Chimera is the first book in Vaun Murphy’s Weaver series. It is a creepy, science-fiction tale that focuses on the importance of the connections between humanity and their place the larger universe. It also examines the importance of the individual and their struggle against community norms, while trying to build a place for themselves. Cassandra has been a prisoner most of her life; at the young age of thirteen, she has lived eight years in a solitary cell with nothing but her own mind for company. Although she has memories of her parents and her life before, they are faint. But one day her uncle’s voice speaks to her out of the silence, telling her that help is on its way. Cassandra no longer trusts her own mind, and the community where she finds herself also has questions about her sanity and the danger she might pose. Her uncle Gerome and his wife Maggie are trying to do the right thing by the damaged child, even if the community leaders are less than friendly. They are understandable as people trying to guide a child who is both behind on what she should know, and also far ahead of them. They struggle with how much to share with Cassandra and how best to handle her. Her new friends James and Kara have their own reasons for trusting Cassandra, even when it is seemingly impossible.
““Can you read and write?” He held himself so rigidly I wondered if the cold made his joints hurt. That really seemed a strange question. “I can.” Couldn’t everyone? “Who taught you?” I had burning questions about this place, how I got here, my parents, and pretty much everything. Gerome had questions about my confinement that I hadn’t answered in turn, mostly because I didn’t feel like talking about my time as a prisoner. But I could tell he really wanted answers. “No one, I just know. Doesn’t everyone?” My uncle pursed his lips and then brushed his hand against my arm so we would stop walking to face one another. “Cassandra, most people have to be taught. They go to school to learn to read, write, and a good many other things. Maybe we should test you to find out just how much you know?””
Chimera is told in first person from Cassandra’s point of view, with italicized text for the voices in her head. Murphy has vivid imagery for the Web, which is the mental landscape of Weaver minds, past and present, human and alien. Cassandra’s fascination with the Web is mirrored by the reader’s own interest. I would recommend this book to readers who love introspective science fiction, with a lot of focus on the abilities of the mind. Technology does not play a large role in the tale. Getting to know Cassandra, and through her the community of Weavers, all mind travelers more advanced than normal human beings, is an important part of the journey. I look forward to the other books in the series.