Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Reviews Reloaded: The Fire Sermon

This article first appeared on East Niagara Post on July 7, 2015. It is repeated here as I work to put all my book reviews in one place. They will be posted on Thursdays or Fridays and only be altered from the original in that I will add publisher information and pages. Hopefully, by revisiting these reviews, other people might find a book they'd like to pick up for their own enjoyment.

The Fire Sermon - Francesca Haig
Gallery Books
384 Pages

Imagine the world has been destroyed by the fires of a nuclear conflagration. Civilization struggles to survive in a drastically changed landscape. Nature always has a way to survive. In The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig people are all born twins. One twin, the Alpha, is perfect. The other, the Omega, is born with deformities. The Omegas are branded and sent away from the Alphas to live in squalor. Despite the mistreatment of the weaker twin, when one twin dies, so does the other. Always.

Cass and Zach are twins, who are respectively the protagonist and antagonist in this novel. Cass is a rare Omega with no outward signs of deformity. Instead of being separated, they continue to live together until Cass’s psychic foresight dooms her to the Omega branding.  Zach holds the delay in Separation against her as he fights to overcome that fact to become a leader of the Alpha faction.

With his rising power, Zach is forced to have his sister seized and placed in a prison cell to protect himself against her death by his enemies. She finally escapes with a fellow Omega prisoner, setting off for a mythical island where a supposed resistance is operating.

The Resistance seems like a savior for her and her fellow Omegas. However, once they realize who her twin is, she becomes a pawn in their very survival. If the Resistance can kill her, then their main opposition also dies. She is torn between saving the rest of the Omegas and saving herself. Meanwhile, the Alphas are attempting to keep the Omegas alive yet be able to keep them completely under their control. Gruesome science experiments ensue.

At the end of this book, we’ve learned that there will be another book in this series. All I can say is that I cannot wait. Haig, a poet, has a beautiful way with words. She paints a vivid picture of a dismal life and all the struggles that accompany a post-apocalyptic life. Scenes of settlements reek of grime and despair. The hopelessness of the Omegas met along the trail of escape resonates throughout the pages.

The characters of the book are rich and well fleshed out. By definition, Alpha and Omega would be polar opposites.  Haig translates that to the characters of Cass and Zach. As goodhearted as Cass is, her brother will stop at nothing to achieve the power he thinks he deserves, going as far as imprisoning his sister to achieve that.

Francesca Haig writes her characters in such a way that the reader has great empathy for Cass. Reading this book, you will actively cheer her on and hope she’s able to overcome all obstacles and defeat her evil twin. She struggles with being ostracized by her family and her very survival in a damaged world. Each new roadblock put before her changes the way she reacts.

As for Zach, you can feel the evil oozing from his pores. You want to hate him. The author wants you to hate him. A great author is one who can evoke a response like this from their writing. I could not stop reading this book as I wondered how Cass would escape certain doom, or how Zach would fight to make his world free from Omegas.

With The Fire Sermon, Francesca Haig delivers a dystopian novel that feels so lifelike that you’re hoping that it’s only her dream and not an actual future for our civilization. It seems more likely than scenarios in other similar novels like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or The Road. While that makes it a little more frightening, it does make for a very exciting and enjoyable read. I can’t wait for Book Two.

Craig Bacon has locked his younger brother and sister in the closet, but it was all in good fun. He wasn’t trying to rule the world.