Thursday, July 03, 2008


Agell, Charlotte. 2008. Shift.
"Mom and I have been having the same argument for so many weeks now that we've got it down cold. We can run the long version or the short version, depending on what's up, but it never really changes. It would be funny, if it wasn't boring me to death.

"Adrian, you have to sign up for Vacation Bible School." She usually has her arms crossed, as if that makes what she's saying more serious.
"It's a graduation requirement now. You know that."
Silence. I can say a lot by not talking.
"If you don't do it soon, it's going to be too late" (5)
Set in a futuristic America, Homestate, where a DISASTER has ushered in a theocratic regime, Adrian and his sister, Shriek (Melody), are soon forced to decide between going with the status quo or making a run for it--through the dangerous Deadlands--and heading North to freedom and the unknown.

From the author's site:
Shift is coming . . . will it be the end of the world? Fifteen year old Adrian lives in a time and place where church has rejoined state. Christianity is required by law. His father is missing in action and his mother must be very careful. She is a scientist who works for the highly suspicious regime. In his quest to untangle all the threads of his life, Adrian heads north across a nuclear wasteland, with his psychic little sister Shriek, an assistant zookeeper named Lenora, and a rescued penguin. Ultimately, he must face down the clumsy but awful forces of evil, deep inside a mountain in what once was Maine. Will he save the world? Will he save himself? Will the earth itself crumble and crack? Stay alert...Shift is nearly here!

Shift had all the makings of a book that I would love, love, love. It's dystopia. It's "end of the world" type drama. On the surface, the premise sounds genuinely interesting. For me, however, it was just an okay read. This is one of those books that exploits "Christianity" and makes it look so unmistakably evil that even though the version of Christianity represented is way way off the deep end (a completely false faith), there isn't anything to counterbalance the insanity. It just uses the narrative to deliver its own new-age-type message.


This "Christian" government is manipulating the populace--enforcing belief and faith--through showing false miracles, signs, wonders, etc. They use science and technology to "fake" the signs of apocalypse and the second coming of Christ. They use "Jesus" as a mouthpiece for their government, but the message and messenger are of their own making.

In some ways, Shift reminds me of C.S. Lewis' novel THE LAST BATTLE. In fact, one of the main characters in Lewis' novel is an ape named Shift. A fact I find just a little interesting. In The Last Battle, an ape and a donkey team up--the ape is the mastermind behind the act--to impersonate the lion Aslan. The people fall for this despite the signs not quite lining up. This "Aslan" is different than everything written about him. The message "Aslan" is spreading is contradictory to everything that is known about him. Yet a donkey-in-a-lion-suit fools the masses. When the truth comes to light, the people use this to assume that there was no Aslan to begin with. That the whole idea of Aslan was a sham, a fraud. In the same way in Shift, there are people, the government, the regime, that manipulate the text of the Bible and who use devious means to bring this 'to life' to make a 'show' of the Bible's teachings. But just because the people thumping the Bible in this case are wicked, doesn't make the Bible less true. In Lewis' novel, while the masses get fed up with religion and faith and spirituality, there are handful of believers that do get it. In this novel, Shift, there are no positive representations of Christians. Christians just equal evil in this novel and that is really sad.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Sarah Laurence said...

Hi Becky, how wonderful to find another book blogger. It’s terrific that you promote reading to children and good literature. I’m pleased to see you reviewing new talent as well as the classics. I have 2 children that are avid readers so am always on the look-out for good books. You've read so many books this month - congratulations!

I had a different response to Charlotte Agell’s Shift. My interpretation was that Shift criticized the religious state but was pro-faith and God. The problems arose when a corrupt regime was using Christian doctrine inappropriately to manipulate its citizens. The final message was about the universal love of God, that both transcends and includes all religions. My children enjoyed Shift because it was such a gripping story.