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What if you could set the world on fire?

September 9, 2017

‘The Fireman’ is a contemporary novel by Joe Hill, set in a possible future where a fungal spore has infected humans. The prevailing theory is that global warming melted the polar ice and the spore was underneath it.

Regular people call it ‘Dragonscale’ because when you catch it, your skin starts to show black streaks and get scaly.  That’s not so bad – the worst part is that it causes uncontrollable spontaneous combustion, and many thousands are dying.

Harper is a nurse,  volunteering at a local hospital. She wears full body rubber suiting, and is very careful to follow all safety protocols, because no one seems to know how the disease spreads yet. After the hospital burns down, she retreats to her home to hide out with her husband Jacob.  After discovering she is pregnant, she also finds black streaks… Jacob is furious, and becomes more paranoid as time goes on. Eventually, he decides they must commit suicide together, because there is no hope…

Fortunately, Harper manages to escape and is guided to a camp of infected by a mysterious stranger dressed as a fireman. The camp is full of long-time infected, who have found a way to co-exist with the fungus. They sing to it … and the oxytocin released brings them into a state of being they call The Bright. The fireman explains that the spore feels what the host feels, so if the host feels happy and safe, the spore doesn’t harm the host … it’s only when the spore feels exposed that it may combust and create ash, which is how it transfers to a new host.

Everything is going very well, until the leader of the camp is attacked. His paranoid daughter takes over, and Harper feels increasingly in danger. The fireman, Harper, and a few friends are secretly planning to leave but when their ‘conspiracy’ is discovered, the leader of the camp takes very extreme measures.  All hell breaks loose, but in the chaos Harper manages to escape. After an arduos journey, she and the Fireman finally make it to the famed CDC treatment facility on a remote island, where a cure is being sought. But it’s not what they hoped for….

I enjoyed this novel.  It’s not really a horror, more a dystopia and with plenty of action, but also drama and a touch of romance, I think it would appeal to both men and women.

Natalie

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