The perfect Manchurian Candidate may not be as far off as you think. Governments around the world have contemplated creating one (and doubtless doing more than merely contemplating) for decades, if not longer: a person hypnotized or drugged to commit an assassination which he or she would never contemplate.
What if these efforts were carried further - children kidnapped and trained while they are young and malleable? What if their DNA was altered to make them heal faster, and only children who demonstrated the ability to harm others psychically were kept in the program, the ďfailuresĒ disappearing without a trace? They could be reprogrammed to forget about their pasts or to change their allegiances to the same people training them to be killers. In Chimera, Rob Thurmanís page-turning thriller, a man in the Russian mob in America finds and rescues his kidnapped younger brother, who has been missing for years, from an Institute that alters children genetically and develops their psychic abilities, turning them into killing machines.
Mythologically speaking, a chimera is a monster made up of the body parts of more than one animal. Genetically, chimeras generally mean that a person or an animal has within their bodies the DNA and body parts of an unborn twin (CSI had an episode about this medical anomaly). Thurmanís novel is told from the first-person perspective of Russian mafia gangster Stefan Korsok, and the chimera is his brother, Lukas, who was kidnapped ten years ago. Stefan has never given up hope, although he believes that their father, Anatoly - a once-prominent and feared mafia boss Ė has. Stefan will stop at nothing to track down Lukasís whereabouts.
Stefanís mafia friend Saul Skoczinsky believes that heís spotted a teen who resembles computerized age progessions of Lukas. The two hatch a scheme to free Lukas from a heavily guarded building in the middle of nowhere: the Institute. They go in armed to the teeth and discover that itís in part a scientific/medical facility, a DNA helix prominently displayed on a computer screen in the basement laboratory. One young girl - Wendy, whose room Stefan enters in his search - merely gestures at him and one of his hands turns blue as if frozen, or the circulation to it has been cut off. Eventually his hand goes back to being normal, but Stefan knows then that the kids there have been changed and for some specific reason, though heís not yet sure why.
When he and Saul finally find and rescue Lukas, Lukas insists on being called ďMichael.Ē He has no memories of ever having had a brother and keeps wondering if everything thatís happening is some sort of a test Ė one he worries that heís failing. The people behind the Institute pursue them for much of the novel, and the chase scenes and Stefan and Lukasís confrontations with Jericho and other twisted individuals behind the Institute are exciting and memorable parts of the novel.
The children at the Institute have all been given new names: Wendy, Peter, and Michael, all after the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. The reference is apropos. The kids have gone from sweet innocence to killing machines who can make an assassination look like a medical problem, like a heart attack. They are the perfect weapons: who would suspect a child of committing murder, especially if thereís no trace of physical evidence of cause?
Thurmanís latest pulse-pounding novel joins his other bestsellers, including Deathwish, Madhouse, Moonshine and Nightlife. Exposure to Chimeraís action-packed plot is sure to add to the authorís legions of fans; I certainly look forward to reading more of his books.