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Book Review

Book Cover

Blue Shift


Author: Jane O'Reilly
Publisher: Piatkus
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 349 41658 8
Publication Date: 05 October 2017

Earth in 2187 is quickly becoming a cold and uninhabitable rock. The world's wealthy live comfortably in domed cities, while the poor burrow beneath the cities trying to find shelter. Jinnifer Blue is one of the privileged few, but rather than choose a life of ease her rebellions streak has compelled her to run away from home, from a mother she distrust and find a new life as a pilot for the security services. As a skilled pilot her body has been augmented so that she can more efficiently join with her ship, but the cost of the implants are starting to tell on her health. Jinnifer’s great plan is to keep her head down and earn enough credits to get the technology out of her body and for her to be able to afford a home of her own on one of the other colony worlds. Her plans are seriously derailed when Jin and her partner are sent to apprehend a pirate, a spectre from her own past...

Blue Shift (2017. 327 pages) is the first book in the Second Species trilogy, written by Jane O’Reilly.

This was such a weird book to read and even after finishing it I am unsure who the target audience is supposed to be. The first third of the book travels a well-worn path: young girl, with gifts and a past, is spurned into action and change by an unexpected event.

This is fine as it is the basis of most drama and I thought the book reasonably well written. Initially, because of the type of language and the tone of the novel, I thought that it was a young adult book. That is until you get past the first third of the book and discover a wholly gratuitous description of fellatio which, if you’ll excuse the term, just seems to come out of nowhere.

From this point the book turns into part science fiction thriller and part racy spacy bodice ripper, a 20 Shades of Science Fiction. The descriptions, and especially those that related to the main character, turns what should be a strong central protagonist into someone who is overwhelmed by their own hormones. This makes her seem weaker than she should or could have been.

I have no issues with the addition of sex in an adult novel; in fact it was one of the mainstays of Barbarella and it would be tempting to add that the lack of sex in science fiction is a result of a lack of imagination on the part of the predominantly male writers. However, if you’re going to include fairly graphic scenes, I’m not sure why these have to be idealised.

The way that sex is described here would be more at home in female romance/erotica and a quick search for the author confirms that this is in fact her main output. So, no one gets their pants stuck on their ankles and spends furious effort to try and dislodge said personal apparel, while at the same time trying to look desirable and not having a face which is quickly turning the same angry red of a baboons arse. It was a toss-up - sorry again - as to whether the book's title referred to the main character or the tone of the novel

There are some good ideas in the book. O’Reilly has set up multiple treads, rich enough to carry a trilogy. Mankind may have spread out into the universe, but have found that the places they can colonise are barely habitable. With the main planet dying and the majority of the population at risk of extinction mankind must find a new home, but at what cost? The alien species which they have encountered range from disinterested to outright hostile and it through these that humanity must travel to their new home.

There is a suitable techie background, much of it the staple of science fiction such as ships that defy the laws of physics which allows for swift travel and some wet wear which allows for alterations to the basic human model. Dax, the pirate who she is initially tasked to hunt down, is a nicely conflicted character and the rest of his crew make for interesting background.

Overall the novel is slightly below par science fiction with a good dollop of steamy sweaty love.


Charles Packer

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