Not on Fire, But Burning

Twenty-year-old Skyler saw it from the window: a metallic object that descended from the sky at terrific speed, slowed above the Golden Gate Bridge, and then severed the bridge’s suspension cables before a toxic mushroom cloud lifted above San Francisco . . .

Flash-forward to a future America, where no one knows who was responsible for the explosion in San Francisco—or even what that explosion was, exactly—but Muslims have nonetheless been herded onto the old Indian reservations in the west. In suburban New York, Skyler’s little brother Dorian is twelve and dreaming about killing Muslims . . . when his next-door neighbor adopts a Muslim orphan from the territories.

That simple act of benevolence will set off a series of increasingly terrifying incidents that force an entire community to reckon with their most deeply held beliefs, and—for Dorian—will lead to either tragedy or redemption.

Greg Hrbek’s Not on Fire, but Burning is a brilliant, wholly original novel, and an absorbing adventure into the dark heart of a frighteningly familiar America.

GREG HRBEK won the James Jones First Novel award for his book The Hindenburg Crashes Nightly. His short fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine and numerous literary journals, and in The Best American Short Stories anthology. He is writer in residence at Skidmore College.

A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
An NPR Best Book of 2015

“Hrbek’s prose is sharp and trenchant, his voice remarkably complex yet assured, and this novel is an impressive achievement: a narrative that is changing even as it is still taking place, still being reshaped by the news, by our collective and individual memories, and by the very consequences still unfolding from the event itself.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Masterful … A strong, suspenseful novel, rich in its language, clear eyed in its characters and propulsive in its plotting. Full of ambiguity, yet precise in its construction, “Not on Fire, But Burning” is a shining example of post-9/11, pre-next-disaster storytelling.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

“It is impossible to read Greg Hrbek’s brand new speculative fiction at this moment in time without thinking about all the Facebook posts in your feed about Paris, terrorism and Muslims. Not on Fire, But Burning is simultaneously a dark look at our possible near future and a hopeful one.  The book had me in tears by the end.”—CBC News

“Not on Fire, but Burning reads like a fever dream — spectacular, seductive, eerie, and surreal…Hrbek’s prose is hypnotic, his abrupt POV pivots are both dizzying and delightful, and his overarching meta-speculative style is utterly entrancing. Fans of Delillo, Atwood, or just great, innovative fiction, this one’s for you.”—Buzzfeed, 5 Great Books to Read in October

“With Not on Fire, but Burning, Hrbek has crafted something audacious: A novel that operates simultaneously as apocalyptic alarmism, brain-bending quantum fiction, character-driven drama and gripping mystery. It’s as poignant as it is perplexing and profound.”

“Brilliantly uncanny and read-it-under-your-desk-at-work suspenseful… You can approach the book as an allegory for the long-term aftermath of 9/11, or as a good, creepy read—it holds up beautifully on both fronts.”
GQ, 7 New Books to Celebrate the Arrival of Reading Season

“Gripping and unnerving, Not on Fire, but Burning is a brilliant critique on the prejudices and fears of the post-9/11 world.”
BuzzFeed, 19 Awesome New Books You Need To Read This Fall

“A strange and beautiful genre-busting novel about danger and memory.”
Elizabeth McCracken, Miami Herald

“As [Hrbek’s] characters uneasily navigate each other and their new world, they grapple with the same issues and prejudices of our current post-9/11 instability.”
KQED, 10 Fall Books to Anticipate

“Like the best speculative fiction, [Hrbek’s] 2038 America could serve as a warped reflection of our own time, probing post-9/11 anxieties.”
Omaha World-Herald, 8 Must-Read Books

“Hrbek…may be poised to be the next indie breakout.”
The Millions, Most Anticipated Books of 2015

“[Hrbek’s] engagement with themes of loss and recovery and his vibrantly lyrical prose style reach a peak in this dark, allusive fantasy, which seems intended as a metaphor for the anxieties still lurking in our post-9/11 universe.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A profound cautionary tale, a vivid and often deeply unnerving reminder that our choices carry real and lasting consequences.”
Publishers Weekly

“Hrbek delivers a captivating story filled with nuance. Every chapter brings a surprise, and Hrbek has real knack for stunning, unforgettable images and turns of phrase. Not on Fire, But Burning boldly questions America’s moral standing since 9/11, and brings to life the horrific consequences of ignorance, fear and hate.”

“A twisty, strange, brilliant novel. It’s troubling and beautiful, bold and compelling, a brainy, heartfelt page-turner.”
—Elizabeth McCracken

“In Not on Fire, but Burning, Greg Hrbek offers up a sweeping vision of not only disaster, but also belief. The capacious and audacious narrative turns from future to past on a dime. I couldn’t stop reading, and I couldn’t stop questioning what I knew. Masterful, fresh, and compelling.”
—V. V. Ganeshananthan

“Not on Fire, but Burning is a mystery, a thriller, a sharp critique of contemporary culture, and an explosive family drama all in one. Hrbek’s got the chops and he’s got the brains, but most importantly he cares about his readers, and he gives us that greatest of literary gifts: the inability to do anything but keep turning pages.”
—Ron Currie, Jr., author of Everything Matters, God Is Dead, and Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

Praise for The Hindenburg Crashes Nightly

“Provocative . . . Hrbek writes with an appealing lyricism, and he knows how to deliver a bravura scene.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Irresistible.”—The Atlanta Journal Constitution“Sensuous prose and vital characters . . . magnetic, difficult, strange and well worth the read.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Subtle, inventive, moving.”—Kirkus Reviews“A compelling story of obsessed passion.”
—San Francisco Examiner