Synopsis: 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.
Joe Hill's latest novel, The Fireman, is finally out. He first mentioned it soon after NOS4A2's release back in 2013, and I spent the next three years anxiously awaiting the next book from one of the best talents in horror fiction today.
Was it worth the wait? Oh, yes. Yes it was.
The Fireman opens up during the end of the world, and it only gets more drastic from there. A spore (referred to as Dragonscale) is infecting everyone the world over — it is highly contagious, leaving marks on the skin, syncing up with the mind, and causing the contaminated to spontaneously combust if said person begins to stress. It's a thrilling, high-wire conceit and Hill certainly doesn't disappoint. The world is, literally, going down in flames, and those who survive are gunned down or starve to death. This is a big apocalyptic novel with everything one would hope for in a tale about the end of the world — suspense, death, and . . . light in darkness, too.
Hill described this book as being as one about "optimism in the face of darkness," and that's certainly what it is. While it lacks the sinfully delicious edge of his previous works, The Fireman offers a much larger palette of emotion and color. The characters (and there are many) are ones we really root for or truly despise — they are all fully-formed, almost walking off the page. The story is seen through the eyes of Harper, a do-good pregnant nurse whose marriage has just ended as the world begins. She's a fundamentally good person with several flaws, and I loved the hell out of her — same for Nick, Renee, Ally, Michael, Carol, Father Storey, et cetera. Joe Hill is an author who gives a loving touch to every character he pens into life, and that's what makes him such a great author.
This is an excellent novel, from the first page to the last. I've seen some complaints online that it's too long, but I disagree — if anything, I wish it could've been longer. I hope Hill is planning a sequel because I would love to visit this story's universe again. I do wish the reader could see more of the impact the Dragonscale has on the rest of the world, and not just those staying at Camp Wyndham. There are references here and there (especially at the end), but not much. Ah, well — that didn't really impact my enjoyment of the story. Pick this one up if you want a ripping good tale about the end of the world, or if you simply enjoy a well-told tale populated with great characters.