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Reviews: Incendiary Device – Joe Hill’s Fireman

The Fireman,
Joe Hill,


Draco Incendia Trchophyton is what the doctors called the infection.

Dragonscale is what everyone else called it.

Black and gold marks blemish the host’s body, beautiful harbingers of a fearful end as those so marked burst into flames, incinerating themselves and anyone and anything close to them. Human nature being what it is, the scale of this infection naturally brings out the very worst and best in the remaining uninfected, as yet, population. The origins of the outbreak remain obscure, while its potential outcome for all mankind becomes all too clear. (Think Alfred Bester’s the stars My Destination meets Stephen King’s The Stand. Or then again perhaps you should not.) When in time honoured tradition mankind seeks scapegoats, the villagers with flaming torches come out in force. Betrayal and horror mount as this viral outbreak takes on biblical proportions in this achingly crafted epic novel by Joe Hill.

We follow the journey of a young nurse named Harper Grayson, who not only finds herself infected but also with child. This brave but terrified woman hopes to reach the end of her pregnancy term before the Dragonscale which infects her incinerates not only her but her unborn child. Her remaining time is uncertain as the gestation period for the virus is unpredictable, but she has reasons to hope that if she can carry her child the full term it will be spared as the transmission for the killer virus is as uncertain as the time remaining for any of us.

As if that is not enough she must deal with the fallout from her truly toxic and dangerous ex-partner. A previously loving and possessive husband whose grasp on reality truly spirals out of control as the virus takes an ever widening grip on mankind. Now he really is a monster, very well observed and totally believable. I could not help but be reminded of the ghastly travesty of a human being who was the AI creator in Ex Machina, the hipster monster, part creator, part destroyer. As all gods are in the end I suppose. Jacob Grayson is the man’s name and although Joe Hill’s monsters come in all shapes and sizes, his most perfectly formed ones are the ones built in our own image. Yet time is certainly running out as the threatened remaining uninfected populace turn on those who bear the marks of their infection, all empathy for their doomed fellow creatures fled, and we watch as all who dare hope see their lives literally go up in smoke. The end of the world is in sight and it already smells of burning human flesh.

The scale of the devastation wrought by the infection is global. It feels rooted in the worst interpretations of so many dominant religions and their fiery notions of the end of days. The bizarre cult of death worship that creeps into even the most seemingly enlightened of religions, backward thinking and cruelly pessimistic in the face of our natural aspirations towards a better world. The devil in man truly revels in the details.

The Fireman is a scary and thought provoking read. If you found Heart Shaped Box or NOS4R2 too arcane or even inaccessible (for whatever reasons) then this is surely the Joe Hill book for you. Follow the yellow high visibility jacket down the rabbit hole to a world that feels current and wholly familiar. I imagine the film rights to this novel will be snapped up pretty quickly if that has not already happened (actually Gollancz blogged that Fox snapped up the rights before the book even hits the shelves – Joe). I fully expect to see Matthew McConaughey in the Fireman’s outfit on a movie poster any time soon.

Mind you I have that vision quite regularly. It was his meteoritic turn in Magic Mike that left my brain smoking, so why not a Fireman? Oh, groan, objectifying such a fine character actor just because he has abs you could bounce apples off, shameful. Echoes in a shallow bay, I know, and I do apologise for the last sentence hoping that it in no way detracts from my earnest attempts to review a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Please do not judge or blame me..

Blame it on the boogie.

Matthew McConaughey’s boogie.

Perhaps it is time to make space somewhere in your book and comic collection for the work of Joe Hill as well. Just add this one and sit back and watch it grow.

Or in the case of The Fireman watch it glow.

The post Reviews: Incendiary Device – Joe Hill’s Fireman appeared first on Forbidden Planet Blog.

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