Orbit, out now
The Subterrene War may be over but not every combatant can cope with that…
The third book in McCarthy’s future war series (and given its ending, hopefully McCarthy will continue to chronicle this difficult period in world history) picks up on themes and characters established in the first two, and provides a lot of background that we didn’t have before. The origins of the War, and how things fell apart, are explained in greater detail, and we get to see what state the US is in – which, frankly, isn’t particularly good, with state-sponsored brothels, areas of devastation, and a military that is being trained in ways that doesn’t bode well for the future.
The book is narrated by Stan Resnick, who has spent much of the War getting rid of “satos” – his name for the female Germline units. He’s sent back into South East Asia on a secret mission that may help with a new War that is coming, which means that he has to work with the girls rather than try to kill them. He’s also developing a conscience, after starting to become attached to the son which his wife conceived while he was away fighting.
Resnick isn’t the most pleasant of companions but he has an honesty about him. He knows that he is one of those people who come alive in a war zone (as so many have over the centuries), but he is faced with choices that start to haunt him, for the first time. The final decision he has to make puts him in a place that he could not have conceived at the start of the mission – and he is true to himself.
The nature of the Chimera of the title was hinted at in the second book, and becomes clear here, taking the book truly into horror territory (although there’s a definite resemblance between the creatures and certain inhabitants of Skaro – on this basis, it would be great to see McCarthy tackle a Dalek novel).
Verdict: With comments on the surveillance society, the addictive nature of war and the insidious way that your children enforce a new way of looking at the world, this is the best of McCarthy’s novels to date. 8/10