Book Reviews

{Review} The Fireman by Joe Hill

by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on 5.17.16
Genres: Apocalyptic, Dark Fiction, Horror, Psychological Horror, Thriller
Pages: 768
Format: eARC
Buy on Amazon

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

Dragonscale! It’s a disease, a plague really, that etches one’s skin with what looks like black hieroglyphics. Unfortunately, at some point the hieroglyphs light up and burst into flame and when they do, it’s all over for you. If you happen to be standing next to anything flammable, it all over for that, (or them), too.

The world as we know it falls apart due to the ‘scale, and people react much as you think they would. Picture how Donald Trump would react to people bursting into flame and how he would deal with those infected, in an effort to quell the disease. That’s exactly what happens here. Hatred and fear of infection takes over and leads to even more deaths-most of which were unnecessary.

I’m a big fan of Joe Hill and when I heard about this book, I went about making it my life’s mission to get an advance copy and I’m so glad I did. The Fireman is, in my opinion, his best book yet. The characters are the most developed we’ve seen from him so far, which makes it difficult to witness the trials Hill puts them through.

Mr. Hill excels at writing extremely strong women and Harper is no exception. She is a nurse who willingly helps treat those with the ‘scale, while many in the medical field, and her own husband, want to run headlong in the opposite direction. Turns out Harper’s husband is nothing like what she thought he was, and when she, herself, becomes infected, he makes it out to be her fault, and his true self is finally revealed. Fighting the disease, fighting her husband, trying to fight against the spread of the ‘scale, Harper is a true hero and she owns this story.

Populated with other strong characters, both good and bad, this story reflects an imagination with a broad scope and a penchant for suffering. Although, at times Hill’s prose rambles, I never found myself bored or losing interest; only becoming more agitated, worried and excited about what was going to come next. Would Harper make it through this? What about the plucky survivors, both good and evil? What about her horrible husband? You’ll have to read this book to find out!

The Fireman was an epic tale, populated with characters you love and hate, highlighting what’s both good and bad in society today. Somehow, though, I came out of the experience with a sense of hope and also a sense of excitement regarding what Joe Hill will do next.

Highly recommended for fans of post- apocalyptic tales and fans of Joe Hill!


*Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing a free e-ARC of The Fireman in exchange for an honest review. This is it!*

About Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the author of three novels, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2, as well as a prize-winning collection of stories, 20th Century Ghosts. He also wrote a pair of comics: Locke & Key and Wraith (which ties into the world of NOS4A2). Some nice people gave him an Eisner Award for his work in funny books, which is a great honor, even if “funny” probably doesn’t do a good job of describing the kinds of things that happen in the comics. Come to think of it, his comics aren’t very comic either.

You can get nearly daily doses of his pithy one-liners and mind-numbing insights over on Twitter, where he goes by the inspired handle of joe_hill. He blabs about all things pop culture over on his Tumblr, Joe Hill’s Thrills. Now and then he even updates this website.

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