First published back in August of 1982, ‘Chimera’ was British author Stephen Gallagher’s forth full-length novel to see publication (including the 1980 novel ‘Silver Dream Racer’ (1980) that was released under his pseudonym John Lydecker).
The novel became one of Gallagher’s most well-known books, which might have a lot to do with the ITV mini-series adaptation that was broadcast back in July of 1991, as well as the Radio 4 play from the mid-80’s. Since the four-part television broadcast of ‘Chimera’, the novel has seen a couple more reprints as well as a further ebook release.
In the isolated and somewhat sleepy Yorkshire town of Langstone, a fertility clinic has been in operation under the direction of the lead scientist, Jenner. However news of a mass murder in the confines of the clinic gets out, sending hordes of police and army personnel into the once quiet vicinity of Langstone.
Meanwhile, Peter Carson (a freelance journalist with little ambition but a wealth of money left in a trust fund by his father), has agreed to visit one of the nurses at the clinic. However upon his arrival he is escorted away by the local police. Deeply concerned, Carson learns of the fate of the nurse he planned to visit and begins to get more intrigued with the whole conspiracy side of the affair as the army quickly take over.
Slowly but surely the truth behind the operation at the Jenner Clinic is uncovered. A secret cover-up concerning a government run operation, focussed on developing the capability to create bizarre hominids (half-chimpanzee-half-human’s) that could be used cheaply for scientific testing. The first experimental attempt at one of these hominids was a creation named Chad, whose desperate escape from the facility was the reason behind the mass slaughter at the clinic. But an oversight which led to the prime specimen escaping is now on course to being rectified. For now Chad is being hunted by the full forces of the British army...
Gallagher’s novel ‘Chimera’ is a strange one. The storyline starts off at a very gradual meandering pace, setting down some early characterisation that has a bearing on the proceeding tale, but still somewhat stunts the early growth of the progressing storyline. That said, once it gets going the plot twists and turns at almost every opportunity; drawing closer to the eventual (and monumental) meeting of this man-made atrocity named ‘Chad’. Within its layers of suspense-filled horror, the tale manages to successfully weave in a clever social commentary on governmental deception and the terrible capabilities that man might undertake in the name of science.
The book flows with a gradual pace, taking on board a heavy descriptive nature which in turn sets the mood and atmosphere well without becoming too overbearing or tiresome. Characterisation as a whole is tackled at a steady pace; developing on the various identities in due course, with careful consideration for their interplay within the developing storyline. Indeed, the character of Peter Carson is an interesting one, with his mildly anti-hero tendencies combining with deep-routed protagonist traits that slowly rise to the surface.
A complex collection of subplots are intermingled within the primary thread of the storyline, thickening out the story as a whole and adding greater depth to the emerging plot. An obvious weight of research has clearly been applied to the novel during the writing process, allowing Gallagher to utilise a wide range of scientific know-how which brings more credibility into this dark premonition.
Not only does the tale portray a strong and important message regarding the darker side to human infatuation with scientific progression, but it also throws a paranoid question mark over the very real possibilities of ‘behind-closed-doors’ governmental tactics.
All in all the book delivers a thoroughly enjoyable read, containing a number of depths for the reader to immerse themselves within as they follow the intrinsic storylines to a gritty and downbeat conclusion. The novel as a whole is chilling and cutting with its unashamed prodding to look further into the questionable progression of our governments’ desire to play with science.
The novel runs for a total of 312 pages.
© DLS Reviews