Review: A Vision Of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin


About A Vision Of Fire

The first novel from iconic X-Files star Gillian Anderson and New York Times bestselling author Jeff Rovin: a science fiction thriller of epic proportions.

Renowned child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is a single mom trying to juggle her job, her son, and a lackluster dating life. Her world is suddenly upturned when Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts speaking in tongues and having violent visions. Caitlin is sure that her fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father—a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan to dangerous levels—but when teenagers around the world start having similar outbursts, Caitlin begins to think that there’s a more sinister force at work.

In Haiti, a student claws at her throat, drowning on dry land. In Iran, a boy suddenly and inexplicably sets himself on fire. Animals, too, are acting irrationally, from rats in New York City to birds in South America to ordinary house pets. With Asia on the cusp of nuclear war, Caitlin must race across the globe to uncover the mystical links among these seemingly unrelated incidents in order to save her patient—and perhaps the world.

About the Authors

Gillian Anderson is an award-winning film, television, and theatre actress whose credits include the roles of Special Agent Dana Scully in the long-running and critically acclaimed drama series, The X-Files, ill-fated socialite Lily Bart in The House of Mirth, and Lady Dedlock in the BBC production of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. She is currently playing the role of Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier in Hannibal and is a costar on the television thriller, Crisis. She currently lives in the UK with her daughter and two sons.

Jeff Rovin is the author of more than 100 books, fiction and nonfiction, both under his own name, under various pseudonyms, or as a ghostwriter, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. He has written over a dozen Op-Center novels for the late Tom Clancy. Rovin has also written for television and has had numerous celebrity interviews published in magazines under his byline. He is a member of the Author’s Guild, the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Horror Writers of America, among others.

My Thoughts

[This review is based on an advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

I'll just say this straight away: A Vision Of Fire was a novel I really wanted to enjoy far more than I actually did. That's not to say the book is all bad, but given Gillian Anderson's creative pedigree I had expected a lot more. (She's Dana Scully for cripe's sake, of The X-Files fame, and was recently promoted to series regular for the next season of Hannibal, which, if you're not watching, you really should be!)

What I discovered was a story that was more like brain candy. It was fun when I was reading it, even if the prose was pretty basic and unengaged, but it was also easy to put down. And when I wasn't reading A Vision of Fire, I wasn't thinking a lot about it either. There wasn't enough meat in the execution of the premise for me to chew on in the off-hours, and the characters didn't have enough depth to make them compelling enough for me to fully invest in them.

Despite the psychological trauma of Maanik, daughter of an ambassador seeking a truce over border rivalries between India, Pakistan, and Kashmir, and an assassination attempt on the ambassador, the sense of danger is minimal. Her psychiatrist, Caitlin, never feels too out of her element or threatened by the minimalistic forces against her, and nobody really questions her motivations too intensely, particularly at times when it seems like it should be well deserved. There's a shadowy group, known conveniently enough as The Group, whose inclusion in the proceedings is negligible at best beyond the theft of a rock in the novel's opening sequence. Even the rock itself feels like a rather inconsequential and disconnected MacGuffin for large swathes of the story. Even half-way through the book I was still hoping for some degree of clarity as to what one side of the story had to do with another, and the ending ultimately failed to clarify or provide satisfactory closure in even broad terms. Propping up the entire construct with fairly hollow characters did little to help.

One thing that I did like, though, were the moments of psychiatric care and the segments between patient and healer. Although some of the elements became too swamped in woo for my tastes, other points worked well, such as Caitlin's observations of changes in behavior and posture of those around her, which caused her to adapt and change her own tactics in communication. Those types of shifts were handled well and struck me as being nicely thought out. Some of the symptoms that were being manifested by Maanik and others presented an intriguing mystery and some terrific scares.

While I didn't find the central cast and ancillary characters to be particularly well-drawn or charismatic enough to merit much attention, I rather enjoyed Caitlin's relationship with her son, Jacob, who is partially deaf and has a love of cooking. Their connectedness and sort-of shared telepathic (for lack of a better word) shorthand that can exist as a result of strong parental-child bonding was heartwarming, and helped speak to the strength of mental health and well-being that informs Caitlin's role in both her life and her profession. This relationship was one of the book's stronger aspects, in fact.

Although I give Anderson and Rovin plenty of credit for taking a rather interesting spin on the doomsday scenario, one that calls into question the when and where of their apocalypse at hand, the different elements they've strung together fail to merge successfully or provide a worthwhile resolution. A Vision of Fire is ultimately a science-fiction book that eschews science almost entirely, opting instead to present the story through nonsensical mysticism and kooky spirituality, while the plot is built atop at least two too many contrivances.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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