it anyway.
It's not my usual thing: I like my sci-fi in some far-flung galaxy, or on the far reaches of space/civilization. When I watch films, I don't mind storylines with similar set-ups to Shift--I was actually put in mind of the film (which may or may not be based on a book, if memory serves) Push--but I tend to turn right off if books like that are nudged my way.
I actually only read Shift as soon as I did because I'd just eaten two other books in close succession and I needed something fun and quick to read. Shift not only didn't disappoint, but exceeded my expectations, thoroughly.
Scott Tyler is your average sixteen-year-old, the kind that thinks he's less than he is; beaten down by the "cooler kids" at school, out-classed by his little sister, and generally either forgotten about or used as ammunition or backup by warring parents bent on weekly character assassinations of each other over dinner on a Friday. But Scott is also a Shifter--and a powerful one, too. Only, he's never Shifted before, and he doesn't even know what Shifting is. That is, until he accidentally shifts one night when he's somewhere even he knows he shouldn't be, and with people he has no good business being with. Instead of a deadly fall from a pylon he only climbed because it seemed like the "cool"--read as "stupidly daring"--thing to do, he falls flat on his proverbial after flopping slightly less heroically off a fence.
As if it's not bad enough that Scott remembers climbing--and falling--from much further up, everyone laughs (including his "friend", Hugo...nice) and he feels like his one chance at fitting in just got grounded. Then a pretty girl, who looks at her cigarette with a decided concentration before smoking it, as if she's making a profound decision, looks at him, takes him to one side and... arrests him.
Apparently, he's guilty of Shifting in public, without permission--and that's bad. Scott might agree, if he knew what Shifting was and what it was he'd done wrong. Luckily, Scott seems pathetically clueless enough that Aubrey--fast becoming the new centre of Scott's universe--believes him when he claims to know nothing. She takes him with her and explains everything clearly and in detail. Between learning about ARES and a chance meeting with the SLF and drinking a little too much of the booze that Aubrey seems to drink without a problem, Scott ends up at Aubrey's place, on her sofa, with too much info and not enough processing power.
He's pathetic, useless and gets to thinking about what Aubrey told him... about Shifting... and he wonders... if he just...
Before he knows it, his world is upside down, people are dead, and he's in big trouble. What began as a stupid reaction, the desire to be cool and accepted, turns into a nightmare that reveals Scott as a powerful Shifter with the power to undo his decisions and recall the consequences of each different reality. On one side is ARES, offering training and guidance and a place to belong and on the other is Aubrey--who is part of ARES, but not by choice, pushing him away from the organisation and towards induced entropy--and the mysterious SLF who keep popping up and whose charismatic leader gets right under Scott's skin and flashes big on his Do Not Trust radar.
When Scott sails through the ranks and is partnered with Aubrey things start to get worse when he narrowly Shifts and avoids being killed as part of a suspected SLF attack. Then a body he and Aubrey found, victim of a gruesome murder at the hand of a brain-nibbling loon, is marked down as suicide and only he seems able to remember the original reality before the sneaky Shift that changed it.
Something is up and things are getting deep, only Scott is a complete rookie and doesn't have a clue what's going on, or who to trust--all he knows is that he can Shift, remember what happened in the previous realities, and that people are dying. Knowing that only the SLF can be behind it, but thinking that something still seems a little off, Scott starts investigating as best he can, only to find himself knee-deep in the middle of a conspiracy bigger than he or Aubrey could imagine. But when it comes to protecting his friends and himself, Scott pushes inexperience and mediocrity aside and steps up to the game.
Shift is a story about belonging, about believing in yourself and about trusting yourself--things that are difficult for anyone. At some point in their life, everyone feels substandard, useless, worthless, trodden down and as though they simply don't belong. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or has never thought about it. It's part of being a living, breathing person and has little to do with growing up. That's why Shift, along with most of the Strange Chemistry imprint appeals so easily to the teen market and to the general adult market: they recognise that everyone who wants to can identify as a young adult, as a teen. It's refreshing.
Shift is also about fun, as well as being about consequences and choices. It's a surprisingly pacy, engaging and exciting adventure that takes itself just seriously enough to succeed at what it sets out to do, whilst remembering that it's okay for a story to be fun and funny and enjoyable to read.
It's a story of friendship and acceptance and of being the best you can be, even if it takes a while to realise your potential. It's a damn good story and hits the spot just right.
on 10 September 2012
Shift is one of the launch titles for the new YA imprint for Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry. So this is a double debut, not just for the author, Kim Curran, but for the imprint as well. So there's a lot of pressure for Shift, and its launch sister, Blackwood, to do well, both for their authors and the publisher. And as far as Shift is concerned - I haven't read Blackwood yet, look for a review of that one in a week or two - it bears up under that pressure beautifully.
The premise of Shift is very interesting. Who hasn't wished to be able to go back and take a different path, a different decision? Shifting is the answer to the eternal 'What if?'-question. Similar ideas have been explored in the past of course, mostly in films, such as Sliding Doors, Jumanji and Galaxy Quest. However, I've never seen it done the way Curran conceived it. Though I kind of glazed over at the quantum physics - hard science is definitely not my forte - to me the scientific explanation for the Shifting Scott is given by Aubrey seemed plausible enough. During the narrative Scott learns even more about the mechanics of Shifting and while we never learn exactly what the ability to Shift is, whether it is akin to magic or a superpower, it becomes very real. I loved the fact that it is finite, that once they hit their twenties, and presumably their brains have completely matured, the power fades. It actually makes me wonder whether it's to do with hormones or whether it's to do with growing up; certainly, the older we get, the more regrets we have and the more we ask ourselves what if or just wish we could undo that one decision because we are more prone at looking further down the line at the effects of our choices. At least children seem to shake such thoughts of far more easily. Perhaps we'll find out more about this in the sequel that will follow Shift in 2013.
Curran's protagonist, Scott, was wonderful. I liked his development through the novel, going from a, self-proclaimed, loser to someone with a purpose and quite self-confident. Perhaps it was also due to the fact that I rather identified with him, I was a super awkward and insecure teen from a breaking home as well, so I understood his initial delight and urgency at being able to get away from his situation by joining ARES, the organisation that regulates Shifters. However, the second time Scott shifts is horrifying and Curran manages to depict Scott's terror very well. She manages to convey emotion and human interaction very well in general; the connections Scott builds with his fellow Freshers are funny and touching at the same time. Similarly, I loved his feelings for Aubrey. It didn't feel like insta-love, though there is an immediate connection, but it's more lust than love on Scott's side, as is only proper for a sixteen-year-old boy, isn't it? It's only later, after they've gone through some really frightening things together that Scott really falls in love.
Shift is very tightly plotted. The twist with the ultimate bad guy totally surprised me, but in hindsight the signs were definitely there. I love when an author manages to do that to me. The only thing that felt a little rushed was Scott's training as a Shifter, though I can also see why this section would be abridged, since Shifting training isn't very visual and action-filled, beyond the physical training we're shown and endless repetitions of the latter aren't entertaining either. Still, I have a weakness for training montages and school scenes, so I would have enjoyed just a few more Fresher scenes.
Shift is a very strong first novel and I look forward to reading more from Curran. Her writing was great, very British in flavour and very pacey. Not only did she manage to make an interesting premise believable, she created a cool protagonist, who was surrounded by fabulous secondary characters - I mean, how hilarious and infuriating was Commandant Morgan? - who reacted in believable ways. It's a story that will appeal to teenage boys as well as girls, which is always a bonus in my point of view. Shift is an awesome debut for Curran and an awesome launch title. If this is an indication of what we can expect from Strange Chemistry in the future, there are a lot of fantastic books in our future.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.