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The Fireman: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 771 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
I LOVED THIS BOOK! I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reading Copy of it but I have already pre-ordered a hardcover for my library. I actually might order two - one to keep in pristine condition on my library shelf and another that I already plan on re-reading over and over. And that, in itself, is rare. I read so many books that hardly ever do I re-read one.
My favorite genre of books is horror and even more appealing to me is the sub-genre of post-apocalyptic/dystopian books. So I knew I was probably going to like this tale.
Plus I've read Joe Hill's other books (except for his graphic novels) and I enjoyed them.
But this is a post-apocalyptic book that I loved as much as ANY I've ever read. And Joe Hill has taken a giant leap forward with his writing prowess.
- I loved the characters. Harper, the nurse who models herself off of Mary Poppins, and John, the Fireman, are my favorites but author Hill brings the whole incredible cast of characters to life on these pages - from the innocent to the maniacal. The most important "character" is Draco incendia trychophyton, or Dragonscale - wildly imaginative and deadly.
- Most of the story takes place in New Hampshire and I could visualize the settings clearly.
- The storyline - I'm not going into any detail on the story. Everyone that reads or listens to this book should experience it firsthand with no spoilers. Set aside a weekend or longer if you need it and immerse yourself in this world that Joe Hill has created.
This book has made it into my top 10 books of all time. So, if you couldn't tell, again - I LOVED THIS BOOK. I can't think of anything I didn't love about it.
Thank you to William Morrow Books through Edelweiss for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
The first half of this book starts out fantastic. We see the slow decline of mankind and experience it with the main character, Harper. I can't really think of any disease more terrifying than one that could cause you to spontaneously combust without any sort of warning. I liked Harper for the most part, but she was pretty generic. Kind of a cardboard cut out nurse.
Of course, at about the halfway point, we do meet the thing more terrifying than the disease that causes you to spontaneously combust, self preserving, panicked humans. I think Carol is the most terrifying, but there is also Jakob Grayson, the Marlboro Man, and a whole slew of others. A good horror story all around. The horror never seems to end for Harper and her friends.
By that I mean, this book never seems to end. Don't get me wrong, I don't object to books being long. In fact- I like long. I think my objection to the length of this book comes from a lack of focus or clear direction. First the antagonist is the dragon scale itself, then it's her husband, Jakob Grayson, then its group think and Carol Storey, then it's the Governor of Maine. I thought this book was over when I was at the 75% mark. It felt over. We reached a huge climax, overcame it, and moved on. It should have ended. I thought that other 25% was acknowledgements and book previews, etc., etc. as my kindle app so often tells me I'm only 75% finished when the book is actually done. I was ready for someone to put these characters out of their misery.
That being said- I did enjoy the story overall. I like the fireman character. I adored Nick. I felt bad about Mr. Truffles. That seemed unnecessary. The horror was real. I will definitely keep on with Joe Hill. I don't think the drawn out ending outweighed the good story telling here, but it wasn't NOS4A2. If you want to read Joe Hill and haven't checked out NOS4A2 yet- start with that one.
Let me start with the title, The Fireman. It is a rather deceptive title since the character of the Fireman ends up being a rather boring literary tool, to deliver exposition, and is not the main character. It would be akin to someone who titled their book Robin Hood but the point of view was entirely from Maid Marian’s perspective. It would be an interesting story but many would be disappointed because they expected a story about Robin Hood and not the daily life of Maid Marian in a castle, where now and again Robin Hood made an appearance. Now if someone were to name that book Marian and the Hood any reader would not be surprised that it was from Maid Marion’s perspective.
I found the narrative style used by Mr. Hill rather frustrating. There would be sections that ended with a cliffhanger phrase that would contradict the intentions of the characters. A paraphrased example: “That was the plan, until the hospital burned down.” That would be the end of that chapter and the next chapter would go into the events of the hospital burning down. Little phrases like this constantly occurred throughout the book and frustrated me every time. It killed any anticipation I had for seeing what would happen next. Normally I don’t mind spoilers that much, because a good story will still be good even if I know what is going to happen. This was not a good a story.
The story is an apocalyptic survival story, but it lacks an essential component to any good story — conflict. The case could be made that the conflict is one of survival, but there are better told survival stories; the 1987 YA Novel, Hatchet, being one. What made Hatchet work is watching how the main character adapted to his circumstances of being stranded. There was character growth as he learned how to shelter himself and gather food, using only his hatchet. In The Fireman, the main character continues to make bad decision after bad decision without ever learning from her mistakes. There was no character growth, there was definitely a character shifting though.
Harper, the main character, starts off as a school nurse completely smitten with the Disney film, Mary Poppins. The book mentions how she likes to use Mary Poppins inspired phrases in place of profanity — a phrase like ‘spit spot’. Later in the book, she is suddenly using words that would make a sailor blush and considers people who use words like ‘shoot and darn’ as prissy. The main character became a blank slate used by Mr. Hill to become whatever needed to contrast the personality of other characters. I stopped being able to sympathize with Harper the more her personality started to make rocks look exciting.
Another problem with characters from this book are the villains. Each villain is a boring stereotype. Need an evil ultra-conservative talk radio host, he’s there. The sociopathic husband bent on getting revenge, he’s there too. In fact, far too many pages were spent on the husband who eventually becomes a most minor character. There is also the stereotypical control freak trying to gain power of the refuge camp, and of course she is a woman. The creepy ex-cop because, sure, all cops are creeps now a days, right?
There was nothing that surprised me in this series of events. I predicted that the Fireman would die in the end. I predicted that the baby would be a girl even though Harper was sure it was a boy. I predicted the exact sequence of how the final confrontation with her husband would go, including him getting stomped by Sarah, the dead woman living in the flames. I predicted who the murderer in the camp was although not the reason why. I predicted their destination was a trap. I predicted how they would escape said trap. The problem with these events were not that they were predictable but that they were boring.
I absolutely loved the premise of a spore causing humans to spontaneously combust. Mr. Hill wrote a fairly convincing setting where society is collapsing under such a threat. It was excellent world building. That’s all this was, a good idea with a loose series of events with an inconsistent main character and a meaningless theme involving social media. This book could have been saved with stronger editing and about 200 fewer pages. I cannot in good conscious recommend this book to anyone.
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