Shifter by Steven D Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
John Davis might be losing his mind. He is a bored young man with a good job and a drinking problem. Could it be his malaise combined with the alcohol that is causing his mind to remember things differently when the world abruptly begins to change around him? He confides his fears to his psychiatrist and a dear friend, and then to a shy acquaintance. When he's done that, however, the cracking reality around him shatters.
The plot takes off running and we are quickly introduced to characters who are stuck in the middle of a cat and mouse game involving people called "Shifters" and "Recallers". A Shifter is someone who can change the reality of their surroundings at will, and a Recaller will remember things the way they were before the change. The events move so swiftly leaving only nuggets of explanation along the way that I found myself a little lost and confused at times and had to go back and re-read passages.
The action is quite good, however, with lots of gun-play, hand to hand combat, chases, and a good slow-motion explosion or two.
John Davis makes for a lovable scarecrow of protagonist. At the novel's start he is a confused, self-pitying mess, but the plot sweeps him up and sends him running and fighting for his life. His antagonists are Brice, and Kendra, two members of a shadowy organization hunting down Shifters and Recallers, using deadly force more often than not to subdue their prey. His allies are his psychiatrist, a man who may or may not know more than he lets on about Shifters, and Jenna, a shy colleague nursing an obvious crush on John.
A story like this, set in England, and full of colorful sci-fi fun is very reminiscent of something like "Dr. Who" and is sure to please any fan of the genre. I rather enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first, as the characters Kendra and Jenna blossomed and enriched much needed layers into the plot.
I could easily imagine this book as the pilot of a fun new television series and hope to see more like this from Mr. Jackson. As first novels go, this is a job well done.
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