Monday, February 22, 2016

Women in Horror: Chimera

Sal is trapped at USAMRIID (United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases) where her father is convinced that Sal will help them cure her comatose sister and consent to having the tapeworm in her brain removed. He is still under the delusion that Sally can somehow still come. Sal keeps this hope alive because it's the only way she can keep existing for the moment. Meanwhile, Dr. Cale is trying to find a solution for all the tapeworm eggs living in the tap water and Sherman, the man who put them there, is lamenting the effect of what he's done. The tapeworm eggs effect everyone: chimera, human, and sleepwalker alike. It's simply acting as a poison except for the lucky very few who become chimera. Will Sherman succeed in replacing the human race? What will happen to Sal and her family?

Chimera is the last book in the Parasitology series and picks up right where the last one left off. Sal has gone through quite the transformation over all of the books. Now, Sal is solid in her understanding of and confidence in herself as a chimera. The beginning of the book has Sal trapped in a refugee camp with the general populace, crowded with at least ten people in each room. She goes through a period of depression, where she just languishes and doesn't do much. Then she realizes that she's gotten out of worse and formulates a plan to get out. It's a crazy, not very well thought out plan, but it works. Sal plays on people's assumptions of her and puts on different personas when necessary to make them underestimate her, using half truths and rationalizations to give her performance more veracity. No one can shake Sal's understanding of herself and it's her biggest strength. Everything she does is for the benefit of her family. She deeply cares for humans, chimera, and sleepwalkers alike, but when the priorities get right down to it, she isn't afraid to hurt or stop whoever is hurting those closest to her. Sal's compassion impressed me. It's hard to feel that for people who aren't sentient or aware, but she recognizes their relation to her and ultimately wishes they could be left alone. I like her ability to feel yet she doesn't let it compromise the safety of those around her.

All the characters add to the world and bring along their own flaws and rationales. Fishy, for instance, is convinced he's living in a video game world, complete with cut scenes, restarts, player characters, and everything else. His delusion isn't as strong as it used be and the reality where his wife and child are dead shows through sometimes. Sherman is a classic abuser that blames all of his shortcomings and mistakes on his victims. Sal forced him to take samples from her and dump all the eggs into the water supply. It's not his fault that it didn't have the desired effect. He also has a completely different view of Sal, similar to how she was in the first book but weaker and more malleable. The few passages from his perspective were chilling. It fascinated me how his mental gymnastics justified his awful behavior. Although he hates the humans for mistreating chimera, he does the same thing to humans. In contrast, Sal's group for the most part has their own code of ethics that preserves both chimera and human life whenever possible.

Juniper is a brand new character and chimera because she is the product of multiple worms invading and one coming out on top inside a small girl. The phenomenon is even rarer than the production of regular chimera. Sal immediately protects her and treats her like her child because that worm was created from Sal. Juniper doesn't have a huge role in the books and has to learn everything about being human, but Sal finally understands a mother's perspective. Her experience lets her understand Dr. Cale and Sally's mother better after experiencing the emotions and instincts involved. Dr. Cale is one of my favorite characters because she may be a woman and a mother, but emotions are very low on her list of motivators. She loves all of her children and she takes care of them, but logic and rationality are higher priorities to her. Her experience also pointed out sexism in her field like how she went into hiding because her male colleague lied and opposed her. Few would side with Dr. Cale if any, so she decided to take herself out of the equation instead. This installment gave me a much better understanding than before when she just seemed cold and callous.

The plot twists and turns and I had no idea where it would end up. Some of it seemed a little convenient, but other things are our of Sal's control and don't go quite how she would like. It's a satisfying end to a unique series and doesn't seem too outlandish. I would love to see other stories set within the world. Mira Grant is the pen name of Seanan McGuire and I will read everything she writes. Her writing always sucks me into whatever world she made and keeps me there until I finish and crave the next book.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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