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Fire Will Fall

Review

Fire Will Fall

It's the year 2002, and Americans are hyperaware of international terrorism. The first attack by ShadowStrike came only months ago with the release of a designer bug into the water of one small town. The Q3 virus poisoned many and left four teenagers physically damaged but famous, branded as the Trinity Four by the press, for life. With stage IV poisoning, Cora, Owen, Scott and Rain are now under constant guard by USIC agents, confined to recuperate under monitoring while undergoing indefinite drug treatments. A cure has been promised but has yet to materialize. But ShadowStrike isn't done toying with them just yet. V-spies for the Americans have identified a new threat through the Web, an even deadlier biological attack that will fall like fire on the innocent.

Becoming actual survivors of a terrorist assault has left Rain, Owen, Cora and Scott simultaneously unified and scarred. All four are having difficulty processing their emotions, albeit in vastly different ways. Rain's bouts of sensitivity are driving the other three nuts; she cries or complains all the time while demanding the support of her friends. Owen is caught up in his own private psychological drama over God's role in their attack and an imagined Armageddon, beginning with ShadowStrike claiming the lives of their loved ones. Owen's brother Scott doesn't put much thought into such grand ideas but is definitely depressed and dejected even while he tries to remain grounded. Focusing on nothing but his physical agony is clearly affecting Scott's prognosis for the worst. And though Cora remains quiet and patient as always, she is undoubtedly suffering privately too. It's becoming clear to them that she's been hallucinating more on the drugs they're all on.

All four drive each other nuts as the question arises of whether they are likely to recover; statistically, they've been told that a full recovery --- and even survival for all of them --- is improbable. They begin to wonder if they're safe anymore and if USIC knows enough to protect Americans. 

While those of the Trinity Four work out their feelings and recover, Shahzad and Tyler, USIC spies, also recuperate in private. They too were victims of a lesser-known bioterrorist attack, after infiltrating the ShadowStrike network and being discovered. Exposure to a hazardous substance by an operative left them scarred and blistering, and their wounds continue to seep all over the furniture. But the two continue to work for USIC in an unofficial arrangement as underaged agents who report anonymously to a single superior. No compensation has been offered, and they've received no official recognition or support. They're simply excellent hackers who couldn't live with the thought of allowing terrorists to use technology to attack innocent people.

Though FIRE WILL FALL, a sequel to 2008’s STREAMS OF BABEL, centers on a particularly vicious and disgusting bioterrorist attack, the central focus is not on that so much as the effects of violence and fear on the human psyche. The motives and thought processes of the terrorist operatives are never revealed to the reader's satisfaction. But the thoughts and reactions of the victims are delved into deeply, especially the Trinity Four, who have been marked for life by the trauma. These experiences have also brought them together in unexpected ways, teaching them to be better friends and support each other openly. None, it seems, will ever find it easy to move on or forget the fear that has crippled them. Yet each is exceptionally focused on what they want out of life and has become much more serious about deciding who they'd like to spend it with, even though they're only teenagers. In a sense, being a victim has galvanized them to become tougher and face death without fear. It has allowed each to find his or her own direction and want something better for the world than what it is.

The book's pacing is slow, and it presents no surprises as far as action. But the characterizations are excellent (particularly Shahzad and Tyler) and show a bigger picture of terrorism than a simple thrill ride can. This is an expressive story that reveals our human failings as well as our abilities to rise above them when we choose to do so.

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Reviewed by Melanie Smith on October 18, 2011

Fire Will Fall
by Carol Plum-Ucci

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2010
  • Genres: Thriller
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 0152165622
  • ISBN-13: 9780152165628