Title: The Shifter’s Trail
Author: Adam Alexander
Genre: science fiction / YA
Price: $6.99 (ebook) / $12.95 (paperback)
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
Adam Alexanders’ novel The Shifter’s Trail asks a very good question, namely, “if an alien passed you on the street, would you know? Are you sure?” Based on that question, I requested the book and I am glad I did.
The book is largely narrated by Andromeda Brown, a sixth-grade girl attending the Newton Math and Science Academy in Chicago. As one could deduce from the age of the narrator, it’s YA and set in Chicago, my home base. The story starts engagingly enough, with Chapter 0.0 being the crash of a spaceship, and Chapter 1.0 being the arrival in Chicago of a large meteor – large enough that the sonic boom breaks windows. Chapter 1 ends with the sinking of the Brown family sailboat, Schroedinger’s Cat. This event ends up plunging Andromeda and two of her friends into a search for a shape-shifting alien. To make matters worse, the shape-shifter is being pursued by a third group of hostile aliens that have a sizeable lead on our heroine.
All of the above sounds complicated, and it is, but the puts and takes are very well explained. This explaining is done engagingly, without stopping the plot – in fact part of the plot, like many good SF novels, is taken up with figuring out what’s going on. We’re told Andromeda is very good with math, and the story stops at several points for Andromeda to solve a math problem. I suspect that YA readers will roll their eyes a bit at this, but the math is cleverly worked in and not too obtrusive.
I have to say that this novel hits on several classic points of science fiction that I have been exploring. For example, the hostile aliens would like to take over the Earth. But they know that, even with really advanced technology, one ship against a planet is a bad gamble. So they are using stealth to even the odds. Alexander has restricted all of his space-travelers to travel at the speed of light, so there will be no sudden arrival of the intergalactic cavalry.
I also like Andromeda as a protagonist. She is a kid who acts like one. The stakes are high and people are killed, which frankly scares all of the characters, even the aliens. Nobody’s running around Chicago with a blaster in each hand in this book, even though humanity’s very existence is at stake. Oh, and the aliens are always sufficiently alien, even when they are trying not to be alien. In short, I highly enjoyed The Shifter’s Trail.