Book reviews: Rob Thurman’s CHIMERA and BASILISK

Let’s talk about science fiction versus fantasy. Let’s talk about Michael Crichton and Dean Koontz and Robin Cook. Let’s talk about guns, pipe bombs, and Dexter references.

Let’s talk about thrillers.

CHIMERA came out last year – about this time last year, in fact – before I’d really given up and dived headlong into the deep end of the fantasy pool. This time last year, I’d just started working at Barnes & Noble, had just finished the Dresden Files, and had started in on something else that’s pretty basic to the urban fantasy requirements, Patricia Briggs or Laurell K. Hamilton or something. It took me another four months to find Rob Thurman.

You’ve heard me rave about Rob Thurman. You’ve heard me claim to unabashedly, unashamedly worship at the altar of Rob Thurman. And that was all before CHIMERA.

Look, I could go on and on and on (trust me on this) about Thurman’s masterful grasp of familial affection (and hell-giving), her ability to portray non-familial affection in a way that doesn’t turn the whole thing into a sappy romance, her world-building, her character-building, her plotting, pacing – I could go on. But the thing that gets me about these books – all of them – is the voice.

Voice is very important to me. It’s sort of a make or break thing. And it is with almost everyone, whether or not anyone realizes it. It’s a big reason why Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles were such a runaway hit, why the Dresden Files are so popular – because everyone loves Harry Dresden. (There, I said it.) It’s the reason I will or won’t get into a series, because at the end of the day, plot, action, pacing, and snark only do so much for me. Okay, the snark does a lot, but it’s the voice that brings it home for me. And Rob Thurman is fucking brilliant at it.

CHIMERA is the story of Stefan Korsak, up and coming in the Miami-based Russian mob, who, at fourteen, lost his seven-year-old brother, Lukas. He spends nearly ten years searching for him – and finally finds him. But Lukas has been at the Institute all that time, a heavily-guarded compound where genetic assassins, young men and women that can kill with a touch, are bred and trained.

What’s a brother to do? And when the folks that run the Institute, megalomaniacal sociopaths, come after Stefan and Lukas – where do you go when you’re trying to run from your past? From yourself?

CHIMERA is fierce, determined, every bit of prose tight and pared down. BASILISK, on the other hand, is told from Misha’s perspective. The voice in it is wonderful as well, but much more cool and detached, less tense, less hair-trigger, less desperate.

BASILISK takes place three years after the conclusion of CHIMERA, and opens with the boys in hiding. But they soon learn they’re being hunted again – and this time by something much more dangerous than a killing touch.

A killing mind.

Look, guys, I can’t pimp these books much harder. They’re not the typical fantasy noir thing that I’m usually into, but who says I can’t branch out? You bastards. Listen, Rob Thurman has said over and over that these are the best books she’s ever written. And, well, they are. I love me some Leandros brothers, and I think those are some of the best in the fantasy noir genre (second only, I think, to Harry Dresden), but there is something much more compelling in the Korsak books. Something fierce and loving. Something more than just fighting monsters. There’s survival, and then there’s SURVIVAL. And that’s what the Korsak brothers are doing.

There isn’t much more I can say about Rob Thurman that I haven’t already. Everything she’s written has been wonderful – unique and touching and violent and lovely – and I can’t get enough of it. Plus she writes some mean one-liners.

CHIMERA: 5/5 stars. BASILISK: 5/5 stars. Visit Rob Thurman’s website and follow her on Twitter. And don’t forget, she’ll be at Dragon*Con this year!

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