The Fireman by Joe Hill is listed as a science fiction novel. There is no science behind this fiction and it reads more as horror than science fiction. Joe Hill is the pen name of Joseph Hillstrom King, the 44 year-old son of author Stephen King, the king of horror.
3 out of 10 stars. The novel is a megalith at 741 pages, 100 pages longer than Game of Thrones. Each 10 or so chapters is broken up into a “book” and is about the size of a regular novel. There are nine of these “books” in total, a lot to read, and it takes place over a period of just under a year. The months fly by and nothing happens, then everything happens in a matter of hours. After book three I was bored. All of book three was kind of pointless. Maybe in the greater scheme of things it had some importance but reading an entire novel’s length of pages and being bored is enough to stop reading entirely, so I did.
The novel takes place in New Hampshire, Portsmouth to be exact, immediately after a plague called dragonscale has covered the entire planet. People start to get patches of black with gold flecks on their skin, a scale spread by a fungus, and then before long they burst into flames. In a panic, many of the first responders are killing people they suspect may have dragonscale or may have been infected by it and don’t show symptoms. Now if you don’t show symptoms and someone “suspects” you, that means an immediate death sentence.
Harper Willowes Grayson is a nurse at the elementary school when the schools are closed down, so she volunteers at the Portsmouth Hospital. It’s there that she first meets the fireman, a man dressed in fireman dress carrying a boy with a burst appendix. The boy is deaf and mute and Harper saves his life. Three days later, the boy disappears from the third floor of the hospital via a fireman truck ladder. Harper doesn’t see him again until months later when the hospital burns down and she is almost killed. She comes down with dragonscale a few days later. She also learns she is pregnant.
Unknown to Harper, her husband Jakob is one of those city government workers killing people and disposing of the bodies. Burning them, in fact, which is spreading the fungus spores. That’s how the fungus spreads and infects people, not by touching them. Jakob leaves her and then returns weeks later to kill her. He knocks her down, kicks her, and shoots at her. She is forced to jump from a two story building and breaks her ankle. The Fireman appears with two kids, the deaf kid Nick and his sister Allie, and they save her.
That’s the first book.
The second book is about the place where the fireman takes her, a community of people who have survived dragonscale. One of them is Renee, a patient Harper took care of at the Portsmouth Hospital. She was a sweet woman who spent her days caring for the kids at the hospital and when her dragonscale appeared to be igniting she rushed out of the hospital so when she blew up she wouldn’t kill anyone else. But she didn’t blow up and the fireman found her. In this community the people have learned to live and thrive with dragonscale by singing. When they sing together, the dragonscale creates a euphoric state where they are one being. They forget their names, other people’s names, and what they’re doing there. There is only the group. There is only harmony. But occasionally one among the group will prove destructive. This has happened once before and it’s starting to happen again. What Harper learns is that she can control it too through singing old Julie Andrews songs from Mary Poppins. So that’s what she does. She sings Mary Poppins’ songs and waits for her baby to be born.
The third book was about a plan to save two convicts from the police station. It made no sense at all. John, the fireman, comes to the community and tells them they have a chance to save two convicts. They agree to do it. I cannot fathom why. This is where things go horribly awry but nothing is ever explained. In the process of saving these two evil men, who are rapists and murderers, one of them bashes in the head of the patriarch of the community, Father Storey. Harper saves him but he goes into a coma and no one knows what really happened.
By book four I was bored and stopped reading. After 300 pages, the reader should be rewarded with something. Some tangible thread of a plot. Instead I was dragged into another pointless “book”.
3 out of 10 stars. This had possibilities. There was a lot of British lingo in this novel and it wasn’t uttered by the British fireman, but by other characters. Queue, limey ass, steady her pins, and other British colloquialisms that didn’t fit people from New Hampshire. The title was also ill-conceived. The fireman barely makes an appearance. For 300 pages it was eluded to that he could become a phoenix, but actually that never happened. I felt like there was a shorter path from book one to book nine and the author certainly should’ve taken it. This novel was way too long and way too boring. I guess he was paid per page instead of per reader. I also think he was trying to cash in on the whole Game of Thrones fan base because dragonscale is eerily similar to greyscale from Game of Thrones. He also copied the fireproof feature of the Game of Thrones Targaryen family, the dragon family, which is just too much of a coincidence. Lame. Really lame.
Reviewed by Devin.
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