The Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

The FiremanBestselling author Joe Hill literally sets the world of horror fiction on fire with his take on the human condition as it subsists in the horrifyingly ravaged post-apocalyptic world, of his newest novel, The Fireman.

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Author Hill poses a vastly complex and alarming world, where a pervasively virulent spore somehow spreads between human carriers who ultimately die in one of the most brutal of ways, via human combustion. Seemingly indiscriminate, combustion can occur at any given time and without warning people die where they stand or lay, exploding into flames. Called Dragonscale because of its ominous, but decorative dragon scaled appearance on the infected, the spread of the vicious spore takes humanity to the brink of extinction, leaving those left trying to survive in an uncertain world swimming in fiery violence and drowning in ashes.

Readers are introduced to the narrative and it’s characters by immediate immersion into the starkly terrifying events that central character Harper Grayson witnesses as a school nurse, and then as a volunteer at a local hospital. The story is portrayed mainly through Harper’s point of view as she not only watches the excruciating end results to infection, but also becomes infected herself and pregnant. Harper is a sympathetic and resilient character whose resolve to survive until her baby is born, forces her to face her worst fears in a chaotic, and seemingly hopeless world. Furthermore, not only does Harper have to deal with her infection, and her pregnancy, she also has to out-think a paranoid, self -pitying, crazed husband who believes that the best future for them is double suicide.

Moreover, as the world around her becomes less and less hospitable, Harper is forced from the slight sanctity of her home, to escape from her husband’s insanity. It is then that Harper encounters the titular Fireman, the fearless and clandestine, John Rookwood, who is also infected. John leads her to an encampment of hidden survivors who are trying to manage daily life while controlling their Dragonscale affliction. Consequently, existence is tenuous at best, for the infected at camp Wyndham as they seek comfort and respite from the crushing weight of the dually destructive elements of Dragonscale and inhumane acts perpetuated by hysteria, both quickly hastening the utter destruction of those left. What ensues as the story progresses, is a sumptuous read that presents human nature at it’s worst and it’s best, during the ultimate of catastrophes.

Overall, The Fireman was an absolutely dynamite read, that progressed with indelible intensity. Comparable in sinister brilliance to Stephen King’s, The Stand, which is my personal all time favorite, this now vies for the position. I found author Joe Hill to be a skilled writer that knows how to keep readers drawn into the story with a formidable storyline, integrally relatable characters and by twanging that raw fear based nerve, that keeps you on edge as you read a good horror story. I highly recommend The Fireman, to torrid fans of horror fiction, this is a read that will keep them parched until the end. Now, is it me or does it feel hot in here?