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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.

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