Stephen King has said that the one question that he always dreads getting is, “Where do your ideas come from?” The question that I loathe is, “What’s your story about?” The only answer that I’m willing to give is, “It’s about the eternal war between the evil of the collective versus the evil of the individual. It’s about the evolutionary Armageddon that will someday happen between the traditional “strong/beautiful” model and the contemporary “smart/vicious” motif. Hopefully at that point the querant will be giving me a slack-jawed “duh, what?” kind of a look and if I’m lucky I can then slip away back into the shadows of anonymity.
“Shift” deals with not one, but two people in two different eras who are hell-bent on making the world a better place, which naturally means that society needs to be destroyed so that only the “right ones” can flourish while the rest of humanity is consumed in more ways than one by the winners. Just to complicate the situation, there are two other main characters who are pretty much in it for themselves, and they hate each other even though philosophically speaking, they are on the same side. One of these characters has to grow up fast. The other has to decide how exactly they intend to navigate their way into a murky and nebulous future that somehow got a lot more complicated while they were busy rearranging their existence.
Oh, and one other thing, these two characters are practically their own species of humanity, and they have more than a thing for torture, murder, and cannibalism. They are more than okay with those practices because they don’t see the rest of us as fellow human beings. They have a tendency to see us as “livestock”. In their genetically encoded worldview, we are only here to sustain them as they secretly creep closer and closer towards a depraved new world order that as promised long ago, has finally been returned to nature with them at the very top of the heap as the most perfect predators that nature could have ever conceived thanks to the woman who got it all started, once upon a time.
This story takes place over a period of 250 years beginning in 1775 in Georgia and then finishing in London in 2025. It begins with a woman named Katherine Pendleton and it turns out that she is a harsh combination of “entropy”, “anarchy”, and “evil”. A huge chunk of this series entails the story of her insidious life and how exactly she wickedly goes about setting the stage for what she wants to be the inevitable destruction of the world as we know it without the earth itself taking on any serious damage.
This epic nightmare then lurches its way along to the beginning of the 1980s when a couple of femmes named Amy and Ada get into a beef with each other and Ada has to take off into the wind at the ripe old age of 14 and then hide out in a smallish mining city in Canada called Sudbury. This isn’t just any kind of a beef, which is to be expected because Ada and Amy aren’t your everyday kind of people. Thanks to selective breeding, they’re pretty exceptional compared to the rest of us. If Ada gets snagged by Amy, she will be looking at a punishment that is intended to be extreme because if there is no such thing as Hell then Amy will just have to have a Hell provided for her for many, many years until she is finally thrown into The Abyss and her remains are casually dumped in the forest for the other animals to eat.
The final character is the one that will hold your attention in the final third of this series. Her name is Miriam Miller, and she is a certified genius. She’s also a misanthropic little bitch. The story of Miriam and Amy open up much more slowly than Katherine and Ada but once they do ignite a place within your imagination, they will hold their quadrant of that center stage with a bloodthirsty aggression that you’re going to love and dread simultaneously. You just need to hang in there and enjoy each volume on its own because this is going to be a very long story.
My two favourite directors are John Carpenter and David Lynch. My two favourite horror writers are Robert McCammon and Clive Barker. Try to imagine “Shift” as a combination of the best elements of those four guys. Lynch is dreamy/trippy as he constantly sends innocence adrift in a Hellscape of pure darkness. Carpenter keeps the car on the road even when he’s feeling experimental and adventurous. McCammon likes to throw you a seriously gruesome scene that you didn’t see coming. Barker is always in the pursuit of finding new ways to enthrall and unsettle us and he likes to do so in the most beautiful way possible.
If I can pull together those four things in my own quest to come up with a story that is original, then I will consider “Shift” a success even if the whole world hates it.
So, yeah, that’s the conclusion of my little book report for you. Hopefully, I did make some kind of a dent upon your consciousness as I tried to answer the one question that I hate answering. Try out the first volume and see if you like where this is taking you. I bet you’ll will. Everybody wants something different now if only as a reflection of how things have changed over the past 3 years. We can’t go back therefore it is time for us all to go forward with “Shift”.