I’m so excited to share my thoughts on Joe Hill’s recent release, The Fireman, today on Mama Reads!
• 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.
Joe Hill’s excoriating novel, The Fireman, will make you forget it’s almost 800 pages long. Unless you’re like me and limited to about an hour of reading time most days, then you are counting down the minutes until you can get your next fix of tales of those with the ‘scale.
I flagged so many passages and words in this book it looks like I was sponsored by Post-It (I wasn’t, but that would be cool. *whistles and winks totally inconspicuously.)
Not many horror novels veer so far off the path of the genre as to become something else entirely, but The Fireman succeeds in doing so more than once.
Harper wasn’t a perfectly likable protagonist to begin with, and I loved that she was imperfect. Humans never really are immaculate anyway, and I tend to get bored with books in which they are too squeaky clean and mundane. And John Rookwood can come chase squirrels out of my attic if he wants. I won’t stop him. But I digress.
The book, yeah? So it’s definitely not for children, though quite honestly I think most people would be ok with their teens reading it, maybe learning a thing or two.
I really enjoyed the little nuggets of pop culture reference frequently sprinkled throughout, and didn’t find them tedious or feel like Hill was trying too hard to make them seem natural. That’s really how the entire book feels. As if it just naturally sprang from him, yet I can almost surely imagine that it was an effort to pen in its entirety.
It shouldn’t be difficult to read a long book, or not as difficult as writing it. If the author successfully pulls the reader in, as Hill does here, they become immersed in the experience of a new world, new characters, and the trials they face, not sitting there counting the pages and wishing to be done with it already.
The Fireman is post apocalyptic, and its not. It’s horrific, yet hopeful, and of course dark and humorous. I can’t imagine having to actually classify it as any one thing, and that’s what makes it one of my new favorite reads. 2017 is off to a fantastic start thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow/Harper Collins!
Joe 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.