Inhabiting a ‘World on Fire’

I feel like I experienced the end of the world this week. Any opportunity I had – whether it be in the car (after I dropped off the kids at school), washing dishes, folding laundry – I listened to Rick Springfield’s newest novel, “World on Fire.”

I admit that I started the book only because it was written by my favorite rock star and I enjoy his writing style – it’s not the genre that I would typically choose. In the first hour of the 10-hour book, I was still adjusting to the storyline and dark nature of the book, which is different than books I’ve been reading lately. By the second hour or so, I was hooked. He’s a great storyteller and within the dark, depressing, graphic details of the pandemic, there are laugh-out-loud moments (as odd as that may sound).

The mix of history, religion, humor, human nature and pop culture swirl around together throughout the book and through the main character’s ADD, you kind of get a sense of the sort of things that go through RS’s mind. RS fans may recall snippets from various interviews and social media posts as different topics pop up throughout the storyline – dogs, the Titanic, sci-fi books and films and happy childhood memories.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, as it just came out Jan. 28 so fans may not have had a chance to listen to it yet, but it dominated my week so I just wanted to recommend it here. Here’s the publisher’s summary of the book on Audible:

World on Fire” picks up where Magnificent Vibration left off: with the hapless Bobby Cotton and his beloved bride (and former nun), Alice, having unleashed a global pandemic that’s fast wiping out half the world’s population – and at God’s request.  

Bobby guides a very pregnant Alice and a motley crew of survivors to the Holy Land, darting through the hazards of a world that has fallen to pieces in a way more thorough than any we have seen.  

But Bobby’s newborn daughter is born with astonishing abilities, and she’s not alone. A miraculous Convergence is headed for Galilee, where the stakes include survival of the Earth as we know it and the human race.  

By turns hilarious and deadly serious, “World on Fire” explores the fate of the Earth in an utterly original way. 

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the audiobook format because there’s nothing like finding a comfortable spot and getting lost in a great, physical book, but for “World on Fire,” I really enjoyed the audio version – not just because RS was reading it, but because he brought the dialogue to life with different voice and sound effects. For now it’s available exclusively on Audible (they’re having a free trial if you don’t have it yet) but perhaps it will be available in hard copy in the future as well. I couldn’t wait.

One of the benefits of an audiobook is that you can listen to it while you’re doing other things so you don’t have to feel guilty because you’re not feeding the kids or getting things done around the house because you’re devoting so much time to reading a book. You can listen to it while you cook, while you clean and while you’re driving. (My life really isn’t that boring, although it probably sounds like it from that sentence. Although of course we are mainly at home these days due to the real-life pandemic so there’s more cooking and cleaning than usual.)

The book has been in progress for about six years (“Magnificent Vibration” came out in 2014 and this is the sequel to that), so it’s pretty bizarre that he recorded it and released it during a real pandemic. If 2020 had gone as originally planned, RS would have been busy touring around the country so who knows how that would have affected the book’s timeline. Would it still have come out on audio only or would a book tour have also been scheduled? No way of knowing of course since we’ve already shifted realities and we don’t know what other possibilities would have existed.

The “Jesus Boat” in the Yigal Allon Centre, from a 2013 visit to Israel

One thing about the book that was mind-blowing to me personally was the wide ground it covered and the connection it had with different parts of my life. The RS compartment of my life is typically connected to my younger self and my music-loving/songwriting self but not really with my faith, except for his spiritual-seeking side in a general way. However, because much of the storyline takes place in Israel – a place I’ve visited and where I have family – it felt much more personal. It was surreal to discover that the “Wailing Wall” is mentioned in one of the chapter titles, that one of the main settings in the book is a museum in Israel (The Yigal Allon Centre) that I’ve visited and that he throws in some Hebrew and Yiddish words and expressions. It was a reminder that we actually do inhabit the same planet.

So many of the pop culture references mentioned also made me feel this way – that we’re all here on this planet and the idea that so many of the things we take for granted could disappear hit home more than I think it would have had we not been experiencing a real pandemic. Restaurant buffets, shopping without a face mask, attending a concert, enjoying a multigenerational holiday meal – all things that before 2020 were a given. Hopefully with the vaccine here, some of these things will return soon, but the state I live in is currently one of the COVID-19 hotspots so it still feels like a long way off.

The book may not be for everyone – very few things are – but I really enjoyed inhabiting it for a few days (although I’m grateful that it’s fiction). It was dark and exposed some really negative attributes of our world, but it was also infused with humor and a hope for goodness.

What did you think of the book?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s