Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Not on Fire, but Burning

Not on Fire, but Burning by Greg Hrbek
Melville House: 9/8/15
eBook review copy, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9781612194530

Not on Fire, but Burning by Greg Hrbek is a highly recommended genre twisting novel. It is part sci-fi, part thriller, part speculative dystopia and opens with a bang that should capture every reader's attention.

Skylar, a 20 year old college student, is babysitting when the incident happens. When she looks out of the picture window she sees a bright metallic object hit the Golden Gate Bridge. A mushroom cloud forms above San Francisco and radioactive fallout is everywhere. Skylar starts walking to try and get out and to her parents where she knows her beloved little brother, Dorian, is safe. No one knows what the object was, but some say the words "Air Arabia" could be seen on the object.

Years later Dorian is 12 and knows two things: he misses his sister and hates all Muslims. He is having dreams about a sister that seemingly never existed. She is not in photos. His parents say she didn't exist. Dorian knows she did because his dreams/visions about her are so real. He also dreams about killing Muslims.

In this future America, the country is divided into territories and all Muslims have been interned in the Dakotas, where the former inhabitants have been relocated. When the neighbor, a veteran from Gulf War III adopts Karim, a Muslim orphan from the internment camps and brings him to the neighborhood, introducing him to the neighborhood boys, trouble is bound to happen. Racial slurs slip out and prejudices are revealed, on both sides. Fear and grievances continue to multiply and build up between the Arab and Americans. Is the hatred and fear the two groups hold for each other real or the result of prejudices or incomplete information?

In Not on Fire, but Burning Hrbek has penned a well-written, thoughtful novel with a social conscious. The prose and insight into the psyche of each character is carefully crafted as each of them struggle with societal expectations, their own emotions, and the reality. The result is a multilayered novel that transcends genre. The one drawback for me is the switch between first and third person in the narrative. I found it disconcerting and this threw me off kilter for a good portion of the book. Since I had an advanced reading copy the transitions may be better noted or delineated in the final version.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Melville House for review purposes.

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