The Fireman – Joe Hill
(4 / 5)
It must be hard for Joe Hill to follow in his fathers footsteps as an author. As the son of Stephen King it’s not really surprising that Joe Hill is well known now for his horror writing, however he is an extremely talented author in his own right. I am sure he gets even more criticism than your usual author for having one of the most renowned writers of our time as his father. However I think he probably gets a lot MORE ATTENTION than your average writer probably would because of this fact. No doubt about it, The Fireman is a good book. But I did compare! As much as I told myself I wouldn’t! I couldn’t stop myself! The Fireman was almost a homage to The Stand. When at first I was slightly disappointed, I soon realised that this was obviously totally intentional. Character names and traits were similar or the same, parts of the story that I picked up were the same or mirrored, and probably a lot that I didn’t pick up (its been a very long time since I read The Stand!) And at the age I was, I am sure I didn’t appreciate The Stand as much as I probably would now. The Stand was a 3 star read for me at the time. Despite this, I have given The Fireman 4. So I obviously still enjoyed it, actually more than his fathers work.
Harper is working as a school nurse when Draco Incendia Trychophyton makes its way to her city. Soon the disease has taken over the whole world. Otherwise known as Dragonscale, this deadly spore covers the sufferer with black and gold markings as it enters the blood stream and overtakes the whole body and brain, before literally burning the victim from the inside out. Spontaneous combustion. Before they know it the world is in ruin and the healthy turn on the diseased to try to eradicate them. Harper and her husband Jakob decide that if they get infected that they would both end their own lives, together. However this all becomes complicated when Harper discovers she is pregnant, soon before discovering the marks all over her body.
I really did like this book. I listened to the audio version narrated by Kate Mulgrew. The first half of The Fireman especially was extremely riveting. I really enjoyed listening about the progress of the disease and the deterioration of the world. Being a nurse too I think I really enjoyed Harper’s character and resonated with her. Although I found her to be just TOO good, and it annoyed me at times. The Fireman himself was nothing like I expected him to be. I thought he would be a larger part of the book, having the title role, however the book was all about Harper.
The length of the book and the slow parts were what brought this book down for me. I found the narration to be excellent in general, however I am not sure if perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more listeneing to the characters in my head instead. I guess that’s the risk with all audio books that you listen to. Even the most wonderful of books can be brought down by a bad narrator, and a horrible book can be made magical by a good one. I didn’t like the way she portrayed The Fireman. This could have just been her feminine voice with the English accent.
Also the ending just didn’t do it for me. I was expecting it and felt a bit let down. I found a lot of the novel predictable. I was also surprised by the constant Merry Poppins references. I understand that he was aiming for that sort of vibe with Harper and that Merry Poppins was an influence for him. However it really started getting on my nerves.
The majority of the book however, was superb. I loved the chase with the exterminators, the camp, and the fact that the disease wasn’t exactly a disease as such, and gave the sufferers something very special… The fact that the world split into healthy versus diseased was depressing, but made every move they made even more dangerous and exciting. And you could imagine easily that humanity might actually do that if there was an event like that. All these excellent qualities of this book was still not quite enough to give it 5 stars for me, but its a strong 4!
Would I recommend The Fireman?
Yes, I think its worth a read even if this isn’t your usual genre. And if you enjoyed the stand you will appreciate (or maybe not) the references made throughout this book.
I only wish I had been able to have such an opportunity to learn from such an inspirational author from birth. Its no wonder he paid homage to him!
*I bought this book myself on Audible.com