Joe Hill’s The Fireman is not The Road. It does not steep you in despair, it does not haunt you for months to come.
Joe Hill is not Cormac McCarthy, and we wouldn’t want him any other way.
The Fireman is Hill’s fourth book, and it is plain to see that he is in his stride. The novel follows the infection and subsequent razing of the modern world by the Draco Incendia Trichophyton spore, otherwise known as Dragonscale. The Dragonscale tattoos the people it infects with black-and-gold scales, and eventually, inevitably burns them alive — that is, until protagonist Harper Grayson encounters the titular Fireman, who has learned to control the fire.
This is still a post-apocalyptic novel, but it is refreshingly and distinctly new. Hill continues a trend of updating stories for the modern age. Zombies are passé; Dragonscale is the new black. Just like Horns, his writing is youthful and pulpy and gross and very cool, treated with a dark humour and touching on themes like immigration.
The Fireman is not horror, is not depressing, is not dour. It is brave and smart and full of heart, and makes for a very enjoyable read.
Fans of Stephen King’s Cell, Justin Cronin’s The Passage or Max Brooks’ World War Z will feel right at home reading this book.