Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"The Fireman" by Joe Hill Book Review

Joe Hill Celebrates Release of Latest Book at Strand Bookstore [Videos] By Charles Bordeau on May 20, 2016:

This is the link to my own blog about the Joe Hill event at Strand Bookstore in NYC a few months back:

Joe Hill has a growing reputation as a writer, and this is for good reason. Just open up a copy of his latest novel, "The Fireman," and start reading, if you require proof.

This is an imaginative book that keeps the reader not only entertained, but will also keep you on the edge of your seat! There are numerous twists and turns and nasty surprises. This is befitting of the son of Stephen King, after all, so you probably should expect it.

Yet, much like with his famous father, Hill is an author who incorporates a lot of warmth into his works, as well. The characters here are not real, they are fictional, and yet they feel very real because Hill, like his father, is a master of character building. The characters that populate this novel are not perfect and, indeed, are flawed. They show humor, impatience, sadness, sweetness, and all of the other traits and imperfections that make people...well, human beings. These characters also make mistakes - a lot of them - and this, too, makes them more believable. It makes them feel more real, even while the subject matter of this book - a kind of plague that makes people spontaneously combust and which spreads literally like wildfire - might seem surreal. 

Indeed, the Dragonscale that essentially destroys the world as we know it in this novel is not just the latest plague to wipe out the Earth's population, or turn them into mindless zombies plaguing those remaining alive and/or healthy in the world. In fact, much like Hill's characters in this novel, it is quite complicated, and actually proves to be a mixed bag. At times, it is a horror, and indeed, that is how the book opens. However, it has some positive aspects as well, which the characters (at least those infected with it) come to discover for themselves.

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The main character is Harper, a nurse living with her husband in a small New Hampshire city. She is trying her best to adjust to this mad new world, where tons of people are getting infected everyday. It is in her nature to try and help out and be of comfort to others, although eventually, she finds traces of the Dragonscale on herself, as well. As this were not enough of a problem, her husband, Jacob, gets sick shortly thereafter, and blames her. It does not take long before he grows increasingly violent, and she is forced to flee.

Harper finds herself in a camp for the infected, and at first she is welcomed with open arms, and everyone is happy to have her. Things grow increasingly tense over time, however, as fear rules the camp. The world has grown increasingly authoritarian, and so it makes sense that the camp does, as well. Before long, the atmosphere in the camp has become downright stifling, and Harper begins to plan to leave for greener pastures, although she is not even certain that a better, more accommodating world exists anymore for the infected.

Still, she wants to believe, although things come to a head before she really gets a chance to do so. She manages to survive, and escapes with a small band of survivors, all of them infected. Included is the Fireman, the mysterious Brit who is the inspiration for the title of this book. Together, they manage to go surprisingly far, although still, danger seems to follow them around every turn.

Through it all, Harper's hope is symbolized by what began as a book, but grew into something far bigger. She called it the "Portable Mother," and it was supposed to be a relative substitute mother for her child, whom she feared she would never actually live long enough to see, or hold in her arms. Yet, she is determined to keep living and to deliver the baby into this world, and so she starts accumulating things to provide comfort for her child, and all of this goes into the "Portable Mother." It actually is taken from her at some point, although Hill does a good job of symbolically making this make sense. This book/collection was a nice touch by Hill, and added a certain sweetness, tenderness, and yes, motherliness, to the main character of the book. I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the story.

Ultimately, the best thing that I can say about this book is that I was both eager to reach the end, as well as a little sad to finally do so. Despite the scary world that Harper and her friends live in, it was a world that I enjoyed visiting for the last few weeks while reading this. If you are a fan of Joe Hill, you probably have read this already. If not, you might want to give it a shot, especially if you happen to be a fan of Stephen King, his famous father. The similarities in their writing style and story-telling abilities really are quite remarkable!

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