The Fireman is a science fiction novel, written by Joe Hill. This novel was published in 2016 by William Morrow. It is a standalone novel.
The book is written in past tense, third person. It is set in Maine.
I read The Fireman because I had never read a Joe Hill book before, but I wanted to check him out because I knew he is Stephen King’s son. When I saw a copy become available on Edelweiss, I quickly requested it for review. However, I was having Kindle trouble at the time, and I ended up reading the paperback version from the public library.
This review is a repost from our old blog.
From the award-winning, New York Timesbestselling 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.Blurb from Goodreads
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.
Jen’s Review of THE FIREMAN
Brief Summary of the Plot
Harper is a nurse who treats people infected with a spore called Dragonscale, which makes people self-ignite. Despite precautions, Harper becomes infected. And, she finds out she is pregnant. Her husband goes crazy, because he thinks he is also infected. He blames Harper.
There is a man called The Fireman whose path keeps crossing with Harper’s. He helps her find refuge at a camp. The people there are able to prevent burning if they sing together. They have turned it into a type of religion. Harper just wants a safe place to have her baby. So, she stays at the camp and joins in on their activities. But, Harper never really fits in. After their leader is injured, things go from bad to worse at the camp. Harper has to decide whether or not to stay.
(I tried to be somewhat vague because I don’t want to give away too much!)
My Thoughts about…
All of the characters are very well-developed in THE FIREMAN.
Harper is somewhat naive and too goody-two-shoes, but she has a little bit of personal growth along the way, which makes her more likable and interesting.
John, The Fireman, has a good backstory and personal issues. I liked that he was really just a man, despite being able to do extraordinary things. He got hurt like anyone else.
Almost every character in the story felt unique. It seemed to me that Hill spent time on each person, making them a real individual with quirks and backstory. The only ones that blended into the background were the children in the camp, but that is okay because they don’t play a major part in the story.
THE FIREMAN is a long book, which is a bit intimidating to someone like me. I expected it to get boring or have a lot of filler. That wasn’t the case. I was surprised at how quickly the pages flew by. THE FIREMAN was a hard book to put down.
- Suspense & Mystery
Joe Hill did an excellent job of keeping me in suspense. I kept turning pages because I wanted to find out what was going to happen. Also, there is a mystery brought into THE FIREMAN about who attacked the leader of the camp. This included a nice surprise that I didn’t expect.
- Worldbuilding & Setting Details
I was able to visualize every location clearly in my mind. The author gave me enough details to picture the setting, without going on and on like some authors do.
Additionally, he did a great job of working in the history of the outbreak without slowing the pace of the story.
THE FIREMAN was very well-written. When I read how long he spent working on this book, I thought how that effort was obvious. I really like Joe Hill’s writing style.
- Plotting & Consistency
I’m not sure if THE FIREMAN needed to be as long as it was; there may have been some unnecessary scenes, but overall it made sense.
There were times when I felt the plot was forced or contrived. For example, Harper just happened to get an item and happened to use it at the right time, when using it didn’t seem rational, even to her.
The medical aspect of the story was ridiculous at times. Healing was miraculous and rushed. I understand that Hill bent the truth on some of the procedures, which is fine with me. I just didn’t like how he expected me to believe that someone, for example, could take two days of antibiotics and be suddenly cured of pneumonia. If that could happen, I need to keep a cabinet full of those antibiotics!
Also, characters seemed to know things they weren’t supposed to know. In particular, I didn’t like how Harper’s husband was talking about her like she should be expected to be alive months later. Why would he think that? He didn’t know about the camp, the Bright (what they called it when they sang), or anything else that would have kept Harper alive that long. He should have expected her to be dead already. Along those lines, when he found out she was still alive, he should have been shocked and wondered how in the world she was able to live so long.
Hooked or Not?
As a whole, I enjoyed reading THE FIREMAN. A true test of whether I like a book is if I make my husband sit and listen while I describe the story to him. I did that for THE FIREMAN. So, I am hooked on Joe Hill. I will definitely read more books by him.
THE FIREMAN deserves 5 stars for the life-like characters, fast pacing, and excellent suspense. I recommend it to readers who aren’t stuck on the accuracy of medical or scientific details. If you are willing to suspend disbelief, this is an excellent story you should check out.
5 out of 5 stars (A)