BayardFirelandsPiper Bayard has been a long-time blogging buddy of mine. She’s kind enough to comment on many of my posts and even kinder to like even more. Piper recently published her novel Firelands, and she sent me a copy that I began reading right away. My schedule this entire month has been unfriendly to literacy, but I was always glad to have a few minutes to read a few more chapters of an intriguing post-apocalyptic future. What’s more, Piper is keenly aware that religion is behind much of politics—a point she boldly makes by constructing a dictatorship based around a miracle-claiming prophet-king who oppresses those who don’t believe—the Seculars, or “Secs.” Interestingly, Piper decided on the name Josephites for the religious rulers, and there are dark undertones here for those who know their religious history. As an unabashed fan of allegorical writing, I saw quite a lot here that was, well, apocalyptic, in the literal sense of the word.

In a misogynic future, the Josephites, who dwell in cities, burn many women for various heretical crimes in autos-da-fé entitled Atonements. These human sacrifices ensure fertility and also help to explain the trials of life in a post-cataclysmic world. The protagonist, Archer, has to not only survive, but to try to save her cousin, a grandchild of the eponymous Joseph, from the flames. The Josephites live in a society of thinly rooted but strongly mandated religion. There is an underground of true Christians, and Archer, although a Sec, acts with more compassion than any of the Josephites, except perhaps her cousin. In a world that has lost its bearings, religion both undergirds and undermines a dystopian society where differences of faith have come to define everyone’s role in a harsh world. (Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.)

In this world where heaven is a fiery hell, I realized that Archer was more familiar than she first seemed. A female warrior, she opens the book by tracking a large stag to feed her starving people. Nevertheless, it took me many chapters to realize that she was a hypostatic Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. No wonder she couldn’t convert to the standard religion! Her example leads the way toward a renewable and sustainable future, in touch with nature, while the “religious” in their urban environment are dying on the vine as they appear to thrive. This is a world where old gods are more authentic than an enforced religion that few believe and that only rules through fear. There is much more I could say about Piper’s fascinating book, but I want you to read it for yourself. Visit Piper’s website for more information, and support the work of an author who really has something to say!

4 thoughts on “Firelands

  1. I can’t thank you enough for your time in reading FIRELANDS. I knew you would see things in it and read it on a level that many people would miss. For example, you’re the first person to pick up on the Archer/Artemis connection.

    I’m also glad you noticed the name “Josephites.” Many people think I mean it as a slam on Mormons, but I never even thought of that as I wrote the book. It was always an analogy with Joseph who controlled the grain in Egypt and made the Egyptians give up everything they had to the Pharaoh to purchase it during the years of famine.

    I have always appreciated your support, encouragement, and friendship here in the blogosphere, as well as your ability to make me go to a dictionary. Thank you, again. 🙂


    • Steve Wiggins

      The pleasure was all mine, Piper! I appreciated the complexity of the story and I always have a soft spot for a good dystopia. Keep up the great work!


  2. Pingback: The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Power Company Sends Hate Mail to Streetlight « Bayard & Holmes

  3. Dave

    “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” Yes, indeed. But I fear that few have ears and fewer are willing to use them to hear unpleasant truths. Queue up the fires…


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