FBI. CIA. LSD. JFK. USSR. If an acronym associated with the 1960s comes to mind, it’s likely to make an appearance in Shift. From acid-induced mind control to covert operations in Cuba, from a missing nuclear weapon to mass hallucinations, Shift runs a gamut that your inner conspiracy theorist will find delightful and provocative. Ever wonder if Timothy Leary was more than just a drug-addled ’60s cliché? Want to know who supplied JFK with his acid? All these, and many more, questions are considered with a wry aplomb that will keep skeptics on their toes and give the “what if” crowd enough ammunition for years to come.
Melchior, one of three “wise men” recruited by a CIA operative known as The Wiz, claws his way out of a newly sanctioned 1963 Cuba and back to his “Company” progenitors, only to find that he has been quietly swept under the rug and forgotten. Meanwhile, a Persian prostitute blackmailed by a CIA operative into giving various government targets covert doses of LSD finds that her latest mark—a career student with family ties in high places—holds the key to vast mental powers unlocked by the mind-altering properties of LSD. Add to this a freshly minted—and recently disenfranchised—FBI agent blindly seeking an answer to a question he doesn’t understand and you have the recipe for a massive, out-of-control conspiracy so unreal it almost sounds credible.
With its disparate but always converging narratives, reading Shift is like fighting a featherweight boxer. Always moving, constantly on its toes, it peppers you with small punches until, eventually, you succumb and it delivers the knockout. But oh, what a fight, and certainly one that is enjoyable and frenetic from start to finish. Written in deceptively simple language, luscious descriptions of everything from hallucinations to childhood memories to the fit of a dress on the Persian temptress spring from the page in a way that is evocative of the ’60s while also managing to stay out of the way of the sheer mania contained within the pages. For an engaging romp through the ’60s that never were, look no further than Shift.