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Chimera: The Subterrene Trilogy, Book 3
T.C. McCarthy
Narrated by John Pruden
Blackstone Audio, 10 hours. 57 minutes

T.C. McCarthy
T.C. McCarthy earned a B.A. from the University of Virginia, and a PhD from the University of Georgia, before embarking on a career that gave him a unique perspective as a science fiction author. From his time as a patent examiner in complex biotechnology, to his tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency, T.C. has studied and analyzed foreign militaries and weapons systems. T.C. was at the CIA during the September 11 terrorist attacks, and was still there when US forces invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, allowing him to experience warfare from the perspective of an analyst.

T.C. McCarthy Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Exogene
SF Site Review: Germline

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dale Darlage

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.

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 who has a genius-level knowledge of tactics and strategy -- the result of training with new artificial techniques gleaned from the methods used with 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, which 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 makes 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 the mission 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 awful new genetic manipulations that pilot new war machines. Developed by the Chinese military, there's a chance they have plans for even worse.

At this point the reader realizes that there are two meanings for the title. 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 it is also a reference to the saying, "chasing a chimera" to indicate going on a fool's errand because Resnick'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 are McCarthy's answers to these questions? 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, 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.

Copyright © 2012 Dale Darlage

Dale Darlage is a public school teacher and a proud lifelong resident of the Hoosier state. He and his wife are also proud to have passed on a love of books to their children (and to the family dog that knows some books are quite tasty). His reviews on all sorts of books are posted at

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