Title: Chimera (Universe Eventual Volume 1)
Author: N.J. Tanger
Published: April, 2015
The fate of Earth’s first colony rests on the shoulders of a pair of misfits: Theo Puck, a rogue hacker with a gift for speaking to machines, and Selena Samuelson, a brash but talented pilot with a dark secret in her past.
Earth went silent over a decade ago. No contact, no resupply. If something doesn’t change, the colony will go extinct. The only way to restore communication with Earth is the ancient colony ship Chimera. Two centuries of disrepair have taken their toll on her–the shipboard AI that allows travel between distant stars is lost in unending sleep. She must be woken and the ship rebuilt for a desperate return journey to Earth.
The mandate to repair and crew the Chimera seems like a game to Theo–one he isn’t invited to play. Angry at having been overlooked, Theo hacks his name onto the list of those selected to crew the Chimera, a decision he soon regrets. A brutal murder changes everything: Theo must make it to the Chimera or his family will suffer terribly consequences.
Piloting an ore trawler is the only life Selena has ever known until an industrial accident strands her aboard the Hydra, the orbital station responsible for rebuilding the Chimera. A chance encounter with her AI suggests Selena might have a far larger role to play in saving the colony than she–or anyone else–ever imagined.
Theo and Selena’s futures become intertwined as they carve out places for themselves in the crew that will navigate the Chimera back to Earth. However, behind the scenes, a brilliant sociopath has set events in motion that could not only destroy their lives, but doom their colony as well.
Characterization and badassery
This is a YA novel, so the feats of badassery are kept low-key. None of the characters are likeable at the beginning, but they grow with their experiences and become more interesting. They have very different temperaments and motivations, which I appreciated. About halfway through I really bought into the characters, which for me is a critical element in a book.
We get two main characters in their own storylines, which converge at the very end of the book. Theo looks at first like an anti-hero or one of those insufficient characters who somehow manages to be the hero in spite of himself. He grows past that though, and wises up in a satisfying way. Selena is a hard-bitten pilot who has lived a tough life. She doesn’t evolve as much as Theo, but she sure does persevere and she sure never gives up. Of the two, she is the more compelling.
Plot and pacing
I’ll admit I was dubious at first. I saw a hint of The Hunger Games, a resemblance to Hugh Howey’s Half Way Home, and the threat of a Chosen One trope. But those initial impressions proved to be false alarms, as this shaped up into its own story.
One thing I appreciated was that the reasoning for young people driving the action rang true. We didn’t have a group of young people who were smarter, faster, or otherwise better than the dullard adults involved. The characters are young, but the story is just as relatable for adults as it is the YA crowd. I dig books like that.
Prose and editing
Straightforward writing that gets the message across without drawing attention to itself most of the time.
No, there’s a pretty constant space-dystopian grimness going on.
My initial reservations and impressions did not pan out—which is a good thing. This turned out to be a slow spin up to what seems like will become a space adventure. Since I dislike series books written in serial form (in other words, they just leave off without any closure rather than tying up one cohesive story before moving on to the next volume), I have to mention that this book is written in that format, so that’s a teensy reduction in rating, for me. Readers who do not share this particular hang-up will have no such issue.
I enjoyed this story more and more as it went along, which was a pleasant experience, and well done by the writers. By the time I got to the end, I was definitely liking where it all was headed. I’m curious to pick up the next book, though wary of another dropoff ending.
N.J. Tanger lives and works in Denver, Colorado. They are a team of three people who write science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The Universe Eventual Series includes CHIMERA (released April 2015), HELIOS (released October 2015), CERES (released July 2016) and two more books, titles TBD. They also have written many short stories which appear in both print and digital formats as well as anthologies.