The Fireman

The Fireman

A Novel

Book - 2016
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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.

Publisher: New York, NY :, William Morrow,, [2016]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ♭2016
ISBN: 9780062200631
0062200631
Characteristics: 752 pages

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spl_merley Jul 17, 2016

Joe Hill’s epic story of global catastrophe sets cruelty against compassion in a fight for survival in The Fireman. Imagine a bit of the optimism of Mary Poppins’and a dose of dark humour matched with the social and political fallout of a plague that leads to spontaneous combustion and you will ... Read More »


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m
mexicanadiense
May 23, 2017

It's Present Day-ish and there's a mysterious disease that causes people to SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST!

I like Joe Hill's style, and interestingly enough this was the first proper novel of his I have read after already consuming his truly excellent graphic novel series Locke & Key and the mostly-OK supernatural horror film Horns adapted from his novel of the same name.

That being said, I felt this book was, more than his previous material, truly Stephen King for Millennials. It's an obvious comparison, of course, given that Hill is indeed Mr. King's son but at least it's a flattering one. For me the sustained tension, the sense of dread and danger, the unexpectedly loquacious convicts, the so-should-have-seen-it-coming-but-somehow-didn't heal-turn of a character you had come to see as sympathetic, as well as the seemingly unkillable antagonist...Well, you get the idea.

I liked having a young Nurse as the protagonist, it must be said, and it was great that Harper's defining characteristic was calm under fire. No squealing and running up the stairs when she should be running out the door from this girl. The Mary Poppins obsession maybe was a bit much, but I guess every Millennial POV character needs their "thing".

Lastly, I like how Hill has the intellectual honesty to directly address and pay tribute to the material that clearly inspired him, everything from the Night of the Living Dead to
The Road to The Twilight Zone and beyond gets directly name checked. So good on him.

On the whole, if you're looking for a beach read or something to ease some Walking Dead jones-ing this book is for you.

b
bayougal
Apr 20, 2017

Can't believe I'm thinking this, let alone saying it, but I think Joe may be just as good, if not sometimes better than his father!

I enjoyed the first book of his I read (Heart Shaped Box) and also read Nos4A2, and am currently reading the Fireman. He has a gift for establishing characters and making you feel in the moment. And, I must say, he writes horror VERY well.

Kudos to you Mr. Hill; may your career be as long and successful as your dad's!

t
taylorwoods
Feb 17, 2017

I am overall glad that I picked up The Fireman, however I enjoyed NOS4A2 much more. Which sucks because I hate to compare books- but it was a tad inescapable for me at the moment.

I would put this one among the post-apocalyptic, science-fiction books with a tinge of horror. The kind of horror that just sizzles and pops throughout that makes you jump away from the burner- but only for a second. Joe Hill inserted a lot of social commentary on contemporary issues- refugees, for one. What stood out for me was the inevitable result that comes from naive, scared, and powerless people in large groups with one over-ruling leader.

Would I recommend this to my sci-fi and apocalyptic readers? Yes. Horror fans? Maybe.

l
lpreston214
Feb 13, 2017

I'm not sure I see this as horror per se. To me horror means monsters and the supernatural. Hill's Heart-shaped box fits the genre but I'm not sure about this one.

This is about a very real scenario where a fungus running rampant in the US can cause spontaneous combustion in the host. As the infection spreads, fear spreads also. There's an all-out war to simply eliminate all who are carriers. Especially in this era when fear of your neighbors seems de rigueur it's chilling. School nurse Harper joins up with some people who seem to have found a way to survive in harmony with the fungus. Unfortunately, sometimes this can mean discordant harmony. Harper finds herself in danger and flees in the company of a few like-minded carriers.

Reading Joe Hill is much like reading Stephen King. A book like Under the dome could easily have been written by Hill. For me the books are good but I could do with a little less violence and/or a little less graphic violence.

m
MissMRose
Jan 06, 2017

This is one of the best horror books I've read in a while. The characters were vivid and realistic. The descriptions were detailed and drew me into the story. It was nerve-racking in the best way, filling me with hope, dread, excitement, and trepidation all at once. Make sure, once you finish the story, you read the acknowledgements. He hid a little more story in the last paragraph or so.

AL_APRIL Nov 21, 2016

Although this book was well-written and the plot was interesting it could have been about 100 pages shorter. The story was fascinating and I wanted to see where it would lead but there were times when I found myself bored and anticipating some sort of action. Some of the Mary Poppins references also got old after the millionth time. It was a solid read but it could have been much better if it had been shorter and some of the scenes had been edited out.

AL_LESLEY Nov 09, 2016

This book was very beautifully written, very lyrical with an easy rhythm and I didn't mind the length at all. The characters are vivid, especially the ones you hate! And that's what I liked most of all, that this book caused a reaction in me... at some points I even gasped with despair or anticipation, which was an added treat to a very interesting and entertaining premise.

p
PearlyBaker
Oct 23, 2016

Like his father Stephen King, Joe too writes a haunting, beautiful, and quite verbose apocalyptic love story with vivid, memorable characters. Unfortunately now I need to add yet another to my growing list of authors whose full catalog I have to read. Thankfully the debates are over and now the only thing I have to watch on TV in the next year is the celebration on November 8 and the inauguration of our first female President on January 20, 2017!

j
JEM_LPL
Oct 01, 2016

What’s scarier than a flu that can kill you? A flu that can burn you alive from the inside out as it kills you. Since “Everybody caught a fatal flu and died” would be a pretty short book, Joe Hill’s new doorstopper, “The Fireman”, is about a lot more than that. Of course, there are lots of shout outs to his father’s famous “Fatal Flu” book, “The Stand”. (I won’t say any more than that, though if I was a fat guy named Harold or Cross, I would be feeling Cross indeed). But Hill’s work stands alone in its theme; what would you do if you had a disease that rendered you a danger not only to yourself, but to everyone around you?
“The Fireman” contains some of the most brutal horror this side of “Lord Of The Flies” that I’ve ever seen, the kind only desperately frightened people can produce. Yet there are many scenes of kindness and bravery too, and I do like the idea of a “safe island” run by ex-VJ Martha Quinn. There’s some lovely imagery, particularly the descriptions of the Dragonscale, the golden markings that signal the infection. I’m still haunted by the dream of the glowing church members singing Mary Poppins’ “Chim Chim Cheree” (though personally, I would probably be singing Elle Goulding’s “Burn”. Does that make me a bad, bad person?) Now that the weather is turning cooler, why not warm up some tea and crack open the “The Fireman”?

Not my favorite Joe Hill. I really had to keep at it to get to the end and by then I was skimming. Although the concept was fascinating, I wish this book had been half as long and a little faster-paced. I would recommend Heart Shaped Box over this one.

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KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“Your personality is not just a matter of what you know about yourself, but what others know about you. You are one person with your mother, and another with your lover, and yet another with your child. Those other people create you--finish you--as much as you create you. When you're gone, the ones you've left behind get to keep the same part of you they always had.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“There's something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone ALWAYS dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

Just noted that goodreads has several pages of quotes now. Below are ones I collected independently:

“At one point I had forty kids in the gym, and a few teachers, and the principal, and some were crying, and some were shivering, and some were throwing up, and I felt like doing all three at the same time.”

There was a fireman causing trouble.

“Sir,” Nurse Lean said now, in a voice thin with impatience. “Everyone in this line is having an emergency. It’s emergencies all the way back to the lobby. We take ’em in the order they come here.”

“SIR,” she said. “If you take one more step, we’ll be treating you this afternoon for a variety of bruises and contusions.”

Renée said it was easier to spot a moose in New Hampshire than a black person. She said she was used to being stared at as if her head was on fire, people had been staring that way for years.

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

I think it makes me look like a tigress! A fat, frumpy tigress. Like if Catwoman got really out of shape.”

Johnny Deepenau was a Budweiser-drinking, football-watching, Donald Trump–voting, stone-cold bozo who never read anything deeper than Penthouse magazine, but he understood that much.

He hated the way they saved all year to buy tickets in nosebleed territory for a pro-football game. He hated how happy they were in the weeks after the game, and hated the way they would tell the story of the game over and over as if recounting the battle of Thermopylae.

They were in their late sixties, stranded in God’s waiting room, a.k.a. Florida.

“I know it’s politically incorrect to say, but what the hell, we’re both about to die: I’ve never thought much of the intelligence of women. I’ve never once met a woman who had any true intellectual rigor. There’s a reason things like Facebook and airplanes and all the other great inventions of our time were made by men.”

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

All of France’s wine country was nothing but ash now, which meant the stain on her blouse was probably worth a few thousand dollars on the black market. She had never worn anything so expensive.

She loped jaggedly off course. No, that wasn’t right; for her to wander off course, she needed to have a course, and she had no idea where she was going.

The beard was actually less Dumbledore, more Hemingway, but the eyes behind the lenses of his glasses were a brilliant shade of blue that naturally suggested a man who could cast runes and speak to trees.

“ … Time is short, Tom.” “Isn’t it always?”

“You’ve beaten it?” Harper asked. “Better,” Father Storey said. “We’ve made friends with it.”

I want us to have matching pajamas. That’s how crazy I am for you.

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

“But Snuffleupagus was real.” “That is the most wonderful sentence I have ever heard. I want that on my gravestone. Snuffleupagus was real. No more. Just that.”

“It’s not magic. It’s a miracle,” Carol said, like someone identifying the make of their new car: it’s a Miata.

“ … And you become aware of yourself as just one leaf on a tree, and everyone you know and love, they’re all the other leaves.”

“ … They laughed at me, like grown-ups havin’ a yuk at some kid who just drank his first beer.”

“It’s no place for two strappin’ young boys like us,” Don Lewiston said. “All them wimmen undressin’ you with their eyes, plottin’ ways to use you to satisfy their repress’t needs—it makes a decent man feel lucky to escape with his life and virginity intact.”

“…It was like watchin’ a TV show and suddenly one a the extras decides to deliver a speech ain’t in the script.”

“ … Why don’t you go outside and yell for him?” “He’s deaf,” Harper said. “Don’t let that stop you,”

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

…most human lives were unfair, brutal, full of loss and grief and confusion. Most human lives were and are too short. Most people have lived out their days hungry and barefoot, on the run from this war and that famine, a plague here and a flood there. But people have to sing anyway.

… all acts of altruism were secretly acts of selfishness, that you were really only doing for others to please yourself.

When you gave your happiness away, it came back twofold. It kept coming and coming, like the loaves and fishes.

In her experience it was very difficult to offer a man affection and kindness without giving him the impression you were also offering a lay.

“A thousand prayers every minute everywhere and what does God ever say back? Nothing! Because silence never lies. Silence is God’s final advantage. Silence is the purest form of harmony.

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

“That’s right. You didn’t know it belonged to anyone. And the world is just full of free cars. They’re like picking daisies at the side of the road,”

… it did not pay to be too impressed with a man just because he could ride a unicycle.

“A Porsche is just a half ton of worthless iron if there’s no gas in the tank.”

I haven’t been in so much pain since Guns and Roses broke up.”

“I brought you some wonderful loose teas—” “Tea! You think I want tea?” “Why not? You’re English.” “And so you think I drink tea? What, do you imagine I used to wander around in the London fog in a deerstalker cap, talking to my mates in iambic pentameter? We have Starbucks, woman.”

Nothing makes a person feel more low and ashamed than disappointing the old man. It’s like telling a department store Santa you know his beard is fake.”

“You don’t think she means well?” “I’m certain she means well. When your government was waterboarding poor sods to find bin Laden, they meant well.

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

… Without someone higher to answer to, the law is just whoever’s holding the nightstick. A nightstick—or a dish towel full of rocks.”

“I’ll be your candle on the water …My love for you will always burn

“There’s always a little decency in the worst places . . . and always a little secret selfishness in the best.”

The Dodge Challenger was only a dozen steps from where she was taking shelter, but it might as well have been in a different county. Trying to cross that distance made about as much sense as diving headfirst into a wood chipper.

I wouldn’t like to see it happen, but there’s a lot of things I’ve had to live with that I didn’t like. I’m sure I could manage one more.

When she stroked a fingernail up his bare foot he curled his toes and made a soft snort of amusement. When she had tested him that way last week, she might as well have been tickling a loaf of bread.

It was funny how the more she said it to herself, the less she believed it.

j
jimg2000
Jul 24, 2016

“…These days, I’m not sure it’s ever a good idea to leave anything important for tomorrow.”

I liked who I was when I was by his side,

…how the romance between a moth and a candle usually ended: with the moth spinning to its death, wings smoking.

“Rabbit mothers eat their own babies,” the Mazz said. “I found that out reading Watership Down.

“They’re not bad people, most of them. All they want is to be safe.” “Isn’t that always a permission slip for ugliness and cruelty? All they want is to be safe, and they don’t care who they have to destroy to stay that way.

He said the candy bar was awful and he needed another one to get the taste out of his mouth.

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Age Suitability

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spl_merley Jul 17, 2016

spl_merley thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Summary

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spl_merley Jul 17, 2016

The fate of humanity is literally igniting in flames as a pandemic, caused by a spore nicknamed dragonscale, threatens to turn the world to ashes. Courageous and optimistic Nurse Harper Grayson sought to help when the pandemic began but after the hospital that she worked in burns down she and her husband retreat to their home. When she discovers that she is both infected and unexpectantly pregnant her desire to save the life of her unborn child gives her strength to face the dangers smoldering around her. An act of kindness in the hospital is returned when the enigmatic Fireman, who is able to control the plagues flames, saves her life and takes her to a camp where a group of the infected have learned how to live with the spore. Under constant fear of those hunting the sick Harper slowly becomes a part of this cult-like community in spite of her initial misgivings. When conflict and disaster strikes this seemingly idyllic hiding place Harper and the Fireman must work together to save themselves and the one’s they love.

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