“The Fireman” by Joe Hill – a dystopian novel about society collapsing

The Fireman by Joe Hill is the story of our future world where a completely new disease affects people. The skin changes to develop scales and eventually the person bursts into flames. As the disease spreads society begins to break down and people with the symptoms find themselves also in danger from others. It seems like the coming of the disease allows people to behave the way they have always wanted but have so far been restrained from by societal norms.

The story concentrates on Harper who is a nurse and who deals with people who have the disease. Harper is pregnant but when she begins to develop scales herself she finds that he husband has changed character and her life is in danger. She flees and it seems like she has found a secure place where methods are being developed to handle the disease. Of course, not all is as it seems and Harper experiences threats from within the community as well from outside. She needs to survive for the sake of her child and that sometimes means coming to terms with things in the community she joins which she doesn’t like.

Jack is the Fireman of the title and his role is to rescue people from danger and to bring them into the community. He is a mysterious character whose motives are not always easy to understand and he lives alone. He and Harper form a partnership but she finds herself in danger because of the mistrust that others have for Jack although they can’t do without his services.

This book is grim in places and reflects the worst of human nature. Joe Hill is a horror writer and although this book wouldn’t be put in that genre it is very dark and scary in places with lots of images of fire, ash and destruction.

There have been lots of dystopian novels with a similar theme and you could say that nothing that happens in this book is surprising but it is very well done and the author is excellent at creating atmosphere and tension. I did think that the book got a bit stuck in the middle and I almost lost interest but I’m glad I persevered because the ending is interesting.

This is a long book but well worth the read.