Well, what is there left to say about The Fireman that hasn’t already been said? Nothing much, that’s what. That’s what happens when you are the last to read a book that the rest of the reading world read months ago and you couldn’t avoid peeking at a few of the reviews. I’ll keep it short because I’m feeling unmotivated, didn’t take notes and my memory is crap. But mostly I’m just lazy.
The Fireman was long. Oh lordy was it ever long. 747 pages long. I read at a snail’s pace and I don’t do well with books over 400 pages. If I had bought this in hardcover it probably would’ve sat on a shelf looking pretty for DECADES with me giving it longing looks every now and again but ultimately scared away by its girth.
Fortunately I found it on audio! And it was read by the fabulous Kate Mulgrew. Her voice sounds like it’s been through some terrible shit and has come out stronger because of it. She was the perfect choice for this smoky, apocalyptic tale of survival with her gritty voice and strong handle on the characters. She kept me grounded in the story and never tossed me out of it unlike many narrators I’ve tried in the past. But I won’t lie. I did have to rewind a time or two because my mind started to drift away but it was not due to Mulgrew. It was because the book was simply too long. It’s 22 hours and then some and there were some meh moments that slowed down the momentum for me.
For those who don’t know, it’s about a plague that sets the world aflame. People become infected with something called Dragonscale that leaves tattoo-like marks all over their skin and most of them eventually end up spontaneously combusting. Yikes! As the world goes to crap and fear reigns, the best and worst of humanity is put on display. Terrible things happen to terrible people and to good people as well. The book follows a small band of the infected as they attempt to live their lives for as long as possible. I enjoyed the main characters of Harper, Allie, Renee, Nick and The Fireman (who has a lovely accent). They’re all a little flawed and come across as very real. Hill had a long time to flesh them out and does a great job making you care about all of them. There’s a lot of death but there are also bits of humor and some beautiful relationship building. It may make you cry here and there, if you’re not as black hearted as myself.
I definitely recommend giving this a listen on audio but be sure to listen all the way to the very end because there is a little snippet after the acknowledgements that you don’t want to miss. The Fireman was fabulous and imaginative and I can easily recommend it. Just know that it’s a little too long.