The Fireman written by Joe Hill and narrated by Kate Mulgrew
Published by: HarperAudio on May 16, 2016
Review Source: The Library!
Genres: Horror, Post-apocalyptic Survival
Owlet (Mini) Review: There is a plague upon us and its name is Dragon Scale. It covers your body in black and gold, which is beautiful to behold… until it makes you spontaneously combust. Before Dragon Scale, Harper Grayson’s life was simple. Married, no kids, worked as a nurse, loves Mary Poppins. Then people start bursting into flames. Society breaks down. People begin to do terrible things to stay alive and maintain order. Oh, and did I mention the Harper is pregnant and her husband has gone from loving hipster to hell bent on murdering her? Yeah, no spoon full of sugar is big enough for that medicine.
My previous experience with Hill’s work is a bit of a love / hate relationship. I love it because he writes stories that scare the hell out of me (and I’m not a chicken either). I hate it because it’s SO SCARY sometimes I can’t always finish the book. Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2 creeped me out so bad that I had nightmares for weeks. Since The Fireman is a bit milder, I actually managed to get through it without twitching in my sleep. This isn’t to say the story is squishy (I was uneasy for a lot of it), but it wasn’t Bing (see NOS4A2) level creepy.
Instead of pure terror, The Fireman offered a sincere and thought-provoking conversation between writer, narrator, and reader. Harper’s experiences call into question something that many of us probably have on our minds a lot these days: what constitutes as moral / amoral in times of distress. Her desire to protect her unborn child places Harper on a difficult path where she is continuously confronted with how grey one’s moral compass becomes when survival is at stake. Her experience was both believable and gut wrenching. It held me in suspense till the very end.
Hill also spends some time paying homage to writers he admires. From Stephen King to J.K. Rowling, there are multiple shoutouts to fellow writers he admires. It was nice to see him insert this praise, and it gave the book a level of intimacy between writer and reader that you don’t see very often. I’d also love to know if the Marlboro Man was a shout out to Stephen King, because he sure felt like Randal Flagg to me.
The Narrator: Kate Mulgrew made this book for me. I love her work as an actress, so this was such a treat! She has a massive vocal range that stayed consistent and clear throughout the entire length of book. I will listen to any audiobook she narrates from now on.
Length: Ringing in at about 22 ½ hours, this book felt just right in terms of length and pace.
Final Hoot: Ultimately, this one felt like Joe Hill’s homage to stories he loves, more so that the uniquely terrifying experience I typically expect from him. I did enjoy it though, and would recommend it hands down.
Who should snag it: This is a solid selection for those looking for a survival story that has ample suspense and a wonderful narrator. It read much like The Stand or Swan Song, so if you are a fan of questioning morality, this will interest you.
Rating: 4 out of 5 hoots