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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

‘The Fireman’ by Joe Hill

Published by Gollancz,
7 June 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-575-13071-5

We should get it out of the way at the outset – Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. However, although The Fireman is about a band of people facing impossible odds in a post-apocalyptic world, Hill is in a class of his own when it comes to the writing.

A terrifying new plague is spreading across the world. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton, to the layman it's known as Dragonscale. It is a highly contagious spore that marks its human hosts with beautiful black and gold patterns across their bodies before it causes them to spontaneously combust. Millions are affected. The world is on fire.

Harper Grayson a young nurse in New England, USA, with a penchant for singing songs from musicals (I know, but it works), has treated hundreds of affected patients. Now she has discovered the tell-tale signs of Dragonscale on her own skin. Her husband, Jakob, wants them to die together, but Harper wants to live - not least because she has discovered she is pregnant.

So begins the story of the collapse of New England society, the rise of Cremation Squads to kill the infected and the escape to a sanctuary that is not all it seems.

The Fireman is a tale of Harper's journey with the enigmatic Fireman of the title - a man who can manipulate Dragonscale to the point where he can injure others with it - a journey that is exciting, dangerous and poignant.

Joe Hill makes us believe in a world on fire, believe in all his beautifully drawn characters, believe in the events that propel the plot along. He manages to keep the tension throughout, yet there are flashes of humour that provide a welcome break. I have seen this described as a 'supernatural thriller', I would say that he so convinces us of his world that it is not supernatural, it is, however, a real thriller, all 700 plus pages of it. It's also a story of love, of humanity, of overcoming the odds, of generosity and of redemption. I loved it.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Author photo courtesy of Shane Leonard
Joe Hill is a recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship and the winner of the A.E. Coppard Long Fiction Prize, William Crawford, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards. His short fiction has appeared in literary, mystery and horror collections and magazines in Britain and America.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.
Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism.
The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th.
In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

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