Book Review: Not on Fire, but Burning, by Greg Hrbek

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

Not on Fire, but Burning opens on catastrophe in San Francisco, in the not-too-distant future. A large object hovers over the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge collapses, and a mushroom cloud of radiation covers the city. Skyler, a young woman babysitting in an apartment overlooking the bridge, is caught up in the radiation, unable to save either the child she is watching or herself. She dies thinking of her youngest brother, Dorian.
Ten years in the future, in a United States under constant terror watches, Dorian dreams of the sister he can't remember and his parents swear never existed. Dorian has learned to hate Muslims after the incidents in California and cannot tolerate the fact that his neighbor has adopted an orphan from a Muslim refugee camp. All the while he tries in vain to convince his parents that his sister was real and exists not only in his dreams.

In Not on Fire, but Burning, Greg Hrbek (The Hindenberg Crashes Nightly) suggests that the world is incomprehensible in its vastness and inexplicable in its variations--and that finding our place within this vast, variable life is, perhaps, our greatest challenge. Through the lens of 12-year-old Dorian's life, and his questions about what is real and what is imagined, what is the past and what is the future and what is a dream, Hrbek has built a novel that is part post-apocalyptic fiction, part coming-of-age story, part suspense and part thriller: an exploration of space, time, prejudice, family, love, reality, kindness and hate.

Discover: This cerebral novel set in the not-too-distant future uses a catastrophic event in San Francisco to explore questions of time and reality.

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