I am a great fan of Joe Hill and believe that he is one of the most exciting horror/fantasy writers of his generation. He is a friend of UK readers and has twice visited his worshiping fans in the last 2 years, and on the first occasion I was lucky enough to be part of that unique gathering at Waterstones bookstore in Bristol.
However as a blogger and reviewer I must be impartial when I read, analyse and review a work by any author and sometimes that process can be painful in what I feel and say but always truthful in my interpretation. It is therefore with some great disappointment that having read The Fireman I must now admit that I really did not enjoy, which is a pity as I thought The Heart Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4R2 were superb examples of modern horror.
The Fireman starts with great promise and when we first meet Harper Grayson she is a dedicated nurse at a hospital in Portsmouth Maine. The world is in meltdown, a dystopian society being ravaged by a terrible plague or spore known as Draco Incendia Trychophyton more commonly referred to as Dragonscale. and manifests itself by marking its hosts with black and gold marks across their bodies before bursting into flames. In a short time Harper realizes two things, she has the spore and she is pregnant by her partner Jakob. Her somewhat deranged partner wishes to fulfil a suicide pact, as he feels it would be better to die this way, in control, rather than wait for the spore to follow its natural process. Harper believes in life of her newborn and makes her escape, aided by The Fireman (who has learned to control the fire) to Camp Wyndham. Here she hope to understand with the help of The Fireman how to cure and live with Dragonscale.
At this stage in the story I felt I was reading a very original and thought provoking tale but once the action decamps to Wyndham my interest in the proceedings diminished and I found myself wanting this overlong, overwordy parody of a dystopian tale to finish. I had little sympathy with any of the characters who now it appeared were content to debate, discuss, and formulate their future rather than actually take any positive action. The majority of the novel therefore became to me an issue of resilience as I attempted to finish rather than abandon.
That is not to say there were not some fun moments. Dragonscale it appears responds badly to stress and if you can create a feeling of security and well-being and acceptance, the Dragonscale will react in a very different way. This was known as “joining the Bright” and when actioned the spore could be controlled....”making you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt before. It will make colors deeper and tastes richer and emotions stronger. It’s like being set on fire with happiness. And you don’t just feel your happiness. Your feel everyone else’s, too....And you don’t burn”. In one other memorable scene Harper takes charge of a raiding party in attempt to acquire much needed medical supplies by the high jacking of an ambulance. I also enjoyed the concept of the Cremation Crew in effect vigilantes who sought out and murdered anyone suspected of carrying the spore.
Finally the reader receives some award for his perseveration when a group from the camp led by our heroes Harper and The Fireman decide to break out and make the perilous journey to the aptly name “Martha Quinns” island where it is hoped salvation in the form of isolation, acceptance and harmony will form the foundation for a future world society. This final journey by our unlikely band of heroes gave a little contentment to me the reader but unfortunately the protracted and drawn out nature of this dystopian tale failed to impress, and I was very pleased myself to have survived the journey and lived to write this review!!
I received an advance copy of this novel for a true and honest review, and that is what I have written.