When I read it 20 years ago, I found Katherine Neville’s The Eight suspenseful, enthralling, compelling – a book worthy of the cult status it inspired. I hoped she would write a sequel. In The Fire, Neville finally returns with characters she created in The Eight, and new generations have taken center stage in her interwoven narratives. But, sadly, The Fire feels contrived and convoluted. As Art Taylor said in his Washington Post review, “much of the background information sounds as dry and impersonal as a Wikipedia entry, and the characters delivering it are often pretty lifeless.” Neville’s main character, Xie, is annoyingly dense for a one-time chess prodigy and unbelievable as half of the couple charged to reveal the “Original Instructions.” If you haven’t read The Eight, do – but skip the sequel.