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Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

I'm a big fan of Joe Hill's work and he's one of the few author's whose books I tend to buy as soon as they hit print, but I hesitated when I first heard the plot of his latest, The Fireman. A global pandemic, survivors in a ruined wasteland, blah, blah, hasn't this been done to death already? I wasn't up for another trip down this particular road. But then I heard Joe on NPR and he convinced me that he had a tale worth my time. He was right.

The Dragonscale spore in The Fireman doesn't just kill people, it first gives them a tatoo-like rash. Later, most of the infected burst into flames and die. Most, but some are saying not all. Some people, perhaps can live with Dragonscale, maybe even control it. And the real plague isn't the spore, it's panic.

The Fireman is a big book, 700+ pages but it's human-sized. The main character, despite the title, is not the Fireman, but Harper a pregnant nurse with an annoying fondness for Mary Poppins. There are bad people and good people in this book along with good people who do some very bad things and bad people who do some very good things. The people seem like people, real, flawed, genuine people in a hell of a jam. There is a lot of bad language, many bad jokes and a few good ones, good intentions gone awry, and a whole hell of a lot of things burning.

At its core The Fireman is about how tough conditions bring out the best and worst in us. It's a dark tale that burns bright. At one point Harper says to the Fireman,

"I'm glad someone is having fun with the end of the world."

"What makes you think the world is ending?" He sounded genuinely surprised.

 Joe Hill has a lot of fun with this book. It's the ultimate campfire tale, something bright to get you through the long dark night.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders

The best books are like magic spells or time machines, they transform you, take you wonderful places, and show you amazing things. You forget that you are seeing words and pages, you hear and see and feel and know instead. You make friends that you worry and wonder about, you flee enemies who make your heart race, you  live in a world momentarily more real than our own. And if you are lucky and the author is wise and skilled, when the book is done it is not finished because something stays with you. Something more precious than words, a sense that you know something more of this world and your place in it because of where this book has taken you.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY is such a book. It's a tale of magic and science, of a girl who talks to birds and a boy who dreams of rocket ships and time machines. The girl becomes a witch and the boy becomes a scientist who makes fearsome and fascinating machines. The two of them are destined to collide or fall in love, destroy the world or save it or perhaps some of each.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY contains multitudes -- an assassin who loves ice cream, birds that talk, trees that know, gadgets that crack wise. It is funny and frightening and fantastic and true, true in the way that great fiction can be -- beautiful and horrible, filled with loneliness and friendship, mistakes and forgiveness, humor and heartbreak.

This is a book I love too much to tell you too much about, the joy of discovery is diminished if the map is too clear. So open the pages and open a door. You are going on a wonderful journey with people and a few creatures you will never forget.