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‘The Forever Ship’ a fitting ending

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Novel marks finale of excellent speculative trilogy

There’s nothing quite like a literary trilogy. As a reader, there’s something wonderful about seeing a story unfold over the course of three books; you get more detailed narrative than in a single book without having to deal with the nebulous endpoint of an ongoing series.

In many ways, three is the magic number.

It’s certainly magic for Francesca Haig, whose new novel “The Forever Ship” (Gallery, $26) marks the third and final installment of her “Fire Sermon” series. It is a well-wrought and engaging finale to what has proven to be an exquisitely-detailed dystopian vision.

This world – a world still suffering the aftereffects of a centuries-past nuclear blast – is in upheaval. The twinning that is central to their existence – the unbreakable bond between the physically perfect Alphas and the mutated Omegas – has led to a feudal society whose structure is less than amenable to those not in power.

The battle between the entrenched establishment Alphas and the Omegas who seek only to be treated as equals is coming to a head. Cass, the Omega seer whose brother Zach once sat in a seat of power on the Alpha Council, can see what is coming – a plan by the Alphas to break the longstanding taboo against machines and resurrect the deadly technology of the past in order to launch a preemptive strike against the people of the Scattered Islands, also known as Elsewhere.

Every time Cass closes her eyes, she sees the consequences of that plan – blinding fire that will destroy not just the people of Elsewhere, but her own people as well. But the monomaniacal General – new leader of the Council – will stop at nothing to bring her plan to fruition. And even as she struggles to counter the General’s deadly scheme, she must also find a way to free the thousands of Omegas who have been taken captive by the Alphas.

With just a handful of allies that she can truly trust, Cass must navigate the complicated waters of warfare. She has almost no hope of success – but it is only her success that can save the world from dooming itself once again. And this time, there will be no coming back. It will be the end.

A writer invites a fair amount of pressure when undertaking a trilogy. The reader invests not just the time reading the books, but also the time between books spent waiting for the next installment. Allowing each novel to stand on its own merits while also weaving together the overarching narrative is a difficult trick to pull off.

Haig handles it beautifully.

“The Forever Ship” is a compelling conclusion to what has proven to be an exceptional example of speculative fiction. Dystopian stories in general might feel a bit played out, but there’s a freshness to what Haig has created that avoids feeling redundant or derivative. The world-building, the character development, the relationship dynamics, the narrative tension – all the pieces are there for a high-quality trilogy.

Haig is a marvelous writer – there’s a depth to her prose that is often lacking in genre fiction. She is evocative with her imagery without ever coming off as florid; the intimacy that creates makes for a reading experience that is utterly engrossing. She has a particular knack for intertwining moments of hope and beauty amidst blocks of bleakness; the post-apocalyptic society she has built is the best kind of overbearing and suffocating, but those flashes of light among the shadows are what really make these stories transcend.

You might think that literary dystopia has nothing left to offer you, but if you have yet to experience this trilogy, you’re wrong. “The Fire Sermon,” “The Map of Bones” and now “The Forever Ship” are formidable, fascinating reading – a trilogy well worth every minute you really ought to spend with it.

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 December 2017 12:04


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