Monday, 27 September 2010

Chimera by Rob Thurman

Chimera tells the story of Stefan and his younger brother Lukas Korsak. Ten years ago Lukas was kidnapped and Stefan never knew why, but he never gave up looking for his younger sibling. And then almost by chance he finds him. But the young man (renamed Michael) that Stefan rescues is not the brother he remembers - he's been genetically transformed into the perfect assassin and the people who took him will do anything to get him back.

I really enjoyed this, though it took a little while for me to get into it. It's kind of ironic in a way that last week I was talking on the blog about protagonists that don't listen to other characters and Stefan spends a great deal of the book not listening to what Michael is telling him. But...and there is a big but, there's always an exception that proves the rule and Chimera (and Stefan) is that exception.

Without doubt Rob Thurman knows how to write relationships between male characters. From the instant that Stefan and Michael meet there is an wonderul snarkiness between them. Michael initially thinks this is some kind of test set by his captors, whilst Stefan is almost unable to believe that his hopes and dreams of finding his brother have finally been realised.

Written in the first person from Stefan's point of view this allows us an insight into how the loss of his brother has completely shaped his life. He goes into the family business (Russian mafia) so he can earn the money to search for his brother. He holds up the hope of finding his brother almost like a light to keep him going through the darkness of his life. Lukas is the only good thing he has to hold onto.
Lukas wouldn't have gone this way - never; not even if things had been reversed and something had happened to me.
Then when he finds him the thought that immediately goes through his mind is...
He looked - my God - he looked like salvation.
That's quite a lot for someone to live up to. And Michael is old beyond his years, he's not the innocent child that Stefan remembers. His experiences with his captors mean he doesn't relate to people. His captors took him out on field trips to study human behaviour but there's a difference between observing and interacting.

Gradually they settle into this sibling relationship whilst being on the run from the bad guys. It's something that Stefan desperately wants and needs,
I'd always known that saving Lukas would be saving myself..
Michael on the other hand is more reluctant. Initially he thinks it's a test, he gradually comes to realize that Stefan is for real but he also knows how desperate his captors will be to get him back. He's painfully realistic about the situation that they're in. This is very well illustrated when Michael asks Stefan if he's ever killed anyone and Stefan responds with 'no' even though he's not sure whether he has or not. Michael on the other hand responds to Stefan's denial with the words 'I have'.

At one point Stefan says to Michael - It's not what you can do, it's what you choose to do. I think if the book had a theme this would be it and I think it's ultimately how the two brothers work through their situation. Stefan chose to do terrible things in order to be able to save his brother. Michael fears what he is capable of doing, what the scientists have turned him into. And Stefan tries to make him see that he can choose not to be that person - just because he can doesn't mean he will.

I must just mention here that this book has a ferret in it. Now if this were urban fantasy I'd probably be tearing my hair out at this point. However, this ferret is in no way magical and is called Godzilla (aka several other names in the book not all of them polite) so for once we'll live with there being a ferret.

And perhaps my favourite scene, which I think is the excerpt on Rob Thurman's site.
"Stefan, I was wondering." He paused casually. "Have you ever had sex?"
"Yeah. When I was twenty-one, just like the law says."
This could have been quite a dark and depressing tale. But the relationship between the brothers stops that from happening. There are moments of joy, happiness, relief, fear and redemption. One of my favourite books of this year.


Sarai said...

This one is on my TBR pile. I've heard nothing but good things. I think this will get pushed up.

LesleyW said...

Sarai - I definitely vote for pushing it up the TBR pile. :)