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Chimera
A Jim Chapel Mission
by David Wellington
Harper Collins Publishers, 2013, $24.99, 424pp
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Jim Chapel is a veteran of a Ranger mission to Afghanistan which went stunningly wrong. Now he’s pushing a pencil with his prosthetic arm at a desk in Fort Belvoir , frustrated and bored out of his mind, with swimming laps as his only solace. Until, that is, someone very high up in the chain of authority and with a very limited time window decides that Chapel is the best man for a difficult job.

Years ago, a covert genetics program produced chimeras: humans with non-human DNA that made them faster, stronger, and tougher, designed to be the new dominant species. That’s ‘dominant’ in both the territorial and the genetic sense. Along with all the intended effects, however, came a very, very low threshold for violent aggressiveness. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Contained for years in a high security compound in upstate New York , the trans-humans have escaped, and they have no love for their makers. 20 people formerly involved in the project are now targeted for painful, messy deaths – and one of them is slated to be the next Supreme Court judge! Too make matters much, much worse, the modified DNA acts as a blood-borne virus, so containment is an urgent priority.

Chapel isn’t told any of this, of course, he gets to find out the hard way; but he does have the help of a voice-only contact who uses the grid and satellite systems to keep him going, easing the way with transportation, authorized access, and even some classified information. But Chapel finds an unexpected – and unauthorized – ally when he meets Julia, the daughter of two of the intended targets, and now a target herself.

Ever at Chapel’s back is the spook agent Chapel has dubbed Laughing Boy, tasked by a rival agency with ‘cleaning up’ the loose ends, and that means anyone who encounters the escaped trans-humans. It’s only a matter of time before Chapel and Julia are classified as loose ends themselves.

Chimera is exciting, well written, sharp-edged and fun, for Wellington spices his adventure/horror with a dash of humor. He may be using familiar tropes and techniques, but he does so with genuine originality. I haven’t enjoyed having my adrenal glands manipulated this much in a long time. So a resounding recommendation on this one; and zombie enthusiasts, look for his Monsters series as well. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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