The Shift

Carolyn Buffington

Publisher: Archway Publishing Pages: 174 Price: (paperback) $16.99 ISBN: 9781665741965 Reviewed: April, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

Dual timelines 125 years apart set up this short but inventive science fiction novel as two women, one a single mother, the other a university professor, strive to protect their children in a world changed by the Shift.

Beth, a freelance fact-checker living in Lincoln, Ohio in 2019, decides on her 40th birthday to become pregnant through a sperm bank donor. Starting in August of that year, she writes letters to her unborn child detailing her quiet life in a cottage overlooking the woods.

Meanwhile, Dr. Catherine Taylor, an anthropology professor in Toronto, Canada in 2145, delivers a series of lectures on “Human Evolution in North America” focusing on 2020 events and the years afterward: “the most intriguing period in the history of humankind…So much was happening and so little was known.”

Their intertwined narratives reveal a world descending into the COVID-19 pandemic–with a twist. At the end of March 2020, Beth goes into labor a week early and births a translucent egg. After a week of incubation, the egg hatches and a seemingly-normal baby girl emerges.

From Catherine’s lectures, we learn this heralds a worldwide Shift and a new species of human: Homo ovum, with several characteristics very different from homo sapiens. As misinformation multiplies due to COVID and the Shift, two factions arise: Protectionists who want to keep the eggs and babies safe, and Purists who—believing these offspring are monsters—want to destroy the eggs.

As Beth escapes to Canada in 2021 to save her daughter Olivia, Catherine grapples with fears about her son Ethan as she alludes to testing at a clinic that will decide his future.

The narrative delivers fascinating scientific tidbits. Its clear-cut explanation of silent DNA (DNA that doesn’t express itself) and “junk” DNA (ancestral DNA no longer necessary) skillfully lays the groundwork for Homo ovum, giving the narrative a powerful sense of authority and credibility. Although science fiction, the tale seems quite plausible. Coupled with its richly-imagined characters, it almost begs to be made into a streaming series.

Readers will find The Shift enthralling, educational, fast-paced, and wholly original.

Highly recommended for fans of Margaret Atwood and Naomi Alderman.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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