The Fireman by Joe Hill Release Date: May 17, 2016 Publisher: William Morrow Standalone Novel Number of pages: 768 Kindle Edition Source: borrowed from MCL Fiction/Thriller Rating: R Read 9/17/16 to 10/27/16
I have so much to say on this book, and it’s all jumbled in my brain in one messy knot. This is going to be a long one, so hang in there. It took me much longer to read than I had anticipated. I made mention before that part of the reason for this is the story was really good. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I didn’t have time to be sucked into a 700+ page book so I kept myself to one to two chapter at a time. I do a lot of my reading at night before bed and also couldn’t afford a sleepless night staying up reading. I often skipped this book at night and read something else that I knew wouldn’t keep me up for “just one more chapter”.
That being said, there were areas of this book that dragged. The beginning and end were awesome, but some of the in between stuff got tedious. For me, it was worth the effort.
Some of the best things about this book for me were the nods to his father’s works. I am a huge fan of Stephen King and love the way a lot of his stories are woven together to create the King universe. When Joe Hill cited his dad as part of his inspiration for this book I had high hopes. From the get go I felt ghosts of The Stand, one of my favorite King books. Not that I am saying Hill copied his father, it’s more like an homage. Then you get some characters that make you think they are relatives of King’s characters, such as Johnny Deepenau.
Speaking of The Stand, I have to mention the character of Nick. In The Stand we have Nick Andros who is a deaf mute in his early 20’s who was orphaned as a boy. Nick is a very important character and often functions as the “voice” of reason within the group. He is loved by all but not necessarily taken seriously due to his lack of speech. In The Fireman, Nick Storey is a boy whose mother recently died who is a deaf mute. He is almost a pet of sorts to the women in this book and is often overlooked due to his age and disabilities. Although I made a note to myself about Nick Storey being a possible homage to Nick Andros pretty quickly after we meet the character, it took me much longer to really see how much they paralleled each other. Way longer than it should have and I’m sure many others will get the connection much sooner than I did. There is also a reference to a character named Harold. In both books you want to dislike Harold at the same time you realize how he’s a naïve person who is being manipulated.
From the beginning I loved Harper. In many ways she reminds me of my older sister. Whether it’s because she’s a nurse or the way she tries to remain optimistic or her intense concern for other people regardless of her own safety I’m not sure. But she quickly found a soft spot in my heart. Though John, aka the Fireman, was very mysterious for much of the book, I also took an instant liking to him. His ways may have been a bit more unconventional, but he also had great concern for others as Harper did. These two characters can be considered the hero and heroine of the story although they are not the only important characters. They both have a very strong moral compass and that is something I admire, in my fictional friends as well as in the real world.
There were also characters that I had a great dislike for from the beginning. I always say that it’s a sign of great writing when a character can cause a strong reaction from me. Harper’s husband was one such character. What I enjoyed was the fact that when we first meet Jakob it’s not super clear that he’s going to be a grade-A prick, yet there is always a feeling that he’s not a good person. (He sealed his fate with me when he slammed Detroit.) He’s so self-centered and it pains me that Harper did not realize how much he spoke down to her. She doubted her own instincts when it came to Jakob which is something that seemed very real to me. There’s another character at Camp Wyndham that I felt the same about, but I don’t want to post any spoilers so won’t say who. And though I saw that character coming a mile away, there were a couple of characters whose intentions I didn’t see coming until it was too late. Much like what happened to the “good guys” of the story, I was blindsided.
If you’re reading this, you most likely know I am a huge fan of a story with an HEA. But this is a Joe Hill book so that’s not necessarily expected. The ending is not devastating, but it’s also not butterflies and daisies. It’s gritty and real and heart wrenching and, somehow through it all, hopeful.
Sure this book took me a while to read. It was slow at points and made me angry and sad and happy. I can’t help thinking that the author got it right. He brought out feelings in me that had me worried one moment and laughing the next. He ticked me off and made me cry. That is one good book in my eyes.