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An epic, smoke-filled, blazing star of a book! Joe Hill brings something different to the post-Apocalyptic genre. A creeping disease of deadly fire backed with strong and fully rounded characters. A story that follows a small number of survivors as they try to negotiate the two tier society of the “infected” and the “healthy”.
Although epic in length Hill never really tries to encompass the global impact of such a crisis. Instead he works his characters through scenes that are increasingly harrowing and with growing levels of incendiary violence and poetically described horror. There are scenes particularly in the church that will have the hairs on the back of your neck quivering! He brings through the polarisation of human nature and at one point even seems to ape an Orwellian feel casting echoes of the brilliant Animal Farm. This is about journeys of discovery. It’s about people who can cope with the situation no matter what it throws at them, people whose baser nature is brought to the fore by the situation and even those that are crushed by it.
In amongst the tension, violence and horror there are genuine periods spent developing the characters and their relationships. These sections may at times seem flatter but I don’t think they are wasted and they add to the overall feel of the book. I’ll confess it did feel a bit out of place having a lead character with much of Mary Poppins within her. You’ll see what I mean not long into the book. Even that however won me over as it provided a delicious incongruence to the abject horror of some of the scenes. A spoonful of sugar to take to ward off the sheer nastiness and unrelenting hatred of some of the less pleasant characters. A really clever touch.
The narration by Kate Mulgrew is very, very good. I can only imagine how hard it is to keep up that level of intensity across practically a solid day’s worth of narration. She doesn’t have the greatest of variety in character voicings but she does convey tension, excitement and emotion extremely well.
In summary, an excellent novel, much like his father’s in many ways but with his own originality quite literally burned in. The acid test for a book I often find is how much I want the characters to come out of it and believe me I was cheering for these ones!
This book will keep you guessing right to the very end about who might survive and who might not. An excellent effort and I shall look forwards to more from Joe Hill. I guess we should expect no less from the son of the master of such fiction!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not stop listening when the credits start at the end . . . .
24 of 27 people found this review helpful
Another brilliant book by Joe Hill read by Kate Mulgrew the only female narrator I will listen to. Reading the title you would expect the book to be something different. It is exciting and fast paced and something new. It gives you feelings of horror, sadness and empathy. Just couldn't put it down, was sorry when it ended.
6 of 8 people found this review helpful
Long. Very long. But nice, strong and fulfilling. The narrator did an amazing job! Will definitely pick up more of Joe Hill!
When I see any kind of plague, end of the world, type book I can't resist it ... I'm always fascinated by humanity at its most over-taxed. No more family or old friends to share memories, a day-to-day existence with no resemblance to what has been left behind, lack of food and the basic necessities -- so, for me, in a nutshell, it's the people who are left behind, inhabiting this unexpected and unwanted existence who are my conduit to this brave new world.
Alas, The Fireman just doesn't get there for me. Harper is adequate as a central focus, but she is lightweight, someone who things happen to but no ball of fire (excuse the expression) in getting things going herself. But it's The Fireman himself that really bothers me. Who cares about this guy! We're supposed to believe that he is, somehow, the face of the new existence -- Joe Hill even named the book after him. But I just don't get it. To me he's at best a rather underdeveloped secondary personality, one you don't really care about and who you'd be happy to leave behind after a few pages. A better title, if it described him, would be The Wannabe Fireman. This guy is all the way through the book, both in spirit and body, and at the end it's -- okay (?), can we go on now? But that's the end of the book!
On a positive note, the story itself was really well crafted and held together very well -- the basic premise of a plague defined by bursting into flames is unique and really, really scary, so no complaints about that.
I have read all of Hill's books and for the most part I really like his characters -- both fiery Vic in NOS4A2 and world-weary Jude in Heart Shaped Box were fabulous protagonists -- but this one, as epitomized by Harper, really lacks depth of character. Sorry, Joe ... this one just didn't float my boat.