Audiobook Review: Chimera by T. C. McCarthy

8 08 2012

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

Read by John Pruden

Blackstone Audio

Length: 10 Hrs 57 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Chimera is gritty, uncomfortable science fiction at its best. McCarthy’s post Subterrene War world is both recognizable and unique, and his characters are just a bit too realistic to actually like. The true beauty of this novel is the way it pulls together all the elements of the world he has created in a truly unique fashion, and showing us very well what out future may be.

Grade B+

If you are anything like me, over the past few years you are beginning to feel series and trilogy fatigue. It seems every time you find a new interesting sounding book, you discover that it’s book 1 of the Elves of Cleveland series, or the start of The River of Fudge and Friendship trilogy. Quickly, a single interesting novel turns into a commitment, and, really, in this day and age, who isn’t a bit wary of commitment. They promise you a trilogy, but end up actually making it a 13 novel series with three spin off series and a Graphic Novel. Well, today I am going to explain to you why, despite it being a series, you should check out TC McCarthy’s Subterrene War series. Unlike most series where you follow the exploit of a few characters, in The Subterrene War series, McCarthy has created a brilliant and frightening near future world, told in three loosely connected stories taking place in this world. Any of the three novels can be read separately with its own self contained story within. All three novels are told from the perspective of a new character, examining McCarthy’s world from a different angle There are no unnecessary cliff hangers, or novels that keep building up to some big climax that just seems to be continually pushed back. Yet, all three novels fit together in such an intricate manner that it enhances his world piece by piece. It’s a wonderful exercise in world building and storytelling that very well should take its place among the classics of the genre. McCarthy does what many authors should strive to do, telling three brilliant stories that also manage to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

The Subterrene War is over and Stan Resnick finds that home is no longer the place for him. His wife is pregnant with another man‘s child, and every day his privacy is invaded by the surveillance government, for his own good. . He only every feels right when he is out on missions, hunting down escaped Genetics soldiers and terminating them. When rumors of a new type of genetic soldier surface Resnick is tapped for the mission. It’s a mission he will complete, even if it means working with those he once hunted. While McCarthy may never be known for writing likable heroes, he once again, in Chimera, creates a compelling realistic portrayal of someone not so successfully bordering the edges of stability. In Stan Resnick, he may just have outdone himself. Resnick is simply a mess, a bubbling caldron of instability. All his connections to normalcy have been stripped away and his rage has made him into a tool for dealing death to the prey he considers less than human. Yet, what is fascinating about Chimera is that when things are the worst, when the situations are so unbelievably desolate is when you truly begin to understand Resnick’s character. Chaos is his element, where he excels, and his country has no qualms about using this to their advantage. While in many ways Stan Resnick is a monster, the true monstrous thing is just how scarily real McCarthy’s world feels. McCarthy’s post Subterrene War America is a dystopian setting that sort of sneaks up on you. You can find elements from many of the classics of the genre like We, 1984 and A Brave New World, yet updated for the unique issues and science of modern days. There is even the darkly humorous sloganeering that explains the degradation of rights by simply stating, “We don’t want to go back to those days” despite the fact that most can’t even remember what “those days” were. In all honestly, I don’t think I connected on the same level with Resnick as I did with the characters in Germline and Exogene. Yet, where this book probably excels from the others is the way he managed to tie all the elements of the first two books together. It’s done in such a unique and fascinating way that I just couldn’t help but be in awe. As a separate experience it somewhat pales to the first two novels, but it truly is the piece that pulls it all together. This is the exact kind of science fiction I love, realistic Earth based tales that serve as both great adventure and a cautionary look at what very well may come. Chimera is gritty, uncomfortable science fiction at its best. McCarthy’s post Subterrene War world is both recognizable and unique, and his characters are just a bit too realistic to actually like. The true beauty of this novel is the way it pulls together all the elements of the world he has created in a truly unique fashion, and showing us very well what out future may be.

After two amazing performances by Donald Curren and Bhani Turpin in the first two novels of this series, I was a little let down by the narration of Chimera. John Pruden did many things well. He handles a huge international cast, differentiating between characters and giving the majority of them authentic and well thought out voices. Yet, what didn’t work for me was his portrayal of Stan Resnick, and I think this may have affected my ability to connect with the character. Pruden read Resnick in a stilted, almost mechanical voice. His emotional resonance was at best muted. His reading would have been fine for a cold, emotionally stunted character, but I felt that Resnick was more of a man teetering on the edge, prone to emotionally inappropriate outbursts. I just never felt that boiling pot of angst and rage in Pruden’s reading. I wanted him to scream, shout and rage against his world, and instead, he simply just was. One of the major problems that came out of this was that, since the novel was told from Resnick’s perspective, the pacing of the action was just off. It felt more as if Resnick was recounting something that had occurred to him instead of something he was  actually living through. In the end, this was very well likely me, being an insatiable consumer of audiobooks, just wanting something a little more out of a narrator.

Note: Thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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