When news broke that Joe Hill’s new book was about a disease-inspired end of the world, it was hard not to think of his dad’s epic The Stand. I dismissed that as a hopelessly lazy comparison, at least to begin with (more on this later). The Fireman is a very different book in scale and mood. Civilisation may be collapsing across the world, populations are falling prey to Dragonscale – a spore that infects its victims, paints beautiful patterns on their skin, and then causes them to combust – but this book focuses entirely on New England, and the story of school nurse Harper Grayson, pregnant and infected. It’s one small story in a global catastrophe, which keeps the stakes low but very personal. Harper’s unhinged husband (wrongly) blames her for infecting him and is bent on carrying out a suicide pact he thinks they’d agreed on. She is determined to live and bear her child, and so escapes, whereupon she falls in with a small community of infected people who may have found a way to live with Dragonscale. One of these people is the titular Fireman, a mysterious fellow with an English accent and a dirty » Continue Reading.