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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chimera (The Subterrene War, Book 3) (audiobook) by T.C. McCarthy

Published by Blackstone Audio in 2012
Duration: 10 hours, 57 minutes
Read by John Pruden

Chimera is the third installment of new author T.C. McCarthy's remarkable Subterrene War trilogy.  This is not an easy trilogy. It has brutal battle scenes, shows the reader an uncomfortable vision of technology pushed too far and asks important questions about what it is to be human. And, on top of that these three books are well-told, hair-raising trips through three different war zones in a truly dysfunctional world.

In Chimera McCarthy introduces a new set of characters, as he does in every book in the series. Stan Resnick is an assassin. He seeks out and executes germline clones created by the American military to be frontline shock troops in Kazakhstan. They are all female (the males cannot be controlled), start fighting at age 16 and are pre-programmed to die at age 18. But, some have fled the war zone and have escaped to countries all over the world, surviving in a pathetic half-rotted state but still astonishingly dangerous. Resnick's job is to find them and execute them discreetly, if possible.

T.C. McCarthy
After a tough mission in which his long-time partner is killed, Resnick is sent home to decompress. Suddenly, he is called back to duty and is offered a mission that is in all probability a suicide mission. He is teamed with a fully human rookie soldier with a genius level knowledge of tactics and strategy because has been trained with new artificial techniques gleaned from the methods used to train the clone soldiers.

Part of the book deals with Resnick's inner demons. He is unhappy with the state of the world, the state of his personal life, the type of man he has become and his new mission. He is prone to drinking binges because he thinks too much and that is the only way he can stop thinking. The tension between the grizzled veteran and the talented rookie is a common theme in books and movies, but McCarthy manages to put his own twist on it and make it work to the story's advantage.

Resnick and his partner are sent to Thailand to find the leader of a colony of clone soldiers that have turned off the genetic programming that makes them die. Their mission is to recruit her to fight against a Chinese army that is invading Southeast Asia. Or, maybe it is to kill her.

Their mission brought to mind Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness as Resnick is escorted along a difficult trail deep into the jungle to complete his mission. The rules change in the jungle and everything boils down to a struggle to survive as they discover the awful new genetic manipulations that pilot new war machines that have been developed by the Chinese military and plans for even worse. At this point the reader realizes that there are two meanings for the title, Chimera. From mythology, you know that a chimera is a mythical animal made of parts of several different animals, a reference to all of these genetic permutations. But, is also a reference to the saying, "Chasing a chimera," or going on a fool's errand because Resncik's mission is unclear and unlikely to succeed.

In the jungle the story becomes a high tech war story with some very powerful questions about what it  means to be human. Is Resnick still human, even though his heart is so hardened that he is really not very different than the clones he hunts? Is his partner human, even though his brain has been tampered with? Are the germline clones human? How about the new genetically modified creatures from China? How about Resnick's "semi-aware" computer that he carries on his back and is his only real friend for most of the book?

And what is McCarthy's answer to this question? It is certainly worth the ride through all three books to find out. This is an amazing first series of books and well worth a read (or a listen).

Interestingly, McCarthy's each book of the Subterrene War trilogy has a different reader, reflecting the three different characters telling their stories. John Pruden read this book and captured the world-weary and grizzled voice of Resnick perfectly. Even better, he has a talent for accents and female characters, helping to make this trilogy an exceptional experience.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Chimera (The Subterrene War)

Reviewed on October 24, 2012

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