Book Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

25816688Title: The Fireman

Author: Joe Hill

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller, Post Apocolyptic

Publisher: William Morrow

Published: May 17, 2016

Page Amount: 747 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: 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. 

Why Read: A fact not widely publicized is that Joe Hill is actually the son of Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King. Joe Hill also writes generally horror-based fiction with a more gritty quality, so it wasn’t so surprising that I wanted to pick up Fireman give it a whirl. Luckily for me as well, I was able to whisk it along with me to Bali and it served as my idle companion during the 30 hours of flight time.

Review: Tempting though it is to give this book a 5/5 stars for plot originality alone, I find myself hesitating. The idea of a dragonscale tattoo that will all at once make the infected self combust is an intriguing and once-in-a-lifetime concept that I really wanted to be better than it was. Hill’s approach to the plot, however, left a lot lacking – such as sustained and believable character development… and any sort of empathy towards the characters.

The main protagonist, nurse Harper Grayson, finds herself pregnant, infected, and in short, alone on the wake of the “apocalypse”. Refusing to commit suicide as she had promised with her husband, she sets out to remain alive until her child (hopefully not infected) can be safely delivered. As a character, she certainly has an interesting past and makes decisions that are, for the most part, understandable given her situation and state of mind. What irritated me about her, however, was how she was stylized. Her dialogue feels intently stilted and her interactions with others seem to provoke kindness but don’t seem particularly heartfelt. The other character, the “Fireman,” has some redeeming qualities that allow a reader to sympathize with him… but ultimately not enough to save character development as a whole.

What should have saved the book was a writing style choice by Hill. Having not read another one of his books, I was mildly irritated to say the least to find the writing quality monotonous and conducive to sleep. Once the plot reached the “campy” stage, the pace of book felt as though it slowed to a crawl. To be frank, I would have stopped reading it had I brought another book with me at the time.

Overall, I give it the three stars because the plot was intensely interesting. How people react during these kinds of crises is something that does fascinate me, and Hill does do an excellent job in targeting the different stereotypes and bring them to the forefront. Given all of the factors I outlined above, I won’t recommend this book strongly to anyone. However, if you find yourself interested by the idea of the plot and think you can last 700ish pages – I invite you to try.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

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