A belated look at the weird fiction being discussed last week at the Deep Ones group at LibraryThing.

Review: “Shift”, Nalo Hopkinson, 2017. 

This story rather annoyed me, and I’m not spending a lot of time on it.

It references many characters from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Miranda, Caliban, Ariel, and Sycorax). In fact the protagonist, we find out, is Caliban.

The story alternates between second person passages involving the black Caliban with a blonde white woman and Caliban’s internal thoughts told in what seems to be a Jamican dialect.

We get hints of Caliban’s monstrous mother Sycorax and her affinity for the ocean which Caliban avoids. We get hints that he can shift forms when he jokingly asks his girlfriend (after sleeping together on their third date) to kiss him –thus evoking and reversing the fairy tale motif with him as a prince in the form of a frog. 

(Spoilers ahead)

At the end, we get a confrontation between Ariel, Sycorax, and Caliban and learn that Caliban (who has “colour-vision – a preference for white blondes) has had monstrous offspring with women that end up with his mother. He seems a rather juvenile figure. The woman rather pluckily – in the way of many of these modern fairy tale inspired stories – takes Ariel’s and Caliban’s magical abilities in stride to say nothing of Sycorax. She says she is not going to get involved in family matters and for Caliban to call her “when you can tell me who you are. Who you think you’re going to become.” 

In a way, it’s a woman-immature boyfriend story with trappings from a fairy tale and The Tempest. And that combination was not something that intrigued me nor did Hopkinson’s style dressing up a not very interesting story despite a tentacled mother and monstrous offsprings.

One thought on ““Shift”

  1. KurlyB July 5, 2022 / 3:02 am

    This review comes off to me as very ignorant and that just tells me that you completely missed the point of the entire story. It’s not “a woman-immature boyfriend story with trappings from a fairy tale and The Tempest” as you put it. That is a very surface-level interpretation of the text which only further emphasises the point Hopkinson was trying to make. Well done.

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