This book is a futuristic Chandler pastiche featuring genetically engineered animal/ human hybrids (the "chimeras" of the title)- sort of Gun, With Occasional Music Lite. As with most of Shetterly's work, it's narrated in First Person Smartass, and the story moves along at a fairly brisk pace through a plot involving a tough PI with a troubled past, a jaguar woman who's every bit the Chandler-esque tough dame, multiple muders, rogue AI, hyper-capitalist dystopia, and the politics of identity and enslavement. In addition to the genetic engineering basis of the future society, he presents a number of nifty gadgets and ideas, from a surprisingly cool public transit system to robot policemen, to the perfect realization of the John Woo movie gun- always ready to hand, and always fully loaded.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read, and I tore through it in one night (staying up a bit late to finish). Pretty much exactly what I was looking for at the time, and I'd recommend it as a fun, fast read which still manages to touch on some significant issues.

There was one bit that was a little disconcerting, though. Most of Shetterly's best work is in a sort of Young Adult vein- books like Elsewhere and Nevernever, which combine adolescent angst and urban fantasy, or Dogland which is basically To Kill a Mockingbird co-written by Powers and Blaylock- it's about kids, but not entirely a kids book.

As a result, I've always found (and expected) a sort of YA quality to his writing. I'm not sure I can define it very clearly- it's something to do with the brisk plotting, slightly breezy tone, and fairly straightforward prose style.

That same indefinable quality is found in Chimera, where it meshes oddly with the occasional graphic sex scenes and outbursts of extreme violence. I'm probably unduly influenced by knowing him first from his more YA-flavored work, but I found it jarring when the first sex scene came around- it didn't really fit with either the YA tone or the Chandler-pastiche element of the book (Chandler, being a product of his times, generally avoided direct mention of sex, however many wonderfully oblique ways he may have found to allude to it). It's not really a major flaw, it was just... odd.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable book from a generally enjoyable writer. It doesn't rise to the level of Dogland, which really is excellent, but it's a fun way to pass a few hours. If you like his earlier work, odds are you'll like this.

Last modified: 27 February, 2001