Title: The Fireman
Author: Joe Hill
Read via: Kindle (Library)
Summary: A deadly plague dubbed “dragonscale” is infecting people across the globe. Sufferers see black and gold wisps on their skin before they eventually spontaneously combust. The Fireman follows pregnant nurse Harper Grayson as she copes with caring for the afflicted and then attempting to survive through her own case of “dragonscale” as the world burns around her.
Review: I had never read any of Joe Hill’s previous works, as his novels are generally categorized in the horror genre. The Fireman seemed like a good entry point, as it skews more towards post-apocalyptic science fiction than terrifying horror novel.
The Fireman hooked me right from the start . The plot progresses with quite a bit of forward momentum from the outset, but as I hit the middle point of this hefty tome (clocks in at 768 pages) I felt the “can’t put it down” feeling dissipate. The length does allow Harper to have a satisfying character arc, though. The action and pace pick back up towards the end and the conclusion is in some ways predictable, but revealed in way that still surprised me.
While the science fiction elements of this book are written in a believable way, there were a few plot elements that ventured into the fantasy genre and didn’t seem to fit the world that Hill had created. My other main gripe with this novel were the hyperbolic character attributes:
- Harper, the protagonist, never seemed particularly encumbered by her full-term pregnancy despite having to run, jump, fight, etc.
- Jakob, the main antagonist, almost felt like a comic book supervillain, repeatedly showing up and delivering maniacal speeches
- The Fireman, the mysterious stranger, was pretty much indestructible, but the cool factor of his special powers were diminished by the fact that he spent the majority of the novel recovering from a bevy of injuries
That being said, the way that Hill uses the dragonscale affliction to explore human nature and the dangers of groupthink is really intriguing and is the most fleshed out part of the novel. Overall, each reading session I spent with The Fireman was enjoyable and not overly taxing. It was a solid ride, but it likely won’t be enough to make me want to pick up Hill’s other works.
★★★ out of 5