by Chris Dolley
Cover Artist: Allan Pollack
Review by Steve Sawicki
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781416521402
Date: 03 July 2007 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Astropsychologist Nick Stubbs is called in to take a look at the mind of serial killer Peter Pendennis who has suddenly begun to insist that he is John Bruce, first astronaut to pilot a space craft through higher dimensional space. Stubbs reluctantly gets involved and ends up getting Bruce's former girl friend involved as well. The evidence they collect is that while Pendennis can not be Bruce, his mind is also projecting into the higher dimensions. Soon, Stubbs and Louise Callander (Bruce's ex) are astral projecting all over the place, investigating John Bruce (who just happens to be running for President of the United States) and finding more dead bodies than either is comfortable with. Add in some interstellar beings and a few interpersonal conflicts and you've got a plot full of opportunity.
With Shift, Dolley continues the SF tradition of scientist as hero. Stubbs is a bit of a bumbler, lacking in social grace, more interested in science than people, and easily distracted by new ideas. But he's also got just the knowledge that's needed to put everything together. He does get help but it is almost always accidental help, the kind that would be meaningless except that Stubbs happens to be there to use it.
The benefit to this kind of story is that the plot is dependent upon the character and since the writer controls the character there is, essentially, no plot that can't be done. The downside is that the whole thing ends up being pretty unrealistic and this can have the effect of sucking you out of the book time and again, breaking that bond between writer and reader that begins with a reasonable suspension of belief.
I did enjoy the book, reading it in three sittings, it was fast paced, well plotted and self contained. I think Dolley's first book was stronger than this one but the two taken together indicate that there's some talent here worth watching.