Friday, 17 June 2016
The Fireman by Joe Hill Review
I’ve been chipping away at Joe Hill’s latest bowel movement, The Fireman, for a few weeks now and was aghast to discover today that I’ve only made it 25% into the book. I’m not a slow reader, it’s just that crummy a read and I’m not going to force myself to make it through the remaining 75% (literally hundreds of pages) of crap writing/story/characters/dialogue/fucking everything just to write a more informed bad review; instead I’m cutting my losses here and walking away!
The Fireman is an end of the world sci-fi story where humans have been infected by spores or something, causing them to have black and gold markings on their skin (if they’re infected), bursting into flame and burning to death. Harper Grayson is a pregnant nurse who becomes infected and runs away to a camp of other Dragonscale sufferers, meeting a British Fireman who can control the flames, kinda like the Human Torch. That’s all setup though – where’s the story? There isn’t one! Bah…
Hill has the same problem his dad, Stephen King, has: word diarrhoea. Why this novel has to be 700-800 pages long, I have no idea, especially when barely anything happened in the first quarter of the novel. I guess Hill wants to latch onto his famous father’s vast audience because he’s basically parodying The Stand here. The Fireman is, of course, set in Maine, though the main character isn’t a novelist (but her husband is), it’s the apocalypse and the book has to be obnoxiously long because that’s what King fans like for some reason – “don’t give me quality, give me quantity!!”
Harper is a dreadfully boring protagonist but then none of the characters are any better. I was embarrassed that Hill made The Fireman British, a fellow countryman, especially when he’s this corny dickhead with an “aw shucks” attitude – but with an accent, ooo, American readers! Harper’s loving husband goes from being caring and devoted to a raving murderous lunatic in no time at all (Hill trying and failing to pull off a Jack Torrance character) which just reads like the contrived bullshit it is, and then, once Hill’s done leaning on his daddy’s creations, he falls back on one-dimensional stereotypes: the glasses-wearing fat nerd perv who of course is evil, the down-home old man who’s super-wise, if you’re disabled or a minority then you’re automatically a saint, and so on.
As for the pitiful story, in roughly 200 pages all that happened was the Dragonscale infection was established, we got to know the boring Harper, her husband went nuts and tried to kill her (a sequence that went on for far too long as it accomplished nothing), and she ended up in a summer camp of survivors. Why an abandoned summer camp? Because whoever’s looking for them won’t look there because contrivance. What do they do in the camp? Sit around and talk like idiots. It’s such unreadable swill.
I could talk about the low quality writing, the cringey, mostly expositional, dialogue ( also: “ayuh” – I’ve only ever read that grunt word in a King novel – another tip o’ the hat/fan service to Pop and his readers), the non-existent plot and stupid characters, but at the end of the day, The Fireman is just a really dull, horribly over-long and tedious read. Don’t get burned – stay away!