For the past couple of weeks I've been reading the most engrossing story ever: The Fireman by Joe Hill.
About The Fireman• Paperback: 768 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (January 3, 2017)
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes The Fireman, which was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller when published in hardcover last year. The Fireman is 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.
Photo by Shane Leonard
About Joe HillJoe Hill is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Horns, Heart-Shaped Box, and NOS4A2. He is also the Eisner Award-winning writer of a six-volume comic book series, Locke & Key. He lives in New Hampshire. Find out more about Joe at his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @joe_hill, and Facebook.
I'm going to begin with the truth: I chose this book because Joe Hill is my oldest daughter's all-time favorite author. For years, ever since she found Horns and every volume of his award-winning comic series Locke and Key, I've heard about this man's writing. So even though anything post-apocalyptic or horror-related is my least favorite genre, I chose to read and review this book because I knew the writing would be impeccable.
Hill, and my daughter's very different literary taste, did not disappoint.
In The Fireman, Hill has created a world that's been set on fire. Homes, schools, hospitals all burn not at once, but when someone inside bursts into flames after being infected by Dragonscale. Somehow, despite the abject strangeness of this way the world is ending (one unpredictable explosion after the next) Hill manages to use pop culture references and characters so relatable, the reader can't help but almost find this new reality to be normal. I found myself loving some characters and wanting to shake others. You meet Harper, a caring nurse who loves Mary Poppins; Allie, a gritty teenager-turned-adult who's trying to help as much as she can in this environment; as well as Nick, Allie's younger brother, who's also been stretched beyond his years. Nick is deaf and uses sign language to communicate, something that is exquisitely translated. As a side note, I applaud Hill's consistent and sensitive (from what I've been told of Locke and Key) inclusion of characters with disabilities in his writings.
Finally, the reader will also meet the Fireman. Since I don't want to post any spoilers, this is all I will say regarding him: trust the man.
This book is both gruesome and exceedingly frustrating at times due to secondary characters who just won't cooperate. Even so, it brings beauty and love in the most unlikely places. If there ever is a spore that infects us all and ends the world as we know it, I hope there is a Harper out there somewhere, reminding us all that we can still find kindness even when all hope is certainly lost. Because in Hill's world of fire, even if you already have gone up in flames, there is still hope.
I received a copy of The Fireman from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.