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by Kathy Tyers
Published by Bethany House, 2000
Recommended by: Greg Slade
Fusion Fire is a sequel to Firebird, beginning a few months after the end of the first book. Firebird and Brennen have gotten married, and Firebird is pregnant with twin boys the first in her family to bear a male child in a century. The reason she is able to have boys is that Federacy doctors have discovered and treated Mazo syndrome, a genetic disorder found only among the genetically engineered Ehretans. Firebird is, at least potentially, a telepath. But as she begins her training, terror arises from enemies without... and within.
The action is taut. It begins in the first chapter, and never lets up. Even if this book had no other virtues, it would be worth reading for the adventure. The "bad guys" are, perhaps, a bit overdrawn, but not quite to the point of being caricatures. But the inner tension within both Firebird and Brennen is handled very well, and the theological elements, while more prominent than in the first book, are still handled subtly and sensitively. And, to my satisfaction, we are given a glimpse of more of the tantalising back story behind the prohibition against proselytising which has been laid on the followers of the Path.
This month, we have been "interviewing" Kathy Tyers on the SF-CHRISTIAN mailing list. Kathy has been a wonderful guest, and getting to "know" her has been a privilege. On the strength of the three books of hers which I have read, and the interview, I am awaiting Crown of Fire, the third book in the series, with eager anticipation. (February, 2000)
The second book in the Firebird trilogy, Fusion Fire, defies the traditional wisdom about sequels being inferior creatures. In fact, it overshadows its predecessor, expanding the scale of the story and serving up a heady mix of fast-moving action and terrifying new threats.
Picking up the narrative eight or nine months after it left off, we find our heroes married and expecting twins. Pregnant though she is, Firebird is far from helpless when an assassin comes in the night. No sooner is that threat dealt with than worse ones arise, along with some fresh tragedies. It seems that someone is intent on wiping out Brennen's family, due to ancient prophecies which indicate the Messiah will arise from his line.
While the devout Sentinels follow a strict code that prevents misuse of their special abilities, their equally gifted cousins care nothing for laws or the precepts of religion. Known as the Shuhr (think 'Sith'), they serve only themselves and seek to dominate the galaxy. Infiltrating both Netaia and the Federacy, they are intent on wiping out the Sentinels who stand in their way. Masters of the biosciences, equipped with an arsenal of horrific techniques, they have found ways to increase their lifespans and telepathic powers by preying off the vulnerable.
Firebird borrowed concepts from Star Wars, Star Trek, and other places, but in Fusion Fire Tyers demonstrates how deftly she has reworked these elements into an original story. Readers get to see more of interesting characters such as Carradee and Tel Tellai, and find themselves in the unlikely position of pitying Firebird's malicious sister Phoena. They also observe the somewhat amusing fate of Ellet Kinsman, the manipulative woman who only had eyes for Brennen.
Firebird is relentlessly confronted by evil, both within and without. Seeking to uncover her own latent psychic talents, she must wrestle with darkness inside herself. The malevolent Shuhr are a truly hideous menace, particularly the masterminds Dru Polar and Eshdeth Shirak. Tyers inflicts a great deal of damage on her characters. Both they and her readers must ask how God can permit such evil, and what He is doing while His creatures suffer. As in our world, His purposes are often opaque to mortals, but eventually Firebird is permitted to see some of them come together as retribution strikes at the heart of the Shuhr's arrogant schemes.
Fusion Fire also reveals more of the Sentinels' religion. The ceremony of Firebird's consecration includes a very striking vision of the Sentinels' ancestors and a desperate midnight sacrifice that hints at a greater atonement. However, I felt there were places when the Sentinels' language and beliefs corresponded a bit too obviously with contemporary evangelicalism. For example, the fiery darkness inside Firebird is already a potent symbol for original sin, without the characters meditating on it and explaining it in theological terms.
Overall, though, this is a highly enjoyable work. Moving from hand-to-hand combat and outer space dogfights to psychological disintegration and a nearly fatal childbirth, Fusion Fire is a very compelling ride. Elliot Hanowski
Kathy took part in an online interview in February, 2000.
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