From Joe Hill, New York Times Bestselling author of “NOS4A2,” “Horns,” “Heart-Shaped Box” and “20th Century Ghosts,” comes his newest novel “The Fireman,” published by HarperCollins this summer on May 17.
Throughout the book, Hill presents a science-fiction tale of epic proportions, an emotion-driven story with likeable—as well as dislikable—characters and an intellectual read with themes of deep meaning and purpose (from life and death to trust, betrayal, love and hate).
The book’s premise revolves around a worldwide plague in the form of a deadly and contagious virus called Draco incendia trychophyton, or Dragonscale for short, which causes infected personnel to break out in black and gold-specked spores all over their body and eventually spontaneously combust.
Patients start off smoking from their skin and getting hotter and hotter until they burst into flames and burn to death. It is a pretty extreme version of the zombie apocalypse plot.
Our main character is Nurse Harper Grayson, a kind and generous woman who, before the end of the world, worked at an elementary school clinic. Now she hums Mary Poppins sing-a-longs while volunteering at the local hospital to assist in treating the infected, despite there being no cure for the disease.
The hospital, however, burns to the ground when one too many patients catch fire at the same time. Harper soon finds that she too is infected with the spore. On top of that, she discovers she is pregnant, and her husband Jakob believes she is to blame for getting infected with Dragonscale and thinks she has spread it to him as well.
Without revealing too many spoilers, I can say Jakob becomes enraged and later attempts to kill Harper and her unborn baby before she is rescued by John Rookwood (a.k.a. the fireman), who seems to have the ability to control the fire from his Dragonscale.
He, along with two mysterious kids in Halloween masks, take her to a refugee camp where hundreds of people (all infected with Dragonscale) live in hiding. This is just where the story begins. Action, revelations, twists and tear-jerking moments ensue.
What initially attracted me to this book was the fact that the main character shared by last name (for the first part of the book at least) and that it was written by Stephen King’s son. I am a big fan of King’s work, and Hill has a similar writing style.
Nevertheless, after reading the first few chapters of “The Fireman,” I soon realized I was in for something much more than just a Stephen King knock-off. Hill was able to create an entire fictional world within “The Fireman,” an apocalyptic reality different than anything ever seen before. Hill’s world is completely immersive.
It is perfectly possible and even easy to forget you are reading a novel at all while flipping through the pages of “The Fireman.” The settings in the story are so life-like and descriptive that it seems one could be reading in his or her living room one minute and shining in the bright at Camp Wyndham the next.
Once a reader gets into the story, this monstrous 768-page book becomes an exciting and relatively quick read.