The Fireman – Joe Hill
17th May 2016, 768 pages, 5/5 stars
I absolutely adored this book, and that makes it incredibly difficult to review!
I knew of Joe Hill before I read this book – he’s Stephen King’s son, and his novel Horns was adapted into a film with Daniel Radcliffe in 2013. However, I didn’t feel the need to pick up any of his books until The Fireman came along. The premise reminded me of King’s The Stand, a book about a superflu; I became convinced that my headcold would kill me while I was reading it, but I loved it nonetheless.
Joe Hill creates a different kind of virus for his apocalyptic novel. Dragonscale covers its victims in beautiful black and gold patterns, before causing them to spontaneously combust. Obviously, Hill explains it a lot better than I do, but I found this completely enthralling. I studied science to a first-year university level, and was really impressed with how real he managed to make the disease sound.
Harper Grayson is the story’s protagonist, and she is absolutely perfect. A school nurse, she imagines herself as a Mary Poppins type. It was amusing to see her Disney obsession in juxtaposition with the horrifying disease taking over the world. She also loves Harry Potter – a girl after my own heart! Harper discovers that she is pregnant, shortly before contracting Dragonscale. Her husband, Jakob, decided that they should commit suicide in an attempt to control their demise, but Harper desperately wants her baby. Jakob leaves, and goes a little bit crazy…
Then the Fireman arrives in Harper’s life – a calm and commanding presence who offers her an alternative to waiting out her pregnancy and illness in solitude. She recognises him from the hospital where she used to work – he brought in a young, deaf Dragonscale-affected boy with appendicitis, and then disappeared. He takes her to a camp with other ‘sick’; a place where those with Dragonscale live normal and even enlightened lives! There were a few religious moments, but Harper seemed a lot more dedicated to Mary Poppins than to God, which made me laugh.
The story is an incredible mix of humour and seriousness, with a cast of truly fantastic characters. Important topics are covered, most particularly humanity’s reaction to disaster. I loved every moment, though it did take me a few days to get over the ending! My only complaint is that the book could have been a tiny bit shorter – but the chapters were short, and easy to get through so it didn’t really affecting the reading process all that much!
I am now determined to read Joe Hill’s backlist! Hopefully my library stocks his other books – particularly Horns; it looks hysterical!
Nobody knew where the virus came from.
FOX News said it had been set loose by ISIS, using spores that had been invented by the Russians in the 1980s.
MSNBC said sources indicated it might’ve been created by engineers at Halliburton and stolen by culty Christian types fixated on the Book of Revelation.
CNN reported both sides.
While every TV station debated the cause, the world burnt.
Pregnant school nurse, HARPER GRAYSON, had seen lots of people burn on TV, but the first person she saw burn for real was in the playground behind the school.
With the epic scope of THE PASSAGE and the emotional impact of THE ROAD, this is one woman’s story of survival at the end of the world.
Are books you love harder to review than books you hate, or books you merely like?