Fire Drill is an ambitious collection of essays in which the author 'attempts to make sense of the first decade of the twenty-first century'. It represents a strand of contemporary thought at once Barnie’s but also that of a wider, if relatively silent section of the general public. The essays are antagonistic to 'junk culture', political expediency, cultural imperialism, globalisation and reject any depiction of the natural world that sentimentalises its realities. Central to the book is Barnie’s atheism (his value system is dependent on scientific 'proof' rather than cultural mores) which gives a strand in the book in which he painstakingly dissects biblical texts and confronts what he believes a major contemporary problem: the influence of the literalists and creationists of modern religion. The debunking is done with engaging relish. The reader will also be engaged by another strand of vivid essays concerning Barnie’s personal engagement with the natural.
Barnie’s insights are hard won and lucidly expressed. The essays are liberal, humanist and informed by varying degrees of altruism, environmentalism and culture. They are concerned with humanity and how it responds to and is manipulated and exploited by capitalism, religion, politics and technology, and by how buying into this exploitation (knowingly or not) has created a reduction in human experience (junk culture, short-termism, the cult of self) and human capacity of experience. Barnie doesn’t set out to be popular (or unpopular), the careful, informed setting out of argument and opinion is one of the book’s strengths.