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The Fireman: A Novel Hardcover – May 17, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2016: I admit, when I hit a saggy part in a story, I do skip ahead to see if the plot will pick up again. At no point in Joe Hill’s doorstop-weight novel did I have that urge, for each and every page had me entranced. Set in New Hampshire right about now, The Fireman opens with a man spontaneously combusting outside the office of school nurse Harper Grayson. He’s not the first victim of Draco incendia trychophyton, the spore responsible for this transformation, but he’s the signal that Dragonscale has spread to Harper’s small town. It also spreads to Harper soon after she realizes she’s pregnant. Highly contagious and 100 percent fatal, Dragonscale soon plunges the world into chaos. (An oddly affective moment is when Harper logs onto Google and finds, instead of the search engine, the words “Goodby.”) But Hill smartly focuses on Harper and her attempts at survival, keeping the stakes small but extremely personal as the uninfected hunt down and murder the infected, supposedly to protect the rest of the town but really to indulge in sociopathic tendencies now unleashed. The Fireman starts with a hot burn, simmers as Harper joins a group of infected hiding in a summer camp, and then heats up again as the near-utopian community ruptures. Hill weaves questions about the power of leadership, group-think, love, catastrophe, and family into the plot. His smartest move is to give no clear-cut answers to these questions, making The Fireman more substantial and real than a typical apocalyptic thriller. And his humdinger of an ending provides just the right closure. --Adrian Liang
From Publishers Weekly
In Hill's superb supernatural thriller, the world is falling apart in a maelstrom of flame and fury. A spore dubbed Dragonscale infects people, draws patterns on their skin, and eventually makes them spontaneously combustâand it's rapidly spreading. School nurse Harper Grayson volunteers at a local hospital in Concord, N.H., until it burns down. Soon she discovers that not only is she infected but she's also pregnant. As the beautiful filigreed markings of Dragonscale start to flourish on her body, she vows to do anything to bring her baby safely into the world. Her husband, Jakob, doesn't want the baby and attacks Harper when he realizes she wants to keep it. Harper flees and encounters John Rookwood, a near-mythical figure known as the Fireman. He takes her to Camp Wyndham, where the infected have learned to control and harness what they call the Brightâthe flames that smolder just beneath their skin. Harper finds purpose there, but Jakob has found a purpose too: he's joined the Cremation Crews, brutal marauders who kill the infected on sight. When the peace of the camp is threatened, Harper, John, and their friends band together. The good-hearted Harper is a captivating heroine, the peaceful eye in a storm of evil that threatens to harm everyone she holds dear, and it's impossible not to root for her. Hill has followed 2013's NOS4A2 with a tremendous, heartrending epic of bravery and love set in a fully realized and terrifying apocalyptic world, where hope lies in the simplest of gestures and the fullest of hearts. (May)\n
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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.
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 tale is dark for much of the book, but throughout there is a golden thread of hope that keeps you going. It's actually quite uplifting at times, a lot of which is due to the main character's charm and appeal. Harper is wonderfully developed. She has good values and the caring demeanor of a true nurse, but she's also flawed in that she tends to let people walk over her - not seeing sometimes that she's being repressed. I also love that she can be delightfully bawdy at times. I enjoyed all of the characters in The Fireman - the good and the evil - including the eponymous character himself. The Fireman (John Rookwood) is delightfully complex as well - heroic, funny, a protector, but also too proud and not able to let go of the past. The flaws of the characters make them so much more real and relatable.
I highly recommend The Fireman. I was thrilled to learn that it's to be made into a movie - I will definitely make a point of seeing it. This is a book I will also reread from time to time - like visiting an old friend. If you haven't read Joe Hill's other books and short stories, do yourself a big favor and do so. You won't be disappointed.
Thank you, Joe Hill, for such a wonderful story. It's rife with the failings of humankind, but also full of heart and hope. You're a fierce talent, and I look forward to your next work.