Published by William Morrow & Company on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thrillers, General, Psychological
eARC provided by William Morrow
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.
The fireman is coming. Stay cool.
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.
Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.
Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.
In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.
The Fireman is really about a woman named Harper in the midst of a plague of fire. Draco Incendia Trychophyton (aka Dragonscale) is a death mark of scales on the body. Once the scales appear the victim has a few weeks before spontaneous combustion. Harper is a school nurse when Dragonscale shows up on the playground of the school she works at. Once the school closes, she go straight to a local hospital to try to help those afflicted. It is there she meets The Fireman, a man with Dragonscale, who seems to have control over the fire. He shows up with a deaf boy, (also infected), in need of immediate help. Harper intervenes to help the boy, and The Fireman vows to help her in the future.
When her hospital burns down, she goes home to her husband Jakob. Soon they discover Harper is pregnant. They are deliriously happy until Harper starts showing signs of Dragonscale. Jakob turns on Harper and accuses her of bringing Dragonscale into their home. Harper is determined to live long enough to deliver her baby, an improbable idea, but she has to try. When Jakob flips out and tries to end them both. Harper must fight back if she wants to live. At this point, Harper runs back into The Fireman and he takes her to Camp Wyndham, and their world gets a whole lot bigger.
The Fireman encompasses almost a year of time and so much occurs. I love a good apocalyptic dystopian. The Fireman had a scary contagion in world with fucked up people, and it still managed to be funny and ironic at times. This book also has ultimate cast of characters. Harper is our heroine nurse, who idolizes Mary Poppins. She is calm when others panic. She is determined to live long enough to deliver her baby. I love this about Harper, and this story. There is a little life in Harper that won’t be denied. The Fireman, himself, is a Brit with a sarcastic sense of humor. He is the main love interest, but it’s so complicated since carries a flame for his lost love, literally. There is also a leader who looks on the bright side, an angry teenage girl, a reader with a bleeding heart, a deaf boy with a heart of gold, and a few convicts who need a second chance. Everyone in this story is important. I fell in love with most of them, and wanted to set fire to the rest.
Camp Wyndham is full of lovely human beings who just happen to have Dragonscale. The thing about this community that really sets it apart, is that these people have somehow figured out how to bond with the Dragonscale. They can communicate with it. It isn’t automatic, and this might be my favorite part. Harper works really hard trying to figure out how they do. In this she seems really relate-able. She might be a good person, but it won’t save her from spontaneous combustion.
There is so much to love about this story. The Fireman reminded me of The Stand in a lot of ways, (it is hard not to compare Joe Hill’s writing with that of his famous father, Stephen King) but The Fireman was less black and white. The Fireman includes loads of grey scale characters in a situation that seems impossible. Also, this story is happening right now, in a world of cell phones and internet. Joe Hill is obviously a literary fan and there are bits of fictional comparisons.
I did almost nothing but read this book for three days. I couldn’t wait to get back to Harper’s story. That was time well spent. I wish I could back and do it all again.