Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Fireman

The Fireman by Joe Hill
HarperCollins: 1/3/17
Trade paperback; 768 pages
trade paperback ISBN-13: 9780062200648

The Fireman by Joe Hill is a very highly recommended apocalyptic novel about a pandemic, cults, and the end of the world.

We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion and there is no cure. Draco Incendia Trychophyton, nicknamed Dragonscale, is a spore that marks its human host with black and gold-flecked marks, like a fine intricate tattoo that spreads. Once infected those with Dragonscale are also quite likely to burst into flames. People and cities are on fire and the highly contagious plague is rapidly spreading. But panic is spreading faster and people can be even more ruthless than Dragonscale.

Harper Grayson is a nurse who loves Mary Poppins. She was at an elementary school, until the school closes after a man wanders onto the playground and bursts into flames. She goes to work at a hospital, wearing full biohazard protective gear, in Concord, NH, until the hospital burns down. At the hospital, she met an enigmatic fireman with a British accent who brought in a child with appendicitis.

Harper and Jakob, her husband, had a pact to take their own lives if either of them became infected. When Harper discovers that she is pregnant and then finds the telltale black and gold-flecked filigreed markings of Dragonscale, she decides she wants to live for the sake of her baby. At the hospital she saw infected mothers deliver healthy babies and she is sure she can survive long enough to do this. Her husband Jakob has other plans. He is losing his tenuous grip on his sanity and is sure she has infected him and that they both must die.

Harper is rescued by The Fireman, aka John Rookwood. He, along with some masked helpers, takes her to Camp Wyndham. It used to be a summer camp, but now it houses a group of 'scale-marked survivors who have found a way to control the Dragonscale, although not to the extent that The Fireman can use it for his purposes. The camp has a cult-like hive-mind atmosphere, as the members sing to the Bright. But there are other cults developing across the land and Jakob joins with the Marlboro Man as part of the Cremation Squads who seek out those infected with Dragonscale and kill them.

All people, left, right, pacifists, militant, any religion, racial group, or sexual orientation, are susceptible to cult-like group-think behavior. All of us. Even as some of us see or acknowledge the behavior, on all sides, that doesn't stop it. Hill has captured this truism with clarity in The Fireman while giving us a rousingly clever, brilliant story that is part science fiction, part horror, and part social commentary. It is a perfectly epic apocalyptic thriller.  At 768 pages, I was surprised at how quickly I read The Fireman. I give credit to the exceptional writing, captivating story, wonderful, fully realized characters, and the astute, chilling realism of people's behavior in an inconceivable situation.

There are a plethora of pop culture and literary references included in The Fireman. I found myself smiling when spotting them, and saying "Nice one, Joe." It'll be fun for other readers to find them while enjoying The Fireman.

Disclosure: My trade paperback copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.



Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Wow, this book ... I'm massively invested just from reading your review. I'm off to see if it is available on right now!

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Lori L said...

The Fireman is a winner, Heather!