PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

Genres can be a bit of bother, sometimes. You’ll often hear authors comment about how labels such as horror, thriller or post-apocalyptic can hinder potential readers as much as help. The Fireman is all of those things, and should not be pinned down into one place. It’s simply too magnificent, too terrifying and too thought-provoking to be crammed into a single pigeonhole.

The Fireman tells the tale of e Harper Grayson a nurse who cares maybe a little bit too much. As the world becomes overrun by a disease known as dragonscale, she does what she can to stem the tide of devastation by helping those who need it most. The virulent fungus is particularly nasty; it causes the victims’ skin to be covered with grey, patterned mark. Slowly it spreads, gold and yellow glinting at the edges. Until one day, you simply combust, bursting into flame, leaving nothing behind. The world is quite literally on fire.

Harper becomes both infected and pregnant. As the world falls apart her husband, Jakob, simply cannot cope. Convinced that he has the disease, becomes unhinged and tries to kill himself, his wife and his unborn child. Fortunately for Harper, a chance encounter with the titular Fireman (who happens to have an English accent and loves to swear) sets her on a much more interesting path than self-destruction.

This is a very long novel and keeps the reader engaged by constantly shifting its approach, providing twists and turns along the way. Hill’s writing navigates this very personal Armageddon perfectly. We get the small-town perspective as well as a sense of global tragedy. Hill takes the time to send up human nature at various points and one of the main themes seems to be people’s unwillingness to think for themselves. As he juggles a large ensemble cast, we still get the feeling of personal tragedy throughout.

There are moments of genuine horror mixed in with the mystery and adventure. Hill’s style in reminiscent of both early Stephen King and early Ray Bradbury, but this is an unfair comparison; Joe Hill is a unique and powerful talent and The Fireman is an amazing book that showcases just how strong this author is.



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