Four hundred years after a nuclear apocalypse, all humans are born in pairs: the deformed Omegas, who are exploited and oppressed, and their Alpha twins, who have inherited the earth—or what’s left of it. But despite their claims of superiority, the Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.
Cass is a rare Omega whose mutation is psychic foresight—not that she needs it to know that as her powerful twin, Zach, ascends the ranks of the ruling Alpha Council, she’s in grave danger. Zach has a devastating plan for Omega annihilation. Cass has visions of an island where a bloody Omega resistance promises a life of freedom. But her real dream is to discover a middle way, one that would bring together the sundered halves of humanity. And that means both the Council and the resistance have her in their sights.
The Fire Sermon was an interesting take on the dystopia genre – it deals with a radioactive fallout situation in which genetic anomalies present in the form of twins – one seemingly ‘perfect’ Alpha and the other ‘defective’ Omega, linked by a common life force. For generations, they have been segregating the Omegas and keeping them oppressed and near starvation. This story was of Cass, a rare kind of Omega called a Seer in which her ‘defect’ is precognition. She and her twin share another distinct quality in that they were segregated very late in their lives – so they formed a bond borne of loneliness and mutual dislike. She loves her brother but also hates the world they are in, which condemns her for just being born. Now in adulthood, his ambition has led to him being on the Council, making her a liability for him if she is harmed by any rivals. Cass, who dreams of a world in which people aren’t divided as Alphas and Omegas, has visions of an Omega-only island, a safe haven for people like her. But during her escape, she comes across a secret of the Alpha Council, Kip. Hunted by another seer who works for the Alphas, the pair crosses across the lands in search of that safe haven, enduring difficult conditions for that promised land.
The way the world is built itself makes for a complex antagonist: the society itself shuns the aftermath of the apocalyptic event, which they see in the form of the Omegas. The Alphas keep them alive only out of necessity, even though these people are their own twins. The science for the disparate twins I could get behind, but the common life force pushes this more in the realm of fantasy than science fiction. Nevertheless, a society like this is difficult to take down, when every life claims two instead. Cass alone sees that burden of killing; for others it is a collateral damage, but she truly believes in the value of life on both the sides. Perhaps it is the fact that she feels her twin’s resentment towards her was borne partly out of the way they both were shunned, and partly because she doesn’t generalize a population as a whole. Kip, for his part, is the comic relief of the book, and also her reminder of the Alpha’s cruelty. The plot and the obstacle of the story pretty much centered around the world, a fact I appreciated and which makes this dystopia ingenious, in both concept and execution. I am particularly interested in how the author will make things play out in future sequels.