Written by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow, January 3, 2017
My star rating: 3.5 stars
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. The Fireman
On Goodreads this book is labeled as a thriller, horror, dystopian. But this isn’t your typical horror/thriller. When you think horror your mind typically goes to monsters, murders, and all things evil. Yes! This is true, and theres lots of that in this book but in a different way. But all things evil and monstrous are the humans in the world as they react to a deadly disease called Dragonscale. This disease is spreading quickly and first shows up as black and gold lines on the body that look like tattoos. Some progress quickly while others it takes a while, but eventually those infected will burn to death. Yup, terrifying! This disease has spread so fast through the world that the entire world is burning and falling apart. Those who are infected look for support and help, just praying that there will be a cure or a way to keep it under control. Meanwhile those who aren’t infected will go to horrifying lengths to keep it that way.
I absolutely loved how the author was able to convey the human emotion and response to this disease. It was absolutely terrifying!! It all felt so real: I had this constant feel of dread that if something like this actually happened this could be our life. Healthy humans were doing awful things like imprisoning and exterminating those who were infected, with no second thought to human life at all. This new civilization is not something I would want to be a part of!
In this book we follow a group of people who have hidden from the healthy humans as they try to survive and stay hidden. Our main character Harper finds out that she’s pregnant right around the same time she was infected and she’s on the run to save her baby. But the community that she finds isn’t as safe as she once thought. Sometimes the people who are “in charge to help” you are just as horrifying as those trying to hurt you.
The characters were really great. They all had their own ways of dealing with dragonscale and they all had their own tortured past that brought them to his new camp. Each one was very different and the author did a great job keeping me emotionally attached. The only downfall here was that sometimes the cast of characters was so large I had a hard time keeping them straight and remembering how they fit into the community. I loved that through this broad range of characters we were able to see the many different ways people processed this disease and the many ways they felt comfort and safety. When dealing with something so crazy people’s thought process is skewed. You do things you wouldn’t normally do for “what’s right”. There was so much conflict and it was all laid out really well.
I wish there was more that I could say about this book but it’s difficult for many reasons. First – there was just so many details and aspects to this book. It’s long. Like almost 800 pages long! So there’s a lot that happened. And because of that it’s a book that you really need to piece together yourself. It creates emotions of dread and panic and these pieces come together and to explain it to you would be impossible. Second – the plot was kind of hidden within the events. You knew there was an endgame but it was often hidden behind the emotions this story sparks. It’s not a character driven story in the usual sense. The events have everything to do with the story as the characters do, but the plot didn’t follow a finite line.
768 pages aside, this book reads quickly. I really did enjoy it but at the same time it could have been condensed. A LOT!! As I mentioned in previous posts, Joe Hill is Stephen Kings son and they write very similar – long winded and detailed. I think that if this were condensed I would have enjoyed it a little more and remembered more of the details. But all in all, it’s a fascinating and entertaining read!
Until next time, happy reading!