Cover by Larry Rostant
SHIFTER SERIES BOOK 2
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: 1 August 2013 (UK)/6 August 2013 (US/Can./e-book)
On the cover:
(From the publisher's website)
Scott Tyler is not like other teenagers. With a single thought he can alter reality around him. And he can stop anyone else from doing the same.
That’s why he’s so important to ARES, the secret government agency that regulates other kids like him: Shifters.
They’ve sent him on a mission. To track down the enigmatic Frank Anderson. An ex-Shifter who runs a project for unusual kids – as if the ability to change your every decision wasn’t unusual enough. But Anderson and the kids have a dark secret. One that Scott is determined to discover.
As his obsession with discovering the truth takes him further away from anyone he cares about, his grip on reality starts to weaken. Scott realises if he can’t control his choices, they’ll control him.
Last time we saw Scott Tyler come to grips with his new-found power, this time we go a bit deeper into that power and what it can do. I wouldn't consider this a "true sequel" in the sense that you have to read Shift, the first book, before you read this, but you will be missing out on quite a lot if you don't.
The setting hasn't changed, although it may have Shifted, Scott still has the same job and works together with Aubrey Jones. Some time has passed since we last saw them, so there has been things happening both on a personal and professional level for our protagonists.
It doesn't take long to realise that the stakes are higher in Control than they were in Shift. This novel is definitely "bigger" in that sense. What I liked about how the stakes are getting higher is how Curran has made this natural. Sometimes you can spot the same sort of sequel trick Hollywood uses, just turn the dial up a notch - make the explosions bigger, I never felt that this was the case here. When things "go bigger" here they do it because that is just how things happen to turn out, it's just natural.
There's a very good connection to what happened last time here. ARES is the hub of events, and that means we'll see the characters connected to that organization again. We also get a return of others. I'll refrain from going near any details on who, I will say it's done very nicely and that it doesn't fell like it's cheating.
The pacing of the novel is very good, it moves along quickly but doesn't feel rushed at all. Curran is very good at combining development that gives depth with events that gives movement in the story. And it really does move.
As a reader you just have time to settle in when things really start happening. Once it does it doesn't really let up. Pages turn fast as you get into what is going on, and Curran's excellent storytelling ability means you really get invested in finding out what happens next. Something that creates quite a lot of suspense.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is that even when you have a mystery that would not exist without the supernatural ability that Shifting is, it doesn't feel like it is constructed to highlight that ability. Curran makes the mystery and the Shifting work together to create high levels of suspense. That a Shift can turn the world "upside down" means that it is hard to see where things are going beforehand. And that creates an extra layer of tension that makes it very tempting to just keep reading, because you are going to want to find out what is going on. Curran creates a really exciting ride that keeps you gripped in for the whole novel.
I've really become invested in this world. I do care about what happens to Scott Tyler and Aubrey Jones. They are interesting people to follow.They are also surrounded by other characters that hold their own. I find that the whole of Curran's cast heightens the whole of the novel. There really isn't anyone here that suffer from being too stereotyped. And, thankfully, the teenagers in the cast manages to come off as realistic while remaining unannoying.
All in all this is a really good Science Fiction novel. It keeps the Action Thriller vibe of Shift while adding to the Alternate History aspect created by the Shifts. It's perhaps bordering a bit on Parallel Universe Science Fiction, but that is a feature, not a bug. Straddling so many aspects of Science Fiction should certainly give it wide appeal.
And this deserves a wide appeal. It's a really entertaining novel that has a lot of depth under the surface. The story is fast-paced and entertaining with satisfyingly high levels of suspense.
Combined with great writing by Curran that makes for a novel I have no hesitation in recommending. And the Young Adult label should be no means frighten anyone away.
NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this book from the publisher/NetGalley.
LINKS: Kim Curran Strange Chemistry