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