When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. We were perfect. They would have been disbelieving: nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.
After the blast it, something changed. Now each birth brings a pair of twins, one perfect, one deformed. Alpha and Omega. Children are split at birth, the Omegas are considered poison by their perfect other halves, cast out to live with Omega relatives. But the Alphas are forever connected with their twins, for when one dies, so does the other.
People have always been fascinated with the connections between twins; that somehow they have a supernatural sense when their other half is in danger. Here the idea is taken further. What would happen if the ruling classes were inexplicably linked to the lower classes they were trying to oppress? If tyrants wanted to wipe out an entire race but doing so would kill themselves, they need to think up new ideas.
Some of those ideas are plain scary when you think about them. But The Fire Sermon is also a tale of siblings, of a love that doesn’t break because one of them has made mistakes. As Cass and Zach grow up together, there is suspicion but there is also a friendship, maybe forced by their unique situation, but neither has anyone else to play with.
The naming of the town of Wyndham is not coincidental. The mutations and the segregation of those possessing them, the concealment of mental powers by those who can’t be identified otherwise, the blast and the deadlands. Even the idea of a place where those with mutations can go and be safe, they all remind me of The Chrysalids. Francesca wanted to give a nod to Wyndham and Miller, a reminder that this post-apocalyptic world is not a new fad but one that started decades ago. I have not read A Canticle for Leibowitz however she cites that as the more influential work on her writing. I will definitely be reading that some time in the future.
It did take me a while to get into the story but when I did, I was hooked and now I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s a good debut novel, from a writer whose background is in poetry, but I did think in some areas the writing could be a bit more polished. But once I was sucked into the world and characters, I loved it.
The Fire Sermon is published by Harper Voyager and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 26th February 2015. Waterstones will also be selly a snazzy limited edition with firey coloured edging. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.