Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

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This post-apocalyptic thriller imagines a world set four hundred years after nuclear disaster. An inexplicable result of radiation makes each pregnancy result in twins–one is deformed by mutation, the other is not. The result is a binary class system made up of Alphas, the “pure” twins, and Omegas, the rejected twins. Further complicating the situation is the strange connection between the twins. When one dies, so does the other, even if they are far apart.

The main character, Cass, is an Omega with no obvious deformity. She belongs to the rare group known as “seers,” people with the ability to sense things through dreams and visions. The Omegas are an oppressed group, and fear among Alpha population results in increasing government restrictions on Omega life–and in the birth of a mysterious resistance movement.

Strengths: The conflict between Alphas and Omegas gives a fresh twist to the “oppressed people group” narrative. The Alphas send their Omega children to live in settlements and force them to work and live in poverty, but they can’t oppress them to the point of death. The death of one results in the death of another, which puts a check on their hatred of them. For me this was a “big idea” that gave the book some relevance to real life. Though society may reject certain “undesirables,” the upper class cannot exist without a lower class. I don’t know how deep Haig was trying to get with this idea, but I thought it was clever. There are some interesting characters throughout, and the world Haig builds for the novel is coherent and compelling.

Weaknesses: The publisher touts the book as “The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.” I’m comfortable with the comparison the Hunger Games trilogy, but let’s not bring The Road into this. The Fire Semon read like a YA novel, complete with romance, angst, and identity struggles. That’s not a critizicm, mind you. Where the book falls short is in the development of those elements. Most of the dialogue is flat, while some is downright annoying. To be fair, only about half the weaknesses I see can be attributed to the author; the other half is purely a matter of preference.

While I wasn’t spellbound, I am actually curious to see how the series will evolve throughout the trilogy. I’m not sure the world really needs another post-apocalyptic trilogy–which, by the way, has already been snatched up for an upcoming movie trilogy–but we’ll see if the world responds well to it anyway. It was enjoyable enough for me to be able to recommend it–check it out!

Final judgment: It was okay.

Would I read it again? No.

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