In an interesting futuristic Science Fiction novel set in the beautiful backdrop of Alaska, a species of alien that had infiltrated the earth has now begun hybridization. While throughout most of the states these aliens have allegedly been eradicated, the pockets found in Alaska appear to be some of the last of the species. Known as shifters for their ability to change form, they are hunted exhaustedly by the Shifter Counterinsurgency Military, known as SCM. The SCM have set up a scientific community to study the changes and stay abreast of the possibilities. Dr.’s Melissa Marn and Bruce Wilder are the scientists in charge of the DNA investigation. Colonel Raul is the military voice behind the scenes pushing for the information.
There is something unhealthy about his excitement in the investigation; he enjoys the pain exhibited by the shifter during experimentation. Melissa believes he is trying to find a way to use their abilities for himself. She finds him distasteful and vindictive. He is not someone she finds she can trust. Her other problem with the whole situation is her father is also a part of the SCM, and his expectations for her are very clear. Her mother died while she was still quite young and she is in thrall to her father and his machinations of her.
In The Shifters of 2040, Ami Rebecca Blackwelder has brought us a new species of alien and given us a remarkable wilderness in which to place them. In Ami’s rendition, we find the aliens to be a very non confrontational and peaceful group, and yet they are pursued and persecuted for science. While there have been some incidents where humans were killed, in every incident it appeared as though the killing happened in self-defense. Yet Colonel Raul has twisted the facts to keep hysteria high, and to be able to continue with his own nefarious schemes. The hybridization, however, really is happening. The Shifters are looking for a way to survive the hostility, and find that if they can alter their DNA they will have a better chance to live. Mating with human women seems to be one of the most likely possibilities.
Bclackwelder has built a race of aliens that tug at you and capture your imagination. They are interesting and yet just different enough to cause a bit of caution. As usual when differences of the nature that are described in her story, the human race react with either welcome or in this case with caution, fear, and hostility. The few that take the time to know them are enthralled, but it is such a small faction as to be nonexistent.
In Melissa, Ami has given us a protagonist that certainly creates feeling. I at times liked her but many times did not. She has excuses for every nefarious thing she does that is requested, and does not stand up for what she actually believes to be right. She refuses to change the status quo, although she does not agree with the experimentation and basic murder of a species. The perfect foil for her own demons is Bruce Wilder. Bruce finds himself in love with Melissa. He is working hard at separating her from the job that is creating such a burden. He does not understand how she can continue what is asked of her in good conscious, and continuously works at her to understand the wrongness of the orders.
Children of the Shifters are not immune to the treatment, they are also poked and prodded, looking for more answers, and when Melissa finds an answer to some of the questions of DNA, she finally reacts in a more human way. What has she found that she is now hiding? Will she be able to separate herself from the military faction, or will she continue and damage her own psyche with the experimentation that continues?
If you love science fiction, you will enjoy this book. It is the second of a series and yet written to stand on its own. The series looks interesting and I am looking forward to what comes next with this small group of Shifters, the few left that are struggling for life. This is a thought provoking book and makes you think about differences and how others are often treated based off fear and lack of understanding.
The Shifters of 2040 is a fast-paced read, full of action and characters you can care about. Blackwelder has done a great job on her characters and world.