“Babies arrived covered in blood, didn’t they? Maybe dropping something tiny and helpless into the world with its own gravy was a terrible decision on the part of evolution.” - Chimera by Mira Grant
Chimera, by Mira Grant is the exciting conclusion to the Parasitology trilogy. Book 2, Symbiote, ended with Sal once again in enemy hands, having given herself up to the military in order to save her friends. The general believes Sal to be his daughter Sally, somehow reawakened by Dr Banks, and wants her to help him bring back his other brain dead daughter, Joyce. Sally's mother knows Sal is not her daughter and refuses to have this stranger wearing her daughter's face in the officer's quarters, so Sal is outcast into the general population of the quarantine zone where she is at the mercy of other desperate survivors. Meanwhile, the worm eggs that Sherman released into the water supply have begun to have an effect, with people known not to have SymboGen implants suddenly becoming Sleepwalkers. Once again Sal needs to find a way to escape and reunite with Nathan and her Chimera siblings.
The plot is a little repetitive, with Sal always escaping from someone or somewhere, but there are some interesting new elements in this third book. There is further information about the behaviour of the Sleepwalkers, which makes them seem less zombie-like, but somehow creepier still. The horror element is present, maybe more in this book than the others. There is also plenty of character development. Sal has come a long way from believing she was human and clinging to that belief despite mounting evidence to the contrary. In Symbiote she began to accept that she was a Chimera, like Adam, Tansy and Sherman. In Chimera she comes to appreciate that, though she will probably always be feared and distrusted by most people, being a Chimera actually had some advantages over being human. The Chimera have various different abilities, such as detecting the presence of sleepwalkers and other Chimera, or even influencing their behavior, with pheromones. Sal is unique in her ability to “go down into the hot warm dark” at will. She also comes to appreciate her ability to alter her own body in subtle ways now that she no longer thinks of it as Sally's.
It's probably just because the subject has been on my mind a lot lately due to other reading I have been doing, but it occurred to me that Sal's journey of acceptance could be read as a metaphor for a neuroatypical person (eg. On the autism spectrum, or having ADHD) coming to accept their diagnosis and embrace the abilities of their own unique brain. That's almost certainly not what Mira Grant intended, but we readers find our own meanings where we may.
I was glad that in this volume there were fewer references to Don't Go Out Alone, the children's book that Doctor Banks says the Chimera have adopted as their Bible, as those had begun to get tedious. Instead there are more entries in the journals of various characters, giving more perspectives on the war between humans and Chimera than just Sal's.
Chimera is a satisfying conclusion to the Parasitology trilogy. It has action and body horror with a dose of philosophical reflection on the nature of humanity thrown in. I recommend it for fans of zombie novels, even though it isn't one. I didn't love it quite a much as Grant's first series, the Newsflesh trilogy, but it was still a lot of fun.