Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Joe Hill's The Fireman burns down the literary house with song and sizzle

Earlier this month, I took myself on a hardcover holiday as a low key way to celebrate Independence Day. One of the books that I chose for that literary excursion was anything but low key and filled with fireworks in more ways than one.

The premise of Joe Hill's The Fireman is that our world is being afflicted by a disease(which is really a spore gone wild) called Dragonscale, due to the beautiful black and gold markings that appear on it's victims. Trouble is, the final stage of this infection is spontaneous combustion, setting off deadly fires that added to the growing chaos that is tearing apart society.

One of those caught in the crossfire is Harper Grayson, a school nurse who becomes one of the volunteers to help the growing number of Dragonscale patients in her area. While she's as distressed as any of the others around her, Harper takes her inner strength from Julie Andrews, in particular her role as Mary Poppins, to make the harsh medicine of reality go down as smoothly as possible:

Harper's resolve is severely tested as she discovers that not only is she pregnant, she's infected by Dragonscale as well. Her seemingly sweet husband Jakob turns nasty as he wants to go ahead with plans to die together but Harper wants to live at least long enough to deliver a hopefully healthy baby.

On the run from Jakob,along with Cremation Crews who are quick to kill anyone with the disease, she is able to take refuge with a hidden group of Dragonscale folks, thanks to the mysterious Fireman, who has gotten control of his fiery abilities and uses them to protect others.

As it turns out, Dragonscale does not have to be a death sentence. The group of people gathered at a former summer camp have learned to keep from burning up by calming themselves down through song. At first Harper is reluctant to join in what the others call "the Bright" but once she does, her hopes for the future shine brighter than before:

However, things are not all bliss at the camp. Tensions rise from a series of thefts from within, not to mention the dwindling supplies of food and medical goods that force Harper to risk going outside of the camp's boundaries.

As leadership of the camp swiftly changes, threats from the outer world are also getting too close, as Harper discovers that Jakob is now part of a Cremation Crew and determined to hunt her down. With danger growing all around her and also threatening her small circle of allies, Harper must do what she can to survive in both body and spirit. Having a strong friend like The Fireman on hand is a help but even he has vulnerabilities of his own to protect:

This is the second book that I've read by Joe Hill and damn, is he a good writer. Yes, this is a long novel but the pacing is quick and sure footed,leaving you both satisfied with the conclusion of the story and yet wanting more.

Hill blends apocalyptic fare with humor and heart, plus a nice dose of pop culture nostalgia that always rings true. Not many stories have Mary Poppins, MTV's Martha Quinn and the Dire Straits as solid emotional touchstones for their characters but this one does and making them work so well together is the ultimate magic trick.

Reading The Fireman is like having the best blockbuster entertainment right in your hands,  bursting with popcorn glee and flavored with buttery sweet resonance that lingers in your imagination long after it's done. So far, this is one of the best books that I have read this summer and will more than likely be on my best of the year list. If you are reluctant to buy hardcovers, I completely understand but trust me, this is worth your time and money.

The Fireman is a true summer romance that will last far beyond this season and I hope that anyone looking for a romping good read will pick this up and fall in love with this dark yet delightful world and it's characters as much as I did. Harper and her Fireman are destined to become a classic fictional couple that should inspire others to follow in their fiery footsteps,sharing their heart and soul as the world falls down:

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