British Fiction Focus

Watching the World Burn: The Fireman by Joe Hill

In case you weren’t aware, there’s a new novel by Joe Hill on the horizon. It’s called The Fireman, and apparently it “marks a remarkable new direction for the bestselling author”—one Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn is confident will take Hill’s already-astronomical career to new heights.

Said to be a synthesis of “the epic scope of The Passage and the emotional impact of The Road,” this apocalyptic thriller is “set in a world overtaken by an incurable runaway pathogen that causes death by spontaneous combustion.”

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too… if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted… and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

This morning marked the kick-off of the campaign to make The Fireman more of a commercial success than anything else Hill has written, to wit, the press release I received came complete with the cover art above, the book trailer below—


—as well as a generous excerpt of the novel proper, which includes the prologue and the first four chapters. If you’d go for still more, you glutton for fantastic fiction you, simply sign up at this site and another hundred pages of The Fireman will delivered to your inbox on December 15.

Giving so much of the game away so soon—The Fireman is still something like six months out—would be a bad idea for most books, to be sure. But throw the rulebook out, boys and girls, because this one’s going to be a biggie! In an interview Collider conducted late last year, Hill spoke about how happy he was with the vast first draft. The Fireman has gone through several revisions since—at least five, in fact—but every indication is that the finished edition will be similar in size to NOS4R2.

The wait till mid-May, when The Fireman will be published in the UK, is going to be painful, eh?

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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