What makes us human? What makes us unique? And what makes us kill? Nature or nurture? Ten years ago, Stefan Korsak’s younger brother, a bright, seven-year-old kid with each eye of different colour, was kidnapped. Stefan never managed to get over it – he thought it was his fault. He’s been looking for Lukas ever since and he has given up what was left of his life to this quest, never understanding why his own father, Anatoly, was so reluctant to join the efforts. Still when your dad is one of the most dangerous Mafiya bosses in the USA you can hardly expect him to behave like a normal parent, can’t you?
When one day Stefan’s best source for information on his brother, Saul Skotchinsky, finds out that there was a boy in a field trip at the mall matching Lukas’s description, Stefan gets a shadow of real hope for the first time. With Saul’s help, he breaks his brother out of the strangely prison-like facility and escapes. But Lukas is now a different person– quiet, obedient and strangely withdrawn. What’s more he claims his name is Michael and he doesn’t have – and never had- any family. Was he drugged? Brainwashed? Is it possible that he doesn’t remember anything from his previous life?
That’s how begins an epic journey. Stefan has to keep himself and his brother safe from Jericho, the man behind that strange facility, the mob faction he’s escaped and from himself – how to convince Michael that he is his long-lost sibling, not a complete stranger? Or maybe Michael is right?
What I liked:
The story is a road trip between brothers formula narrated in the first person limited voice of the older brother, Stefan. A family drama combined with thriller elements worked for me just fine. Stefan and Lukas navigate the tricky waters of reconnecting as family while on the run from Stefan’s life in the mob and the bad guys pursuing Lukas. Both brothers (? – because you are never completely sure, even at the very end) have a great chemistry and their dialogues made me smile time and again – a feature I really praise in a thriller. It is evident that Thurman knows how to write punchy, witty lines without any special effort. Both Stefan and Lukas have a wry sense of humor that shows in many places, providing comic relief, a real highlight of the book. Their bickering, sarcastic exchanges blend with gentle teasing and an awkward, caring touch epitomizes male bonding at the finest. While this is going on, both men show more and more of their character, their limits, and their willingness to do what’s needed. Anyway neither Stefan nor Lukas felt cardboard or flat.
The plot had a lot of twists and turns, some predictable, some unexpected but overall acceptable. Since this is a road trip there are a lot of chases, get away cars, and racing from crime scenes, also your basic thriller stuff. There is the well crafted subplot of human chimeras and genetic manipulation that is always present, never forgotten, and very well used. Stefan and Lukas – now called Michael – work to find out what exactly happened to him, why he’s been genetically altered and what they can do for the other children still being held in the compound. I especially appreciated the fact that difficult themes of good/evil, nature/nurture and family ran through the book but the author never became heavy-handed while dealing with them.
What I didn’t like:
There was that high-level super-secret agency that seemed to have endless resources and pretty high-tech equipment– I admit that idea was the weakest because let’s face it, two young men would have a cat-in-hell’s chances of escaping such an organization longer than a day or two.
The overall plot of running from disaster to disaster got old for me near the ending and a few times the disasters just seemed forced. Stefan’s decision to pick up a pregnant hitchhiker was so eye-rollingly bad, the only explanation must have been Thurman looking for both a hook and an effort to humanize the brothers (Stefan in his compassion, Lukas in his hormonal teenage revolution state).
Even if I was troubled from time to time by some less logic plot devices overall I enjoyed Chimera very much, especially its sci-fi/ scientific and psychologic aspects. I recommend it for all those who like fast-paced thrillers with strong character development.