GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Book Reviews: The Fireman by: Joe Hill | I Smell Sheep

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Book Reviews: The Fireman by: Joe Hill

by: Joe Hill
January 3, 2017
768 pages
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes 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.

Despite the fact that a post-apocalyptic premise isn’t exactly the most orginal basis for a book, Hill’s spin on the aftermath of a modern-day armageddon is gloriously unique.

The deadly plague that ravishes mankind in The Fireman is Dragonscale – a highly contagious spore that appears on the bodies of those who have contracted it as black or golden marks. Despite it’s beauty, Dragonscale causes most people to burst into flames.

Having read too many end-of-the-world books to mention, it was refreshing for a story not to concentrate on the origins of Dragonscale, or how the plague wipes out most of humanity. Instead, Hill concentrates his story on a small group of survivors who have embraced their affliction.

The novel’s main protagonest is school nurse Harper Grayson, who contracts Dragonscale whilst selflessly tending to the afflicted at the local hospital. She finds out she’s a host to the spore around the same time she finds out she’s pregnant, so in some respects The Fireman is about one woman’s bid for survival and her efforts to live long enough to have her baby.

Yet, as you would expect from an imagination as rich as Hill’s, this is much much more than a simple tale of survival.

As the world burns and chaos descends, the heart of the story is set in a community of survivors in New England. Forced to flee for her life when her husband Jakob blames her for bringing Dragonscale into their home, Harper meets the enigmatic fireman.

Also known as John, the fireman leads her to Camp Wyndham, which is home to a group of people who have the ‘Scale but who have learned to control it. Life at the camp initially seems ideal, but Harper soon starts to realise that all is not as it seems.

Harper is a truly fantastic character. When we first meet her, it’s all a bit Mary Poppins (one of her favourite songs is A Spoonful of Sugar), but we soon realise she’s made of sterner stuff. She is one of the few who will not bend to the will of the leaders in Camp Wyndham, yet she is forgiving, brave and compassionate. Her relationship with Fireman John could have taken centre stage, but instead is beautifully under-played by Hill.

I’ve read all of Hill’s books, and although for me it’s not as good as NOS4A2, The Fireman marks a more mature direction. Narratives based on bands of beleaguered survivors fighting to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world is nothing new.

What is new is the wonderfully written version of a world without Google, Facebook and Donald Trump – but, where, if Fireman John and Harper’s pondering are true, a world where Keith Richard survives. When asked by John is she thinks the Rolling Stone is still alive, she replies “Sure. nothing can kill him. He’ll outlast us all.”

4 out of 5 Sheep

Ash is a frustrated Nerd living in denial. Only recently has she accepted the fact that when you are passionate about books, especially the work of Stephen King and really especially The Dark Tower, then you are... a Nerd. She's a journalist and a fan-girl. She's right at home with FTN

Review originally posted over on

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