Thursday, 12 January 2017

Review: The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon #1) by Francesca Haig @FrancescaHaig @HarpercollinsNZ

The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon, #1)

The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy's The Road in this richly imagined first novel in a new postapocalyptic trilogy by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.
Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair one is an Alpha - physically perfect in every way - and the other an Omega burdened with deformity, small or large.
With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world's sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other. Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side by side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
***3.5 Stars *** Rounded up to 4 due to the overall enjoyment of the book.
This Dystopian post-apocalyptic plot had me devouring the pages as I started, but where as the writing style and worldbuilding was strong in the first part, once we got past Chapter 10 I felt as if the writing began to get a little rushed and the building of the scene dwindled with it.
The premise of this story was a very intriguing one for me, the symbiotic relationship between twins, the world devastated by nuclear war, without machinery or technology... but soon I began to have more questions to why if a world where twins are linked, where each twin can feel pain when the other twin was injured... why would not starvation and weakness affect the Alpha twin also?
The points I like in this book are the way the author has shown how the Human race can continue to oppress the weak and strive to be even more arrogant that the world we know today, and in her version that is set 400+ years into the future after the 'Blast' ago inevitably turned this world to ash... and where the population is divided into an apartheid society.
The Earth has been shattered and although there are parts that have recovered and the Human race still manages to survive it was not without its consequences. All births are twins ( well Humans anyway, although this was one of the many questions I was left with after reading, why are there not similar occurrences in the Animal Kingdom?)
One twin is perfect, the Alpha, but the second twin is the Omega, the unwanted, deformed whether severely or not, they are always barren, only Alpha's can reproduce.
Now this idea is a good one, one of my favourite Star Trek episodes was where the Bynar race were introduced
Yes I am a geek and I love it!
The Omega's are unwanted, seen to represent the Blight the earth has befallen and when they try to dispose of these deformed babies, the parents soon realise that to 'Kill' the Omega is to kill the Alpha, Natures genetic finger to the arrogant race that has all but destroyed it... to keep the perfect child you must allow the disfigured one to survive also.
I do like how Ms Francesca Haig shows how the society of Alpha's and the Omega's first existed, and how that anything from 'Before' is Taboo, but as we come to present day, when our Heroine Cass is captured, I had a few doubts on how the storyline was progressing.
Some of these ideas don't compute, if each twin can feel pain, a broken bone or death, how is it that starvation does not? IF everything was forbidden and unused for 400 years how did they work out how to use the equipment described and used as the story progressed?
Anyway - back to the story.
I was engrossed in the childhood of Cass and her twin Zach, both born perfect, a rare occurrence in the births, the children soon start to show which one is the Alpha and which is the Omega, but with no physical differences their parents play a waiting game... when an Omega has no physical anomalies it is more likely that they have a mental one, they are a 'Seer' - they have visions, of past or future, it varies, but what does not is the madness that consumes them eventually.
Now Zach knows that it is Cass but no one believes him, Cass has become a master at hiding the visions, but as the twins reached their 13th birthday Zach finally tricks Cass into revealing herself.
She's Branded and cast out as soon as the brand heals sufficiently to stop her dying of sepsis.
Life was isolating as a child, both twins being shunned by the community at large, and later by their parents, but Cass didn't care, as long as she had Zach.
But it takes her a while to realise that hiding who she was for so long may have made her more isolated when she is eventually cast out to fend for herself.
She ends up in her Aunt's old house but is mistrusted by the other Omega's because of her abilities.
Life quickly becomes a daily struggle for survival as food becomes more scarce, either by drought or by the Tithes the Alpha's extract off the Omega's.
Cass can see how things are getting worse for the Omega's and when she finally hears that her twin Zach is part of the Council enforcing these, she refuses to believe that he would stoop to such atrocities. But it seems that Cass's lengthy deception has twisted his perception of the twin-ship bond and he is determined to rid the world of the Omega's for good.
Cass finally can't ignore the visions but its too late to react and she is captured by an Alpha raiding party and locked up in the 'Keeping Rooms', where Omegas are kept either for leverage or safety depending on who holds the key, for Cass its to ensure her twin's enemies can't use her against him, and her only visitors are "The Confessor" another Omega Seer who works with her Twin Zach, now known as "The Reformer". They want the answers of her visions and will not stop until she reveals them...
Her visions, they hold the key to the 'Island' a place only rumored to be where the Omega resistance fights back against the Alpha rule. So when finally Cass gets the courage to escape ( 4 years locked up is a long time and this also had me wondering about how on earth she had the strength to run and on her way... (view spoiler)
BUT that said I continued to enjoy the relationship grow between our escapees as they followed Cass's 'feelings' on which way to go. With any adventure there were some tense moments and some nice almost sweet moments, but this book isn't what I would call a romance by a long shot, our pair although start a fledgling relationship, don't have the time to pursue it, and I am glad that the author kept it that way.
I did feel that Cass, although not a weak and wimpy heroine didn't seem to grow much throughout this book, where as Kit, even with his after affects of the release from the tank seemed to evolve into a somewhat of a willing participant in finding the resistance.
I will give Ms Haig a point for keeping me in the dark to who his twin was, but looking back I can see where there were little clues left.
I did enjoy reading this book, and after the ending of this one, I am looking forward to finding out what The Map of Bones has in store for Cass.

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Author Bio

Francesca Haig grew up in Tasmania, gained her PhD from the University of Melbourne, and was a senior lecturer at the University of Chester. Her poetry has been published in literary journals and anthologies in both Australia and England, and her first collection of poetry, BODIES OF WATER, was published in 2006. In 2010 she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship. She lives in London with her husband and son.
Follow her via: Twitter Website

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