Shifting Reality is a science fiction novel set in ISF-Allion Universe that Patty Jansen has been developing over the last couple of years. Other works in the series are Luminescence (novelette), His Name in Lights (novelette) and Charlotte’s Army (novella).
I mentioned in my review of Luminescence above that I wanted longer works set in the ISF- Allion Universe and while I don’t think Patty was specifically listening to me, she has steadily delivered, writing Charlotte’s Army and then Shifting Reality.
Shifting Reality is the tale of Melati Rudiyanto the granddaughter of expat Indonesians who form the labour force on the aging space station of New Jakarta. The space station comes under ISF(International Space Force) jurisdiction and Melati joined the an ISF training program to repay a debt to the Doctor who saved her and to give herself a chance at a better life. Her family sees her as betraying them and her people. She sees them as stuck in the same cycle of poverty, unwilling to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.
Her job is to train/teach human constructs (clones) through their accelerated growth period. The action begins when one of the clone children displays an understanding of adult concepts and language that he should not have yet developed. Melati’s concern and care for the children in her charge leads to an unravelling of a larger station threatening plot.
What I particularly like about Jansen’s science fiction (she writes hard–sf as well) is that it’s rare that the tech or the science is the reason for the story but when it does surface, it’s well thought out, realistic and logical. It makes for a quick immersive read with no oddities to drop you out of the immersion.
What I particularly like about Shifting Reality is the choice to have a person of colour and a woman as the central character and that she is a teacher. It’s refreshing to have a protagonist who is not military special forces in high tech spandex.
I don’t know enough about Indonesian culture(s) to know how well Patty has transported it to the life on board a space station but she does a convincing enough job of playing off tensions between family, work and the wider community for me.
While Shifting Reality sits somewhere within the sphere of military science fiction I like the focus on the other aspects life at New Jakarta Station : tourism, refugees, organised crime and human trafficking.
I also like the way in which Jansen slowly builds her “world” with each outing, enabling the attentive reader to pick up on actions and outcomes that occurred in earlier works.
If you are looking for something less over the top than space opera, but still with a broad scope. If you are looking for something with a solid scientific under pinning that’s different to all the “square-jawed Marines save space” narratives, then I think you should check Jansen’s Shifting Reality out. But I'd also recommend reading the entire ISF-Allion series of works to appreciate the scope of the “world” Jansen has devised.
This book was provided by the publisher.
This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013. Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.
Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader,by Email or Follow me on twitter.