Monday, 3 December 2012

Fantasy Review: 'Life Shift' by Michelle Slee

I have no idea how to categorise this - paranormal with essence of quantum physics, I suppose, and not really a romance, being more about love and consciousness and being a parent and (perhaps) destiny. Whatever it is, it’s a perfect example of the value of Goodreads - there I was, trawling through the digest of posts on the Goodreads forums I frequent when I came across a post by the author mentioning this book. A couple of clicks later, I was reading the sample, came to the end, clicked again and... just kept reading. So, the value of Goodreads combined with Amazon, I suppose.

The premise is that the main character, Christine, starts to experience flashes of another life, where she’s married to a man she barely knows and a daughter she doesn’t remember at all. Only problem is - both she and the man are married to other people. There ensues a great deal of discussion of electrons and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Schrödinger’s cat, but it never gets heavy enough to qualify this as science fiction. This part of the book involves Christine in a lot of angsting of the this-can’t-really-be-happening-to-me type, interspersed with the far more interesting reveals about the ‘other’ life, where many things are the same but a few key things are different (Christine’s job, for instance - she’s a theology lecturer in the ‘other’ life, but some sort of office drone in this life; if the actual job was mentioned, I must have missed it).

Most of the book runs on fairly simplistic and predictable rails - increasing amounts of hopping about, Christine ‘remembering’ more about her ‘other’ life, including her feelings for ‘other’ husband Matt, and trying to reconcile this with her feelings for her husband in this world, Damien. And, perhaps more profoundly, she recalls her love for Teresa, her daughter with Matt, while with Damien she’s been unable to have children. I would have liked more detail about some of the people in Christine’s two lives, and the places are merely sketched in. The writing style is a little too sparse for my taste, and there’s a great deal of dialogue, making it seem more lightweight than it really is.

There are some improbabilities - the terribly convenient appearance of a quantum physicist, who not only explains the sciencey bits but also talks about souls; and the astonishing coincidence of Christine encountering surely the only NHS doctor in Britain who listens to her, believes her and doesn’t instantly put her on anti-depressants or have her sectioned. And then, almost too quickly, the end is rushing up at a rate of knots. I rather liked the ending, actually, which eschews the obvious options and instead takes an unexpectedly grown-up line (although the characters worked out how to get there a bit too easily).

This is not really a profound book, despite the quantum physics and discussion of consciousness, the characters don’t have much depth and it suffers from a writing style which is almost skeletal. It would have been improved, I think, by taking a little more time to describe the settings and allowing the characters to show their feelings and personalities in subtler ways, rather than expressing everything in dialogue. Nevertheless, I found it an easy, enjoyable read, hard to put down, with an unexpectedly sophisticated ending, so despite the flaws I’m going to give it four stars.

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