Book Review: The Fireman – Joe Hill

The Fireman is an Adventure/Horror by Joe Hill which focusses on a nurse named Harper Willowes as she struggles to survive in the wake of mankind’s slow-burning destruction. A spore commonly known as “Dragonscale” has infected most of the populous, those infected bear glowing lashes across their skin, and while they can survive for a while, eventually they burst into flame. Harper manages to elude the spore for some time while she works to help the infected but things come to a head when she realises that is not only infected, but also pregnant. What follows for the nurse is a constant battle against the oppressive forces both inside her and surrounding her.

While the premise of a global apocalyptic pandemic is rooted in reality, The Fireman’s flirtations with realism are cursory and insignificant. The character’s and scenarios Hill implements are larger than life and as a result, instantly more memorable and enjoyable. It’s refreshing for a piece of post-apocalyptia literature to shirk the usual barren, grey sludgy descriptions that usually dampen the story’s visual potential.

At the beginning of the story Hill cites Harry Potter as one of his key influences. This influence shines through in the characters of The Fireman who each possess easily identifiable personality quirks and traits which make the somewhat transparent for the reader. The infamous “Fireman” for example, is a plucky Englishman who has a symbiotic relationship with his spore enabling him to wield it at will. Yet his fire-bending heroics somehow take a backseat to his hilariously dry and sarcastic demeanour that makes him such an innately likable protagonist. No the characters of The Fireman are not at all as realistic or dynamic as what is typically found in Adult Fiction but they are seemingly infinitely more likable as a result.

Though survival is the enduring theme of all Post-Apocalyptic storytelling, The Fireman’s themes run deeper. The characters are in a constant battle with themselves to not give in to the barbarism of their circumstances and hold onto their humanity. This is made particularly troublesome as the people surrounding them begin to relinquish their independence for what they perceive to be absolute survival.

The Fireman is packed end-to-end with thrilling set pieces and distinct, likable characters that are fleshed out by engaging dialogue. It tackles it’s already unique premise from unpredictable angles that don’t just focus on how humanity survives but what it has to give up to do so.

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