Annie’s Bar Book Club: The Fireman by Joe Hill

When the world faces an epidemic of a disease commonly known as Dragonscale, Nurse Harper does what comes naturally to her – she puts her own health at risk and volunteers in the local hospital. When she inevitably becomes sick, her husband blames her and she’s left to fend for herself – and fight him off at the same time. To make matters worse, she’s pregnant, and those who contract the disease are known to spontaneously combust within two months of becoming ill. The Fireman follows Harper’s story from the moment she discovers she’s sick, and she takes us on an apocolyptic journey that is quite literally on fire.

I’ll be honest. I hated the first two hundred pages of this book. The story didn’t draw me in, I wasn’t that keen on the writing style (I mean, come on, what grown man actually uses the word ‘boobies’ other than when in jest?), and I didn’t like the characters. In fact, had it not been a book club book, I most definitely wouldn’t have finished it. That’s one of the things I love about book club, though. Whilst for the most part, life’s too short to read a book you’re not enjoying, book club instills that little extra dedication and commitment. And I’m certainly glad it did, for I overcame my initial reservations and was soon positively engrossed in the story.

Don’t get me wrong – the things I disliked at the beginning were still there. The writing, whilst not bad, was not for me and the characters continued to irritate the crap out of me, but the story became so gripping that I (almost) entirely forgot about the bad bits. Yes, Harper’s character was a bit all over the place (was she meant to be meek and mild or tough and strong? And how did she become so fantastically medically trained?), and yes, the phrasing was awkward sometimes, but the story twisted and turned in a way that kept me up way past my bed time (and believe me, having an 800-odd page book fall on your nose is hardly conducive to sleep).

There were plenty of surprises in the tale, and whilst apocolyptic dystopias are hardly new, Hill managed to add enough unusual and unique twists that it felt refreshingly different. The thing that probably impressed me the most, however, was his creation of Draco Incendia Trychophyton, the disease, which was well thought through, fascinating, and believable. As a chunky, almost 800-page novel, this book is a surprisingly quick read that will, eventually, become hard to put down. Don’t let the initial pages put you off because it really is worth the effort.

Anna: The beginning was terrible and she regretted having chosen this book! However, like me, as the story progressed, she became engrossed and ended up loving it! Score: 7.5

Emma: Unfinished on the night of book club, but had enjoyed what she had read so far. Score: 5

Jules: A great read to get your teeth into. Score: 8

Bev: An enjoyable book that is worth the read. Score: 8

Frank: The first 70% was fantastic, but then it got a too unbelievable and that ruined the whole thing. Score: 6

Michelle: Unfinished but enjoyable up until the point she stopped. Score: 6

Carol: A bit difficult to get into at first, but a good read overall. Score: 7

Mandy: “There were a few places where continuity was a bit off. I loved the style of writing and how the first paragraph drew me in. […] This book was unpretentious, well structured, and a beautifully crafted story which was not trying to be clever or proud of itself. Loved it.” Score: 9.5

Me: 7.5


Book Club Rankings:

  1. 8/10: The Running Man by Stephen King (Anna)
  2. 7.64/10: Lion by Saroo Brierley (Jules)
  3. 7.59/10: The Second Life of Amy Archer by RS Pateman (Riley)
  4. 7.5/10: The Retribution by Val McDermid (Emma)
  5. 7.17/10: The Fireman by Joe Hill
  6. 7.09375/10: See How They Run by Tom Bale (Anna)
  7. 7.06/10: Bloodman by Robert Pobi (Michelle)
  8. 7/10: Ghostwritten by David Mitchell (Riley)
  9. 7/10: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Decker (Riley)
  10. 6.78/10: Tell it to the Skies by Erica James (Mandy)
  11. 6.5/10: Someone is Watching by Joy Fielding (Emma)
  12. 6.125/10: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Mandy)
  13. 6/10: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (Jules)
  14. 5.97/10: Twisted by Jeffery Deaver (Michelle)
  15. 5.6875/10: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver (Frank)
  16. 5.21/10: Maskerade by Terry Pratchett (Bev)
  17. 4.44/10: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Larson (Nadia)
  18. 3.714/10: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Carol)

Want to read along with us? Our next book is Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys, as chosen by Jules. We’ll be meeting on December 30th. 511Ja+P1TsL

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