The Fireman by Joe Hill is a brick of a book (in size) about a post apocalyptic near future where the world and its occupants are literally under fire by a disease called Dragonscale. This contagion causes people to get scale-like markings on their bodies and fiery symptoms like literally smoking before dying by self combustion. However, some sufferers find a way of managing their fiery symptoms and even controlling them.
The Fireman is someone who can control the fire. He takes on mythic proportions with his daring rescues of sufferers from an increasing hostile group of non-sufferers. He takes one such infected woman, Harper, a pregnant nurse with a homicidal husband, to a camp of refugees who have their own way of controlling the disease. But it may not be the haven she hopes for.
Like most dystopian novels things go to hell relatively quickly and authority is taken into the hands of a bunch of crazies. It was an interesting premise to have the story told from the point-of-view of the infected. At one point Joe Hill references The Walking Dead and this story it is a bit like that story but with the infected as the heroes.
There’s no doubt that Joe Hill can write as well as his famous author dad Stephen King. His writing is great but I found this huge story really lagged in the middle. It felt like nothing much happened and I think that was because all the main characters stayed in the one spot for ages. And to be honest I didn’t really feel much for any of them. I found the story really picked up towards the end after some action sequences. But then the ending let me down. I had already guessed what would happen ahead of time. It reminded me of a story arc from one of the The Walking Dead seasons. The story then ends abruptly and without fanfare.
There was also a love story of sorts in this book but the two characters involved had only spent a handful of time together and then were declaring their love for each other. It just didn’t ring true for me. Surely a book with so many pages could go into more detail where it matters and cut detail where it drags. It makes me want to read The Stand by Stephen King again because I remember thinking that was brilliant. Or The Passage by Justin Cronin.
I may be coming down too hard on this book – it really was good. It just could have been so much better with a good edit of the middle and more story towards the end.
Thanks to my husband for recommending this book to me!
Verdict: Read this if you like post-apocalyptic fiction.
What’s your favourite dystopian novel?