The Fireman by Joe Hill (Book Review)

The FiremanThe Fireman by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What this book is about:

Harper is a 26-year-old nurse working at a school with the children when she witnesses the first burner. She knew Draco Incendia Trychophyton, or, more commonly, Dragonscale eventually leads to spontaneous combustion killing the host in a most horrifying way, but she had never seen an infected burn in flames before with her own eyes. As the time goes by and Dragonscale cases multiply, Harper cannot stop herself from doing what a nurse does: help people. She starts working at a hospital caring for the infected. One day, a Fireman comes in with a little deaf boy who desperately needs surgery for appendicitis. A few weeks later, the hospital burns to the ground as one of the ticking time bombs, an infected, exploded in flames. Harper goes home devastated, makes love to her husband and promises to him that if they ever get infected, they will end their lives nicely before Dragonscale ends them in flames. A few weeks later Harper discovers that she is pregnant. The joy doesn’t last very long because soon after that she finds out that she is also infected with Dragonscale..


The Fireman is an apocalyptic story following the main character Harper and reading from a third person perspective. This book is quite long, approximately 750-800 pages but I flew through it very fast. Moreover, the audiobook is read by Kate Mulgrew who has a wonderful narrating voice and makes the whole experience so much more intense and real. I highly recommend checking out the audiobook for this one. But let’s get to the review part.

You don’t want to start A Game of Thrones when you might catch fire all of a sudden. There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone always dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your children. Or your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.

P1040599_FotorWe start of with a wonderfully terrifying disease that is original and actually based on science The apocalypse comes in the form of a spore which infects the hosts and gives them beautiful intricate designs that look like scales all over their bodies. These black and gold streaks are the telltale signs of someone who has the plague. There is no definite knowledge on how exactly the plague spreads, even though at the end of the book a very possible hypothesis comes to light, so people have to be careful all the time. This means that humanity is in panic. A terrifying apocalyptic setting where madness, death and fire dominate. As we go through the story more and more information on Dragonscale comes to light. This information always has a scientific base which makes for a great science fiction novel and not a fantasy story. It also helped the plot to feel more realistic and thus more horrifying.

“This is the most wonderful sentence I have ever heard. I want that on my gravestone. Snuffleupagus was real.No more. Just that.

What helped this book tremendously in having an impact on the reader was Harper. One thing that I can say for sure in this book is that Joe Hill really loved his characters. Harper is a wonderful, kind, intelligent woman with humour and a selfless need to help others. I loved following her around and I’m really glad that I have found a character that I fell in love with (this doesn’t happen anymore). But it was not just Harper who made this reading experience so amazing. There is a whole bunch of other characters, good people, bad people, crazy people, horrible people. Multilayered and well-thought through and crafted, Joe Hill’s characters really come to life bursting (pun intended) out of the pages and pulling you in the story.

“A thousand prayers every minute everywhere and what does God ever say back? Nothing! Because silence never lies. Silence is God’s final advantage. Silence is the purest form of harmony. Everyone ought to try it.”

P1040598_FotorEven though we are reading an apocalyptic story, Joe Hill’s humour had me laughing out loud. It seems that when the world is ending the best strategy is to keep your good sense of humour. With popular references to authors and books that we all know and love (A Game of Thrones, J. K. Rowling, and others) but also with hilarious lines when two characters are just joking around, this is a very funny book. Joe Hill doesn’t use humour here to lighten the mood or give the reader a break from the heavy atmosphere. Humour is used in conversations like we do in the real world interactions. It was hillarious and shows the brilliance of the author.

“I miss Coca-Cola. That would’ve been so good with a Coke. You know, we might’ve fucked up the planet, sucking out all the oil, melting ice caps, allowing ska music to flourish, but we made Coca-Cola, so goddamn it, people weren’t all bad.”

P1040562_FotorNow what did I expect as a first-time Joe Hill reader and what did I get? To be honest, I had expected to read a horror story that would creep me out and scare me enough to want to sleep with the light on. The name Joe Hill implies to me something shit scary is about to be read. If you are like me, and you were expecting to be horrified, this is not the soul-sucking experience you were waiting for. That said, this is a great story and a wonderful, imaginative book. I would probably not name it a horror story but it is definitely apocalyptic and it has science fiction elements as I mentioned above. The plot is slow and steady during most of the book but you can see that it’s building towards something big and at the end it picks up the pace to a grand finale. Also, twists and turns happen from the beginning of the story and made the plot quite unpredictable most of the time (some things were somewhat expected to happen). Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Fireman and the next Joe Hill book on my list is NOS4A2 (sitting comfortably on my bookshelf).

Humanity is worse than flies. If even one dried nugget of offal survives the flames, we’ll be swarming all over it. Fighting about who owns it and selling the most fragrant chunks to the wealthy and the gullible.

Alright, so this is a brilliant apocalyptic adventure that follows a wonderful and kind pregnant lady around a landscape of death and ashes. A slow burn (this time no pun intended) of a book that leads to a great ending that left me wanting more. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys adult fiction really. As I said, it’s not such a scary read, but it delves into the study of group think and explores human psychology under extremely stressful conditions. Do check this book out! As for me, I definitely want to read more from Joe Hill after this one and will be doing so, soon.


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BookDepository: The Fireman

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