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Book Review

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The Fire Sermon (Hardback)


Author: Francesca Haig
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 756305 0
Publication Date: 26 February 2015

Following a cataclysm, which brought an end to the old world, mankind slowly rebuilt. At first more died than were born and of those born more were untenable mutations, until twins started to be born. Now all births are twins, one perfect, one imperfect, both linked in life and death. Harm or kill one twin and the other experiences the same, no matter the distance between them. What is left of the world is controlled by the perfect Alpha, the imperfect Omegas are removed soon after birth pushed to the edges of civilisation...

The Fire Sermon (2015. 416 pages) is a science fiction novel written by Francesca Haig, who had previously published a poetry collection, entitled Bodies of Water (2006).

The story follows the adventures of Cassandra and her twin, Zach, who are kept together for longer than is normally permitted as they both look perfect. In fact Cass is the Omega, as, although her body shows no mutation she is a seer, one whose mental abilities are greater than either that of Omegas or Alpha’s. Cass can see the future, but only in a vague roundabout way.

Knowing that she is different, and not wishing to be removed from her brother and family, she hides this secret as long as she can. Zach, rather than being glad that he has his sister grows increasingly resentful towards her as the lack of separation means that both are considered freaks and Zach cannot take his place in the privileged world of the Alpha.

The narrative then separates the twins: Cass to live in relative squalor, while in the background of the story Zach attains political power, power which he turns against the Omega population. Cass’s one last hope is, with the help of Kip, to find the Island, a near mythical haven for the Omega resistance, where she might find safety, all the while being sought by her brother and his own seer.

Overall, the idea that the population now only consists of twins which can be used to harm or kill each other was an interesting one, I did feel that the insane prejudice which forced the Omegas to live, often, a near starvation existence did not ring quite true. Whip an Omega and their Alpha twin would feel the same pain, kill one and both die, so why the physical tribulations of starvation were restricted to just one twin was never adequately explained.

The other element, that of Zach’s monumental rise in the political regime within a very few years and his ability to reconstruct electronic equipment which would have lain damaged and rotting for hundreds of years, also seem a little too convenient. It would have made a little more sense had both Cass and Zach been born into a politically powerful family, rather than come from farming stock.

I would love to say that the enmity and prejudice which exists between the two groups did not ring true; unfortunately there have been enough psychological experiments which prove that this is exactly how humans build up their prejudices.

Think about how cultures and countries define themselves and you will find that rather than concentrating on the good about themselves they define themselves by the ‘not we’. So we make jokes about other countries and they in turn make jokes about us. On a more personal level humans will find anything from the colour of your skin to your choice of religion to claim that difference.

Cass is one of the few characters in the book from either side of the divide to realise that Alphas and Omegas are not just killing one person, but two, each of whom should be seen as a valuable human being.

So, the world building is good as were many of the characters, though few of them could be considered sympathetic, buried in their own world view and willing to kill, even if it meant the death of one of their own kind.

The end of the book resolves little, so expect sequels, but it does provide a solid first novel.


Charles Packer

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