The Fireman by Joe Hill

August 8, 2016 Plague, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 12

Hidey Ho Bookworms!

Have you ever thought to yourself, “there really should be more books centered on spontaneous human combustion”? I’m assuming you answered with a resounding “OBVIOUSLY” because why wouldn’t you? Well, you, me, and Joe Hill are totally on the same wavelength. If it weren’t for peer pressure, I probably never would have read The Fireman. Many thanks to Care for organizing the #FiremanAlong AND for sending out fun snail mail along the way. It’s always more fun to read a book with a Twitter squad, you know? And then to get mail that’s not a bill? That Care, I tell you what.

You're MY favorite person, Care!

You’re MY favorite person, Care!

As I mentioned, The Fireman is about a plague wherein those who fall ill also eventually burst into raging infernos with little to no warning. Colloquially known as “Dragonscale” the spore to blame for this ailment is mysterious and super deadly. It’s troubling, to say the least, what with people dying left and right and taking out large swathes of town and country with them. Our protagonist, Harper, is a nurse with a bit of a Mary Poppins obsession. (And believe you me, I understand where Harper is coming from. I’m really excited that discussing this book is giving me an excuse to use Mary Poppins gifs.) After the outbreak, Harper volunteers in a hospital among the infected… Until it burns down. Because SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION.


As you might expect, it’s not too long before our do-gooding nurse notices tell-tale signs of Dragonscale on her own skin, shortly after discovering she’s pregnant. Soooo. That makes things a bit complicated. PLUS, her husband goes off the deep end in a BIG WAY and their little New England town devolves into a terror filled hellscape. Your typical plague apocalypse nightmare scenario. Plus fire. The book reaffirmed my general fear of mob mentality. People in groups just get so DUMB sometimes. Quoting “Sister Suffragette” is perfect in such cases, seeing as people are typically lovely on an individual level, but when they congregate in large groups? Watch out.


This miiiight be my favorite song ever.

If you’re thinking this book sounds a lot like The Stand (review), you’d be right. As it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Joe Hill is totally Stephen King’s son. BUT! Hill tempered his horror with a good dose of humor and the most delicious pop culture references. For a brick of a book, The Fireman is a quick read. If you’re in the mood for something plague-y and frightening but ALSO happen to love Mary Poppins? THIS IS YOUR BOOK!

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite plague-apocalypse scenario? My plague book list is looking a little light these days. 

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12 Responses to “The Fireman by Joe Hill”

  1. Jayne

    I’ve been curious about this once since I read Hill’s NOS4A2. That one was creepy, fun, and super interesting. It even had one of my favorite book quotes – “She breathed deeply of the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue, and cleverness.”
    The Fireman doesn’t exactly sound like a book I’d typically pick but maybe I will try it now.

  2. Megan M.

    I haven’t attempted to read his books. I associate him with Stephen King (duh) whose books I just cannot get into, but I often like the films made from his stories. We watched the movie version of “Horns” and enjoyed it (I believe it’s on Netflix.)

    • Words For Worms

      I think his vibe is very similar to King, but it’s worth a shot trying on out anyway. You never know. If it doesn’t grab you, just… Watch the movie. But don’t tell anyone I said that.

  3. mwgerard

    I jumped down the stairs with an umbrella when I was three in an attempt to try to fly like Mary Poppins. Since it didn’t work, I decided I needed to get on the roof, so as to be higher. Obviously. I couldn’t find a way to get there so I asked my mom for the ladder. That made her suspicious and my project was squashed.

  4. ThatAshGirl

    Love Joe Hill. This sounds a bit less scary than some of his other stuff. His first book, Heart-Shaped Box is to this day the only book that ever actually kept me up at night. He tends to go towards seriously creepy vs in your face scarp. Creepy is worse.

  5. Jenny @ Reading the End

    1) Care is indubitably the best.
    2) I have never ever wished to read more books about spontaneous combustion, and it worries me that that’s a thing you’ve been wishing for. u ok pal?

    • Words For Worms

      Oh Jenny. The things that are wrong with me are many and varied. But you needn’t worry. The whole spontaneous human combustion thing was directly related to some real life ghost story book I read as a middle schooler. I’m not, like, actually interested in fires, combustion, or being responsible for any of those things. Unless there are dragons involved, but I think that’s quite reasonable.

  6. DoingDewey

    I just read and really enjoyed The Sunlight Pilgrim and it’s world-freezing-to-death apocalyptic scenario 🙂 I’m glad you had such fun with this one. It does sound like a great read-along!

Talk to me, Bookworms!

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