I took a bit of a reading break this week. Not really on purpose – I just found a book that I was really enjoying, one that accomplishes what no book ever does: it made me want to read slower. I wanted to stop and savor things as I went along. Yeah, SheWhoReadsMoreThan150PagesAnHourWhenReadingDownhill – she wanted to stop and taste the words and so she only finished one book this week. And she was more than okay with that!
(Pssst – Light spoilers ahead for The Fireman, Kim. Look away! Look away!)
The Fireman, by Joe Hill (2016, William Morrow, 768 pages, hardcover). I had a copy of the book pre-ordered since Barnes&Noble announced such things were possible. N0S4A2 had hit all my buttons so hard they were mashed into the console, fully cementing Joe Hill as one of my must-have authors. I had enjoyed Horns, but had loved the stuffing out of his latest. So much so that I was a little worried whether The Fireman could ever stand up to the hype I was building.
I started Fireman the day it came out, almost two weeks to the day from when I finished. For someone who has been known to read an entire shelf during readathons, this was a bit unusual. And at first, it wasn’t even for the right reasons. Fireman does start out a bit bogged down in first and second gears. The backstory take a little while to knit together, and even more so than that, it was the cast of characters that sounded a bit muddy. Characterization has always been one of Hill’s strong points, and so…I worried. I dallied. I realized I had made it past the first 50 pages of the book (my fears that the jacket copy gave away too much officially retired if it had already all been covered), but still wasn’t feeling the hook? I was nearing panic folks.
And then Harper’s crazy (Ex)(ish)Husband mistakenly slips and uses the word “gun” for “chain” and, welp, we were off to the races. With that one sentence, Joe Hill finally set the hook down around his trap and quit trying to manage the story. Once he stopped fussing so much on what we knew, it all seemed to sound so much more natural. He quit saying instead of showing and I felt like he was finally being himself once he let Harper flee headlong into the plot.
It was like rolling down the windows and cruising along a favorite scenic highway, when all your favorite songs have started after a worrisome bunch of commercials. Things were clicking. I was happy to shut the lights off each night (okay, that might be overstating it a bit) and still have more story left for the next day. I never went so far as to ration off the story, but I did enjoy how endless my stores felt. Not that I didn’t gulp sections – there were plenty of moments when I emailed my sister and told her in bold, all caps that I had just read THIS SECTION!! and to hurry along. (It didn’t matter that I knew she hadn’t started yet; I knew that when she did get to that section, she would remember my enthusiasm and it would be like we had read along.)
And along with the good, there were a few sections were the car would hit a pothole and shimmy a bit before getting back on track. The heavy-handed clues for one thing. Whenever the story slowed down to make it around the bend, it lost a bit of that magic it had when it was cruisin’ along. But most of the bends in the road were brilliant and extremely well-told. There’s the bit about the title – I can’t wait to have a good long discussion without someone about why Fireman? – and Hill’s penchant for strong female protagonists this past few books. But mostly it worked. His supporting characters were a good, hearty bunch. Renee, oh my god, I hope facking Renee gets a medal.
And then there’s this: two weeks ago, I thought I had the beginnings of a goodish bladder infection. I had antibiotics at home, treated it, it got better and then it didn’t. I kept reading. Tried a coupla different solutions. Went into the doctor, got new drugs, and still didn’t get any better. Yesterday I ended up in the emergency room and discovered I’ve had a kidney stone stuck near my bladder this entire time. THAT IS HOW GOOD THIS BOOK IS. It will distract you for two whole weeks while your body staves off a small asteroid. A story so good that you keep reading, through the morphine, despite the pretty colors on the wall.
A story that distracting, that good – that’s pretty good magic right there.
5 of 5 stars.