“Chimera” is a well-written science fiction tale wrought with tension, suspense and believable characters. Its scenario is original and captivating, i.e. that of a habitable moon elsewhere in the galaxy which serves as a debtors’ prison for Earthlings unable to meet their obligations. These prisoner/colonists are provided with their basic needs via automated exchange ships which bring food and other necessities, then return to Earth with ecomire, a valuable mineral which colonists either mine or retrieve from “the rim.” As the seventh generation of colonists reach adolescence, their debt is considered paid. However, their release from bondage is complicated by the fact that no exchange ships have arrived for a long time, not only jeopardizing the colony’s survival but begging the question regarding what is going on back on Earth?
The richness of this story derives from a variety of original elements. For one thing, the ship which brought them there in the first place, the Chimera, is being renovated in the hopes of returning to Earth but this is complicated by the fact that she has an element of intelligence that no one so far has been able to access. Then there’s the matter of its original navigator, “Stephen,” who had connected with her and ultimately went insane while at the same time spawning some sort of weird religion with him at the core. These details bring the story to life by defining the culture which these exiled individuals developed and demonstrate a deep understanding of human nature on the part of its author, which is actually three individuals who collaborated in a very effective manner to bring this fascinating story to life. It definitely illustrates the concept that “two heads are better than one” when it comes to conceiving and developing a rich, compelling tale.
The adolescent characters come to life within this carefully fabricated world in a convincing and engaging manner. Each has a story of his or her own, an intriguing background that has contributed to who and what they are. In preparation for the return to Earth, “the selection” is in the process of choosing which members of this seventh generation of colonists will be chosen to be the Chimera’s crew, including someone who can awaken her. Personality conflicts, differing motivations and abilities, as well as dealing with a drill sergeant from hell are skillfully embedded in the overall tension of the story’s premise.
While the primary protagonist is a young man named Theo, the other characters’ importance is clear. Among other things, this episode is a coming of age story for Theo and the others as well, particularly Marcus whose seemingly sociopathic tendencies are ultimately at least partially explained and Selena, who has spent her life in a mining ship “on the rim” with her alcoholic father. The only one whom I didn’t connect with was Meghan who was superficial by comparison, perhaps because her background was not sufficiently challenging which left her bland and judgmental.
This is the first volume of an intended series which definitely drags you into the characters and plot with just enough questions left unanswered to make you anxious to get your hands on the next episode which is due sometime in the summer of 2015. The characters have strong, distinct personalities which have already established the promise of conflict when they crew the Chimera. I was provided a copy of this story in return for an honest review and was thoroughly enchanted by this well-crafted tale which holds tremendous promise.
More about Chimera & the team that comprises N.J. Tanger: