I'm not quite sure how to review Joe Hill's The Fireman. On the one hand, I found the book compelling enough to basic**spoiler alert** Spoiler Alert!!
I'm not quite sure how to review Joe Hill's The Fireman. On the one hand, I found the book compelling enough to basically read it in two sittings. On the other hand, when all was said and done, I don't actually think that it is very good, which surprised me. Being titled The Fireman, I expected more from the actual Fireman, but I'm pretty sure the book wouldn't have sold as well had it been titled The Pregnant Nurse, because that's who the book is really about.
Harper Grayson née Willowes is trying to find her way in a world that has been ravaged by a new plague called Draco Incendia Trychophyton, otherwise known as Dragonscale. When infected, the human body presents the contagion as bands of black and gold markings on the skin, and eventually the sick will spontaneously combust. Harper was a nurse at a hospital and eventually contracts the disease. At the same time, she becomes pregnant and her partner, Jakob, goes mad thinking she spread it to him as well.
After Jakob tries to kill Harper and she is rescued by the Fireman, she is brought to Camp Wyndham where a small congregation has come together and has found a way to keep from burning by entering what is called the Bright. Being a nurse, she is taken on as the ad hoc doctor for the camp.* While everything at Camp Wyndham appears perfect at first, eventually it all predictably falls apart, as secrets are kept, items and food are stolen, and a religious fervor begins to take over the group. Harper, with a small number of other infected, decides that it is time to escape Camp Wyndham, but before they can do that, things go even more wrong, and in the end, it's Harper, the Fireman, and three others who manage to escape to make their way north to Martha Quinn's island, a sanctuary for those who are infected.**
This is all a very simplistic breakdown of the story, as the book is over 700 pages, so there are many nuances in the story that I've glazed over. There should be quite a bit in this book that I should like, and I did enjoy some of it, but many sections ran on for way too long for my liking. I grew wary throughout the second act of the book while Harper is trying to deal with the religious fervor in the camp. It was all just a bit too predictable for me; I had it figured who was behind everything far before the reveal. And the Fireman's numerous flashback expositions during this section felt a little forced, and every time we came across one, I couldn't help to think, "Of course we need a flashback right now. Because, exposition."
During the third act of the book, I couldn't help but think that Hill was trying to create his own condensed version of The Road by way of his dad.*** Again, this section just drug on for way too long as they are chased by Harpers's ex, and then forced to walk for miles and miles, and I get why it did as he was creating a false sense of security, but I knew something was up by the time they got to the processing center for Martha Quinn's island. And did I mention that Harper is very pregnant through this entire ordeal?
The title character, the Fireman, takes a backseat to the action for most of the time, or is just the plot device to help Harper achieve her goals. And is also the necessary love interest. Because, it's a woman, so she needs to fall in love with someone. I felt the Fireman should have been a little more enigmatic, more a force of nature than a wise-cracking Brit.
Yet, through all that I didn't like about the book, Hill writes with an urgency that makes the book practically unputdownable, which is where I'm having a hard time not liking the book. I couldn't wait to see how everything played out, yet the entire time I was vaguely bored with the whole thing. It just seemed like Hill was using way too many too familiar tropes and in the end, the book didn't feel all that original.
* Now, I'm not a nurse and I could be very wrong about this, but it seemed that Harper's medical knowledge appeared to be a bit more involved than a nurse's would be. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
** Yes, that Martha Quinn. No shit.
*** I'm sorry, but this time, I really felt that Hill was channeling his dad in this book. I try not to make that comparison between the two, but this book felt too much like something his dad would have written. And no, I would not compare it to The Stand.
I received a free digital ARC from Edelweiss for a fair and honest review....more
After hearing about Guillermo del Toro picking up this series for a movie, and realizing that here is yet another book that everyone around me seems tAfter hearing about Guillermo del Toro picking up this series for a movie, and realizing that here is yet another book that everyone around me seems to have read except for me (this seems to be the year for that!), I decided to pick up a used copy at my local Indie the other day. A goofy little collection of "horror" stories (most of which seem to have been collected from American folklore), I can't say as I would have found these stories all that scary when I was a kid. However, given the right circumstances, I can imagine that these would be fun to read for the right age group. I probably won't be on the lookout for the subsequent two volumes....more
Slade House is a fever dream-induced tale with familiar ghost story and horror tropes all mixed together to bring us something new. Slade House isn't Slade House is a fever dream-induced tale with familiar ghost story and horror tropes all mixed together to bring us something new. Slade House isn't your typical haunted house; it only appears every 9 years and only to a particular person(s). This selected person finds themselves wandering down Slade Alley when they come upon the small door in the wall and when entering the door find themselves in the beautiful garden of Slade House. Here, they meet either the sister or brother who reside in Slade House, and while at first all of this seems wildly normal, by this point it is too late for them and they will never leave Slade House.
Each chapter of the book takes place in a different decade and is told in a first person narrative from the point of view of that decade's selected guest. I have to admit that the opening chapter, which takes place in 1979 and is from the POV of a young autistic boy, was the strongest for me, with each subsequent chapter feeling slightly less compelling. Not that the later chapters didn't hold up, there was just something about that opening chapter that struck a chord with me.
It wasn't until after I read Slade House that I discovered it had ties to Mitchell's previous book, The Bone Clocks (which I have not read), so I can't tell you what those ties are, but I'm definitely going to want to read that now, and probably follow it up again with Slade House. However, you don't need to have read The Bone Clocks in order to understand what's going on in Slade House, as I'm assuming the connections between both books must be minimal, as I didn't seem to be missing anything in the story when I read it.
If you like ghost stories or horror, I think Slade House would work for you. It's dark and atmospheric and does a great job at upping the creepy factor....more
I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
A deliciously dark and twisty take on Alice's Adventures in WonderlandI received a finished copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
A deliciously dark and twisty take on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that can read as both a retelling or a continuation, Alice by Christina Henry finds our heroine Alice locked away in an asylum after she is found wandering the Old City with no memory other than a bloody tea party and a man with long ears, like a rabbit would have. In the cell next to hers is Hatcher, a serial killer who lives in a world of lucidity followed by fits of madness. They form a bond, only able to communicate through nothing more than a mouse-hole in the wall. One night, the hospital catches fire, and Hatcher and Alice escape, just in time to watch the hospital crumble and something dark and sinister rise from the smoke.
The world they escape into, the Old City, is run by mob bosses who each holds a portion of the city under their control. There used to be magic in this world, too, but the Magicians were long thought to be gone from the world. Now there is only the Old City, and the bosses that control it. But Hatcher and Alice know there is something else in the city now, something killing everyone in its path as it searches for the one thing that can destroy it, and Hatcher and Alice are the only two who can stop it.
I love new takes on Wonderland, and thought this was an especially impressive re-imagining. Full of dystopian and noir elements, this Wonderland is certainly not full of wonders; instead it is full of dark corners and dangerous shadows, all under the control of the bosses of each district in the Old City, bosses such as Cheshire and the Caterpillar. This was something I particularly enjoyed, seeing familiar characters presented in entirely new renditions, yet staying true to their original essence. These are treacherous characters, though, and the lives of those living in their districts mean nothing to them. It is a precarious balance in the Old City, one that seems to be challenged by the bosses wanting to expand their territory, and whether they like it or not, Alice and Hatcher find themselves caught up in the disputes.
Alice is not for the faint of heart. The world Henry created here is a dangerous one full of violence, and terrible things happen to the people inhabiting it. There are moments of light sprinkled here and there, but this is not really a happy book. Don't come in expecting a dream-like tale, jumping from one psychedelic adventure to the next; this is one giant psychotic nightmare. Of course, should Christina Henry ever revisit these characters, I'll be sure to find out what happens to them. After all, there are still plenty of characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There that we haven't met in Henry's world yet. ...more
Somehow over the years, Roger Zelazny has slipped by me. I've been aware of him as an author, I've just never found occasion to read any of his books.Somehow over the years, Roger Zelazny has slipped by me. I've been aware of him as an author, I've just never found occasion to read any of his books. When I heard that A Night in the Lonesome October was being released, and knowing that a dear friend is a diehard Zelazny fan, I picked up a copy and suggested that she and I read the book, one chapter a night, through the month of October.
Well, I'll tell you what, I had a lot of trouble sticking to my one chapter a night. I loved this book! Seriously, at the end of my nightly chapter, I wanted so desperately to keep reading, but I restrained myself. I found the whole idea, that numerous literary figures from across the horror spectrum have come together to play the Game, fantastic. Told from the point of view of Jack's familiar, a dog named Snuff, we are lead through the month of October as he tracks down clues as to which side of the Game each of the players are on. I loved this bit, as you try to figure out, along with Snuff, who is going to be pitted against who at the end of the Game. It was also fun seeing how so many literary (and in some cases, historical) characters were woven into this book. The entire story becomes a guessing game as you try to figure out who each of the characters are (some are obvious, some not quite so)and what role they'll play in the Game. I'm not saying what the Game is, as that's half the mystery as it is played out in the book.
Some might consider the next bit a little spoilerish.
If I had one quibble about the book, it's the abrupt end. There is so much build up to the finale of the story, that when it arrives, I was left a little shocked. It may just be that I wanted more of the story, but once the Game comes to an end, it is finished. No further explanation as to what happens to the characters, nothing. The story is just done. For me, it was just a little too unexpected, but I guess it works with the way the book is written, as we're only shown this one month of the character's lives.
End of spoilerish bit.
A Night in the Lonesome October is an immensely clever and entertaining book, a perfect addition to any reading that you may be doing leading up to Halloween. I'm fairly sure this will become a favorite of mine each October....more