The Fireman by Joe Hill

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The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

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. No one is safe.

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.

Pet’s $0.02

I love a good dystopian novel.

I’m not scared of Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Ghosts, or the dark. But, I am terrified of the group mind. Nothing is scarier than the frenzy of a group secure in the knowledge that their beliefs are the only legitimate ones and hopped up on militant devotion.

In The Fireman, people are beginning to be infected with a pathogen named Dragonscale. A sickness that causes people to go up in flame. No one knows how it spreads, there is no cure, and no way to stop yourself from going up in beautiful flames. Of course, this means that there is a quick divide between the well and the infected.

When Harper, a nurse, meets John, The Fireman, she has no idea he’ll play such an important role in her life. Harper becomes the voice of reason in a group quick to follow anyone who can offer any kind of reason behind what’s happening to them, and the voice of defiance when the ruling voice of what I’m calling the cult of The Bright doesn’t make sense. And John is the true leader of those who continue to think for themselves and see the hysteria that’s quickly building.

What is The Bright? The Bright is that exalted state where nothing matters but feeling a connection with the rest of the group who shine with the inner glow of the Dragonscale. Everything is about The Bright.  Any communal activity will achieve the shine. Whether singing praise or torturing…doesn’t matter, as long as The Bright and shining is achieved. It’s social networking at it’s worst and most disconcerting. Addictive and frightening. It’s raising voices in praise to the flame. To one communal mind.

Harper and The Fireman have found themselves part of a group where thinking differently can be a death sentence and voicing your doubts makes you a threat.

This is a wonderful exploration into group behavior and how easily people will turn against each other when they’re afraid. It’s scary how when given a choice between making things better and holding on to power, most pick the insidious lure of power.

As much as most would deny it, people like to be told what to do, how to think, what’s right, what’s wrong and survivors learn quickly that conforming is easy.

Having an opinion is disobedience.

Disobedience means being isolated from the whole and unprotected.

And questioning is a death sentence when you don’t agree with the group mind.

A fantastic read about events I can only hope never occur.