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"Jumping the Snark"

18 Jun 2010, Posted by Rob Thurman in Books, News, Reviews, The Chimera Novels
CHIMERA: The CHIMERA Novels, Book 1

CHIMERA: The CHIMERA Novels, Book 1

The below article on me is by the great Paul Goat Allen who all but runs B&N and it’s fucking fantastic.

Jumping the Snark: The Illegitimate Love Child of Lenny Bruce and H.P. Lovecraft Evolves by paulgoatallen

“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before… to test your limits… to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin ————————————————————————————————

— I review a lot of paranormal fantasy and, for me, a large part of the attraction of seeking out and reading these kinds of novels is the freshness of storyline, the sense of originality, the creation of a new kind of narrative through the fusion of various genre elements (romance, fantasy, mystery, etc.). Some of the most brilliant writers in all of fiction, I believe, are publishing paranormal fantasy—Kim Harrison, Adrian Phoenix, Caitlin Kittredge, Justine Musk, Marjorie Liu, Richelle Mead, Skyler White, the list goes on and on…

But if I had to voice one disappointment about paranormal fantasy authors as a whole, it would be their collective lack of narrative experimentation. That is, once they find success writing paranormal fantasy, they rarely try their hand at other kinds of fiction. And, believe me, I completely understand. Why would Laurell K. Hamilton want to write a historical mystery when her Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series are phenomenal bestsellers worldwide? The pressure from publishers and fans to continue on with a particular storyline must be overwhelming for these authors…

But I grew up in an era where writers were more “free”—Robert Silverberg, for example, wrote numerous science fiction classics (Star of Gypsies, The World Inside, Son of Man, etc.) as well as an equally classic epic fantasy saga (Majipoor). Fritz Leiber penned landmark works in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Michael Moorcock redefined adventure fantasy with his Elric of Melniboné, Corum and Hawkmoon sequences but he also released groundbreaking, politically and socially conscious science fiction featuring the “ultimate postmodern antihero,” Jerry Cornelius. I grew up idolizing writers who took chances, pushed the boundaries, and were constantly trying new things…

And I often find myself wondering what transcendent literary gems these talented paranormal fantasy writers could produce if they dared to truly stretch themselves creatively. Case in point #1: Cherie Priest. A popular paranormal fantasy author (the Eden Moore novels) who ventured outside of paranormal fantasy to pen a horror-nuanced apocalyptic thriller entitled Fathom and then Boneshaker, an extraordinarily successful alternate history/steampunk adventure set in 19th century Seattle. (Boneshaker, by the way, is the first installment of Priest’s Clockwork Century sequence – its sequel, Dreadnought, will be released this fall.) Case in point #2: Seanan McGuire. The critically acclaimed author of the October Daye novels (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, etc.) – a paranormal fantasy saga set in the San Francisco Bay area—went off the paranormal fantasy reservation incognito and, using the pseudonym Mira Grant, recently released Feed, one of the coolest—and most innovative—zombie novels that I’ve ever read.

This all leads me to the latest case in point: Rob Thurman (pen name for Robyn Thurman), author of the dark and snarky Cal Leandros saga (Nightlife, Moonshine, Madhouse, etc.), which features halfbreed human Caliban and his brother Niko. When Thurman published Nightlife in 2006—her debut—it was a novel that I would not soon forget. I described it thusly in my B&N Review: “With the dark humor and violent intensity of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange and the supernatural ambiance of Simon R. Green’s masterfully macabre Nightside novels, Rob Thurman’s debut novel is like the illegitimate love child of Lenny Bruce and H.P. Lovecraft. …dark fantasy fans who enjoy their novels with plenty of smart-ass attitude will find this chaotic and raging debut refreshingly unreserved and impenitent in its over-the-top narrative style.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed Thurman’s audacious writing style and her irreverent sense of humor over the years—so I was delighted when I picked up a copy of Chimera, a contemporary thriller with science fiction underpinnings that blends elements of medical speculation à la Cook and Crichton with the breakneck pacing and psychological suspense of novels by Koontz and Kellerman. Chimera is the story of Stefan Korsak, a young thug whose younger brother Lukas was abducted years earlier. A bodyguard for a prominent Russian crime lord based in Miami, Stefan has spent the last decade trying to find leads to his brother’s disappearance—but when he finally tracks Lukas down and rescues him from a heavily fortified compound known as the Institute, he is shocked to discover a young man who has not only been brainwashed but also turned into a killer with some very unusual abilities. As the brothers struggle to stay one step ahead of a bevy of highly irate pursuers—lead by the head of the Institute, a genetic engineer named Jericho who is “as indestructible as a New York cockroach”—they not only begin a desperate cross country flight but also embark on a journey of self discovery in which they both begin to understand the significance of family, and trust, and love.

Powered by Thurman’s signature acerbic wit (and strangely enough, the relationship between two brothers just like the Cal Leandros saga), Chimera is a laudable read, and marks a definite evolution in Thurman’s writing style—a tighter narrative, excellent character development, powerful themes, etc.

So here’s to you, Rob Thurman for embracing risk, for trying something new, and, most of all, for believing in yourself. The literary reward was well worth the risk—and I can’t wait to see where you go next!

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