The Fireman, review by Marco Piva Dittrich for Sugarpulp MAGAZINE: a post-apocalyptic book about hope by New York Bestselling Author Joe Hill.

The Fireman review by Marco Piva Author: Joe Hill
Title: The Fireman
Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 760

Humanity is going to end, there’s no way out: a spore is spreading, a spore that causes people to simply autocombust. It’s called draco incendia trychophyton, but people call it Dragonscale. Before it kills, it covers people in beautiful tattoo-like black and gold lines. A painful death preceded by beauty.

Nurse Harper Grayson is a happy, positive woman, constantly quoting Mary Poppins and singing A Spoonful of Sugar. One day, a fireman with an English accent – himself showing the signs of Dragonscale – brings in a deaf boy who seems to be seriously ill. Going against orders and protocol, Harper helps him straight away, thus earning the fireman’s gratitude.

But one day Harper catches Dragonscale herself – just as she finds out she’s pregnant. At that point, her life (and her marriage to a man named Jakob) takes a different turn. She can’t go to work anymore, her husband runs away from her afraid to be infected… there’s no more hope in the world. Except, there actually is some. And here I’ll stop discussing the plot: you’ll need to read the novel to find out what happens next and what’s the importance of the English fireman in the story.

The Fireman is a post-apocalyptic book about hope. As the author said himself some time ago, this is a book “about being happy in the face of darkness”. Harper is the central character, and the fireman is obviously very relevant in the story (hey, the novel is called The Fireman), but there are numerous not-so-minor characters who play important roles – and each of them is painted in a brilliant way, making them memorable and perfectly individual.

This novel can be roughly divided in four parts: the premise, in which we get to know Harper; the “everything will be fine” part (it’s hard to discuss it avoiding spoilers, so please follow me); the “descent into Hell” and finally the payoff. And wait for the sting in the tail…

Full of 1980s pop culture references (Joe Hill was born in 1972), from Martha Quinn the MTV VJ to Stephen King novels, The Fireman will suck you in. At the end you’ll be disappointed it’s over. Ah, and – a piece of advice: read the music credits. There’s something there…

A final, small detail. In the acknowledgements, the author mentions an agent of his who represented him for ten years without knowing that Joe Hill is a pen name. For this, we will also focus on the fact that he simply is the author of Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2 (and of the comic series Locke & Key). If you really need to know his full name… Google is your friend. Read the novel and decide how much you like it, without being influenced by the writer’s pedigree.