The fireman is coming. Stay cool.
No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.
Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.
In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke. – Goodreads Synopsis
The Fireman Review
The Fireman was, I’ll happily admit, a lot better than I was expecting. I never even intended to read this book. I’d read Nos4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box and wasn’t particularly impressed by either of them. I’d read mixed reviews of this book. So, yeah, it basically wasn’t going to happen. Then I walked into the library, and it was there. Propped up, looking all shiny, and I couldn’t resist. I just couldn’t. So I took it home, cracked it open, and found myself rather engrossed very quickly.
See, I cracked up probably way more than appropriate whilst reading an apocalyptic horror book. Harper’s potty-mouthed snarking and sniping had me in absolute stitches. Now, I can’t share them all uncensored, because some people might get all het up about words that rhyme with wecker. But, yes, I laughed like a wheezing donkey (blasted summer cold).
“A man just can’t earn a living selling Smurf****er in this blighted nation. I have to tell you, heroin dealers and meth slingers have made your country a wretched place to be a simple, honest drug dealer who wants to give his customers a lovingly curated experience.” – Joe Hill, The Fireman
“I warn you. Claiming to have candy bars when you don’t would be a gross violation of your Hippocratic oath never to inflict needless suffering.” – Joe Hill, The Fireman
The giggly moments kept the story going for me. There’s a tendency to go too serious in these books, and that can bog them down. You need a little bit of sunlight to properly appreciate the dark when it comes. (Yes, I know I mangled that saying. I did it on purpose. I read horror, dagblastit.) But, Joe Hill did a job just short of wonderful with this book.
The premise was so fascinating. I can’t help but imagine how absolutely gorgeous the infected looked. And the imagery later on? Simply beautiful, even with the threat of immolation always lingering. His characters are positively absorbing. It’s easy to love them, to laugh at them, and to want to smack the stupid clear out of them.
Plus, anyone who is a fan of Buffy is probably going to see James Marsters as the fireman. That image actually carried a fair bit of the book’s weight in the early chapters.
My favorite line, truthfully, was probably:
“That is the most wonderful sentence I have ever heard. I want that on my gravestone. Snuffleupagus was real . No more. Just that.” – Joe Hill, The Fireman
And (final quote share) this one made me stop and think for a moment.
“They’re not bad people, most of them. All they want is to be safe.”
“Isn’t that always a permission slip for ugliness and cruelty? All they want is to be safe, and they don’t care who they have to destroy to stay that way. ” – Joe Hill, The Fireman
There’s little to complain about, other than the fact that – just like Harper – it gets a bit inflated and ungainly in the middle. Still, once you get through that part (and it’s not a hardship), you’re golden. Drama on all sides, love shining through, and surprising shows of hope and humanity balanced against those who wear freshly waxed arses for hats.
Overall, if you can manage the time commitment, The Fireman is well worth your time and money. Even when he sneakily does a bit of 4th wall nudging. And the pun near the end. His Holy Noodliness, that pun was awesome and horrible at the same time. I mean, there’s this super serious moment, and then just ka-pow! Bad pun time. And not just bad pun, but “oh my pasta, you did not just go there!” bad.
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