The writing trio N.J. Tanger recently sent me a copy of their new novel Chimera to review. It's the first in a planned series which will include at least three books. So, without further ado, here we ago.
The story concerns citizens of the colony Stephen's Point on a planet light-years from Earth. Their ancestors were banished to this place because they owed a crapload of money to the government, so it fell on them and their descendants to work off the debt for seven generations. Earth had been sending regular supply ships to keep Stephen's Point stocked, but stopped doing that fifteen years ago. Now, the colony is running out of food, and drastic measures must be taken. The colony's overseers institute the Mandate which calls for severe rationing. The Mandate also creates the Selection, a rigorous process for finding a group of uber-talented children to crew the starship Chimera which originally brought them to this planet but has laid dormant since then. The plan is to take the Chimera back to Earth and save the colony.
Enter Theo Puck. He's a sub-par student and above-average troublemaker. One thing he does have going for him is his computer skills. One day, he hacks the Selection list and adds his name to it. This could lead to incarceration if he's found out, so he's naturally nervous about it. Afterwards, he heads out to the mountains to meet his childhood friend Meghan (who got onto the Selection list legitimately). But before he can tell her about his shenanigans, she takes him into a cave and shows him a narrow hole. Theo climbs in and finds writing on the wall which they believe were made by the Chimera's navigator Stephen. Stephen guided the ship to this planet and has been made into a god-like figure by those now living here. The writing could be a huge archaeological find.
Unfortunately, Theo also finds a dead body and the kid who murdered him. The killer demands Theo keep quiet about this, or else Meghan will be his next victim. Theo quickly agrees and is allowed to leave the cave. However, he soon catches the attention of the religious Order who applaud his entry into the Selection. Meghan, though, isn't amused by his cheating and demands he turn himself in.
Nevertheless, Theo decides to go forward with the Selection and shows up to the rigorous week of testing. He quickly finds himself in over his head with the grueling regime and his new drill sergeant. And to make matters worse, the killer is also among the participants. Can Theo survive the Selection, protect those closest to him, and become a crew member of the Chimera?
I thoroughly enjoyed Chimera. It has compelling characters, an engaging plot, and is very well-written. N.J. Tanger is actually three different people, and their combined writing skills make for a quality read. I especially like that the killer is a lot more complex than he first appears, and you're really never sure whether to hate him or sympathize with him.
Bottom line: you can't go wrong with reading Chimera. I look forward to reading the next book in the series later this year.