cover image Not on Fire, But Burning

Not on Fire, But Burning

Greg Hrbek. Melville House (Random, dist.), $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61219-453-0

Hrbek (The Hindenberg Crashes Nightly) balances equal parts suspense and introspection in this portrait of a near-future world teetering between annihilation and redemption. The story opens with a harrowing scene: a young woman, Skyler, babysitting for a little boy who reminds her of her own much younger brother, Dorian, witnesses a nuclear terrorist attack that begins with an assault on the Golden Gate Bridge. Fast forward eight years to 2038, when Dorian is almost 12. Now living with his parents and older brother on the other side of the country, he is growing up in a deeply distrustful, war-torn America in which all Muslims have been interred on former Indian reservations. Dorian, who blames Islamic radicals for that still-unexplained terrorist attack that haunts his dreams, is deeply apprehensive when their neighbor adopts a young Muslim boy, Karim, disrupting the fragile sense of security in their neighborhood. Suspicion and prejudices steadily escalate, yet Hrbek still manages to interject thought-provoking asides, from the life cycle of the 17-year locust to theories of the multiverse. In the end, Hrbek's narrative is a profound cautionary tale, a vivid and often deeply unnerving reminder that our choices carry real and lasting consequences. (Sept.)