- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: ibooks (27 Jan. 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596872233
- ISBN-13: 978-1596872233
- Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 11.4 x 17.8 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,468,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Asimov's Chimera: The New Isaac Asimov's Robot Mystery
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Let me say for the record that Chimera has an interesting plot and fits relatively well into the universe created by Isaac Asimov. It introduces new concepts (Cyborgs) and continues to give us a look at the relationship between Earth and the Spacer worlds, especially the links between Earth, Aurora and Solaria. Sometimes relationships and characters from the Spacer worlds strain the boundaries created by Asimov, but otherwise Tiedemann keeps things relatively close to what Asimov created, while adding some freshness and depth to the universe. Several of the point-of-view characters return in Chimera, including Auroran ambassador Arile Burgess and Derec, the positronics specialist, and I found them, along with Coren Landra, to be interesting, compelling protagonists.
Where Chimera fails is, in part, what made Asimov so successful. While Asimov needed only a handful of characters and organizations to write a deep, complex mystery, Tiedmann goes the opposite route, giving us dozens of persons, organizations (both political and industrial) and links between them. I don't read a lot of mystery books in general, but I don't know how anyone who's not writing down all these links and characters in a notebook possibly keeps track! There are literally points in the novel where we're given page long lists of characters and their stock and investment dealings linking them to other individuals and companies, when they divested of those stocks, who bought them afterwards and on and on to the point where I had no hope of following the twists and turns and just found myself waiting for the end and for someone to - please - give me a wrap up. Which sort of happens, kinda.
In comparing Asimov to Tiedemann, I find myself thinking that when I read an Asimov book, I don't want it to end...I want more! When I'm reading a Tiedemann novel set in Asimov's world, I can't wait for the end, just to have someone summarize what the heck I just read.
On the other hand, this book has a LOT of problems. Let's start with the fact that the only resemblance to Asimov in these books is the existence of Earth, Spacers, Settlers and positronic robots. However, Tiedemann's Spacers have absolutely NO resemblance to Asimov's. Put a Solarian in a room full of Earthers and he's not a real Solarian. Asimov's universe has no room for a man born on Earth to Solarian parents. If you have read Asimov, you'll see what I mean. Oh, and as for the time line... this novel takes place sometime in the future after Elijah Baley. Um, sorry about the spoiler, for those who haven't read Asimov's Robots and Empire...but didn't Earth start to have a serious "radioactivity" problem at this time? This fact isn't mentioned at all in Tiedemann's novels.
Another problem is pacing. This author just doesn't write the scenes I want to see. I want to know what is happening in the minds of Settlers, baleys (illegal settlers) and Earthers. If Aurorans are suddenly friendly with Earth, I want to know how that happened. I want a sense of history, psychology, evolving culture and humanity... all the things Asimov dealt with. I definitely don't want to read pages of rundowns about which corporate head invested in which companies and who bought out whom. This isn't a science fiction novel, it's a script for a banal police procedural on Fox TV!
Then there is the problem of characterization. As in "None". Coren Lanra is the main character and he is little more than a name on which to hang the word "undercover cop". Derec and Ariel also appear in this novel, and they too are as characterless as the robots they love. After reading all the Robot City novels, I've had about enough of Derec and Ariel. What's with endlessly recycling characters? Can't anyone create new ones?
Finally, I suspected that this book would not have a satisfying ending, and indeed it did not. Loose ends were left untied, and I still don't really know why those baleys were murdered. A bad ending is a pretty serious sin. OK I just bumped it back to a "2 stars". (If you want to read a series that is worthy of the name "Asimov" on the cover...try Roger McBride Allen's 'Caliban' series.)
Unfortunately with "Chimera" there is none of this. Perhaps because this story is based on previous works Tiedemann feels that character development is not a priority but what the reader is left with is a multitude of one dimensional figures. Furthermore, the storyline is difficult to follow because of the "hap-hazard" style of writing where often the reader is suddenly transported into a different vignette where the characters are already in mid- conversation (somewhat of an exaggeration).
In the end I suppose there can only be one "Grandmaster of SF" but it would be nice to have an heir that comes close... still looking.
More than that, though, he's done a thoroughly excellent job of creating fully-fleshed, believable characters, real people with real problems. He places them in a fast-paced thriller plot that flows logically and answers questions both about the action of the story and the larger issues nesting within the Robot universe Asimov created. Rather than do a straight imitation of Asimov's style, he has written his own kind of narrative, matched to the content of his storyline.
The creation of Bogard in Mirage was a masterful twist on the 3-Law scenario. Tiedemann continues to play with the limitations and implicit possibilities in Asimov's original structure in this book.
The Caves of Steel in Chimera are both creepier and more plausible, the psychologies of the various habitues matched against each other in elegant dialogues and plot twists (as in one character's surprise visit to a Spacer party in the open air!). Tiedemann displays a deft hand at depicting the inner realm of the human condition, a trait he displays much more fully in his own original novels.
Asimov's original robot novels were generally straightforward. While not predictable by any stretch of the imagination, the mysteries themselves were fairly simple. Tiedemann has taken Asimov's "universe" but made the mysteries more complex and expanded the scope of the setting to fully explain political situations, alliances, development of society in settler and spacer worlds...many of the things Asimov himself never fully developed. This all amounts to a fairly complex mystery novel set in Asimov's vision of the future.
The novel is not without problems. One criticism I had of Tiedemann's first novel still holds true - two of the main characters have an extensive past together yet Tiedemann makes no mention of this fact. Some of the ideas in Chimera also come across as a bit far-fetched in the context of the setting that Asimov established.
All-in-all, Chimera is an entertaining read. If you're a fan of Asimov's original robot novels, its definitely worth picking up. If you've not had exposure to the originals, however, start with them.