Book review

Shadows by Meaghan McIsaac (2018)

Part 2 of the Movers series

Time travel. Would you like to have a go? I know I would. Backwards or forwards, it would be enthralling. It would be like suddenly breaking out of the human mortal experience. I’d be OK with just me doing it anyway. I’d step really carefully and try not to do any damage. Don’t want to go changing the course of history or anything...but that is rather the problem. I think we all know that it just isn’t on to have multiple time travellers roaming all over space and time fiddling with the proper chronological sequence of events. Some of us might end up not being born or meeting our own ancestors, or worse...

This story is about a world where there are Movers. A Mover is a person who has a mental connection with someone in the future. And there are Shadows. These are the people who occupy space in the mind of a Mover and can be moved out of their own time by the Movers. And there are Nowbies. These are people who have no time travel options at all and live only in the present. They feel threatened by the Movers. It is they who created BMAC. That’s a government agency tasked with surveillance of the Mover population.

The monitor above the door plays through BMAC’s Movers Threat public service announcement. ‘The Bureau of Movement Activity Control – Patrolling your Present. Protecting your Future. The Mover threat is a very real and ever-present danger. It is carefully monitored and treated according to an individual’s Movement capabilities, or phase status.’

Moving is illegal. If they catch a Mover moving their Shadow they shelve him, or her. That’s a permanent arrangement, shelving. You might as well be dead. It’s harsh but I think I can understand why.

Patrick has been Moved from 2083 to 2383. Life hasn’t improved for Movers in those three hundred years. Worse. There’s practically a full on war between Movers and Nowbies. He hides with his Mover Bo in some kind of underground grunge hole, only coming out at night. They seem to share a single consciousness, which can be awkward for two people who really have nothing in common. BMAC are still out there patrolling the streets encouraging volunteers to come forward to take the cure. Yes there is a cure for Movers now, and BMAC control it. They use it as a weapon against Movers, with or without their consent.

The thing is though, being a Mover is a unique experience. Some are weak, Phase One. Others are Phase Three, powerful. And we learn that some Movers are in fact way off the scale. Aberrants. BMAC doesn’t even know about them yet. But having a Shadow constantly barging around inside your head, demanding to be Moved, can be unbearable for some high phase Movers. They might genuinely choose to take the cure.

Gabby is desperate for a cure. She lives in 2083. She’s Pat’s school friend. She’s Phase 3 and quite a scientist. She’s working on developing a cure for herself. She fights a constant internal battle with her Shadow. He’s so strong he’s trying to take her over:

‘Phase 3,’ the video warns. ‘Highest threat level to state and environment. The Phase 3 Mover poses the risk of Movement activity, allowing a traveller from the future to infiltrate the present.’

Unfortunately when Pat was back in his own time 2083 he compromised Gabby’s private research. He bargained away an important piece of information to save his own Mover family. He did that in Book One actually, Movers. Now in Book Two he finds himself suddenly transported into an appalling war ravaged future where he can see for himself the damage his actions have caused. He begins to understand that the war might be all his fault. Perhaps BMAC only have control of the Cure because he gave it to them:

A rush of sick radiates out from my gut, through my legs and arms and out through my toes and fingertips. I grab hold of my knees.
‘You all right?’ Pilot asks.
‘I showed Hartman the pungits.’
‘Back when she arrested me, I traded pungits for my safety and my mother’s.’
And now everyone thinks Hartman discovered them. It’s my fault BMAC has pungits.
My fault they have the Cure. I betrayed Gabby.

He thinks Gabby is bound for the shelves and he wants to stop it. He wants to go back to his own life in 2083 and try to put things right.

Honestly? He’s not the man I would choose for the job. He’s for ever in a blind panic, blowing people’s cover and compromising his friends. But his intentions are honourable and he has got good people round him. He needs to break into the high security time cache and steal a gadget...

What can I read next?

Loved it. Fast moving time travel action adventure. Meaghan McIsaac has created a coherent and credible world, within its fictional limits.

Quite a complicated storyline. This is a series – start at the beginning:

  • Movers
  • Shadows

You might also like to look at this enthralling book for older readers by Melvin Burgess. It isn’t really a time travel story. It’s more like the past reinvented but if you start it I don’t think you’ll be able to put it down.

Also for older readers, this one with strange star quality by Jan Mark:

If you haven’t already looked at the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, you should do. It’s absolutely brilliant. Far better than the film:

  • Divergent
  • Insurgent
  • Allegiant
  • Four

If you are interested in the problems cast up by the notion of time travel you might like to read my article:

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