The first episode of Wilson Geiger‘s serial fiction story, Ash and Flame, opens with Ren and his daughter Emma crossing a post-apocalyptic United States. It feels familiar, comfortably so. The fear is well evoked, and that particular sense of the past that forms the best post-apocalyptic stories, a broken sort of nostalgia, fills the scenes. Ren’s love for Emma pairs with his desperate search for safety and a rumored place called “Haven.” All they can find are trailers that they hope are empty and scavenged food.
As the opening scenes wrap up, a reader wouldn’t be surprised to meet a shambling mass of zombies. The story creates that ambience well.
Instead, in a welcome change, when the battle comes Ren has to face a squad of demonic forces, and they appear to take special interest in Emma. The apocalypse, it turns out, was the arrival of both demons and angels in our world. How exactly they match up with any traditional idea of either is so far unclear in the series, though there are hints that it will not be as simple as basic good versus evil.
For years, people have been saying that angels are the next vampires, poised to explode in popularity. Despite some stories here and there, this hasn’t happened yet, which is probably good for Ash and Flame, as they still have a freshness that this series can make use of.
When the story shifts to Haven, in an old industrial complex on the river in St. Louis, there are hints that it won’t give Ren and Emma the perfect safety they had hoped for. The angel protector and its human allies may not be as welcoming as he’d come to expect.
And here is where this first episode leaves us, with one last revelation that I don’t wish to spoil.
Serial fiction requires a unique balancing act, demanding both an interesting episode in itself and something that will propel readers on into the next episodes. When done well, it is neither just a chapter of a longer work, nor a self-contained short story, but somewhere in between. Geiger handles this tension well in this first episode.
The one potential criticism about the story so far is its familiarity. It runs close to that edge between the familiar elements being a fun entrance into the lives of its characters and being a story we’ve heard or seen before. Whether it crosses that line or not will likely vary from reader to reader, and even more, I suspect, will depend on where the story goes in future episodes.
The full answer to that, and any deeper look into the full story, will have to wait for the future episodes. The full season will comprise six episodes total, with a new one released in the middle of each month. What’s here in the first episode certainly sets the stage for a good series, both for fans of zombie apocalypse stories and readers who are interested in something similar but fresh. It will be a series to follow in the months ahead.
From the publisher: The Accord has been broken, the balance of Heaven and Hell shattered.
The war between the armies of Heaven and Hell has been waged on Earth, leaving the world a cracked husk. Humanity clings to life, hidden in the ruins of former cities, seeking refuge from the demons that walk the streets and the angels that soar the darkened skies.
From the mind of Wilson Geiger comes a new series, a frightening vision of the fall of mankind.
Ren and his young daughter, Emma, struggle for survival. When Ren and Emma find refuge at the Haven, a stronghold guarded by the angel Ithuriel and his band of blessed human soldiers against demonic forces lead by Azazel, they may have found the home they so desperately need.
But in the aftermath of the broken Accord, in a world where nowhere is safe, no one can be trusted, and one misstep can lead to death and desolation of the soul, the lines between good and evil blur. Angels cater to their own agendas. Demons wear familiar faces. No one is without a secret. And the dark secrets that Ren and Emma shield from the world and from each other have the power to tip the balance. But in whose favor?
This is the world of Ash and Flame, a dangerous, sinister new place, where survival is more than just staying alive.
Author: Daniel Ausema
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