Tag Archives: SF

Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

20160711_092603 (1)

Where did I get this book? I bought it. It’s a keeper!

Harper is a school nurse when the first cases of Dragonscale appear. The deadly fungal infection spreads rapidly through the population, and the infected have a terrifying tendency to burst into flames. While many seek to ostracize those with Dragonscale, Harper volunteers to work in a hospital dedicated to their care, where her caring and kindness first attract the attention of the titular Fireman, John Rookwood.

When Harper develops the strangely beautiful gold-flecked black markings that herald a Dragonscale infection, her husband Jakob turns on her, convinced she’s responsible for infecting him as well. Fleeing Jakob’s increasingly erratic and violent behavior, Harper, now pregnant, finds refuge with a group of infected who claim to have discovered a way to live with Dragonscale. Instead of spontaneously combusting, they seek communion with each other and with the fungus that has invaded them. Although the Fireman leads Harper to this refuge, he holds himself strangely apart, until events force both John and Harper to choose sides if they want to survive.

In this extraordinary novel, Joe Hill explores the ways that social groups can elevate or destroy us, the heightened sense of connection that can be attained in both communal prayer and communal violence. It was a spectacular read, deeply moving, suspenseful, and ultimately as compassionate as Harper herself.

Genre: Thrilling dystopian SF awesomeness.

Read it if: You love end times books like The Stand, The Road, The Passage, etc.; you love dystopian speculative fiction like The Handmaid’s Tale; you love tense, vivid storytelling.

Skip it if: You are squeamish about violence and/or profanity; you try to avoid big giant books that temporarily take over your life; or you have a pathological fear of spontaneous combustion.

Movie-worthy: This would make an amazing movie, or maybe even a series. It’s stunningly visual.  David Tennant would be perfect as the Fireman. Someone make this happen!

Best enjoyed with: A nice pot of lapsang souchong for that wood smoke flavor, or alternately, a generous portion of Tennessee Fire whiskey.

My Favorite Reads for 2014

Another year is nearly over, and what a year it’s been! I self-published my YA dystopian novel, Among the Joyful, fulfilling a lifelong dream; moved from Chennai, India to Yangon, Myanmar (a.k.a. Rangoon, Burma); and, of course, read lots and lots of books. Here’s my idiosyncratic list of the best books I read in 2014:

Best Book I Should Have Read As A Kid

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This award winning kid’s book came out in 1978, so why didn’t I read it until it showed up on my 5th grader’s winter break book list? Who knows? It’s a smart, fun, and twisty puzzle with great characters.

Best Extra-Sciency Science Fiction Novel

The Martian by Andy Weir. This suspenseful thriller is making lots of “best of” lists this year, and with good reason. Imagine a lone astronaut, left for dead on Mars, trying to survive against the odds. Now imagine he’s a wise-cracking smart ass with astonishing science knowledge and relentless optimism. This book is hard to put down, even when it’s making water out of oxygen and rocket fuel.

Best Fantasy Book

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I don’t read a lot of fantasy but this slender, lovely book blew my mind. It was first published in 1968 but the story is fairy tale timeless.

Best Collection of Short Stories

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. One of my all time favorite authors, telling stories that stay with the reader long after the book is back on the shelf.

Best Book Featuring Zombies

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. I first looked at this book because Joss Whedon blurbed it, then I read a free chapter online before the book’s release and was hooked. This is a haunting, relentless book with a breathtakingly perfect ending. Loved it.

Best Mystery/Crime Novel

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly. I hope Michael Connelly keeps writing Harry Bosch books forever, because I can’t get enough of this series. Connelly is in top form with this latest entry and I didn’t want it to end–because who knows how many more there will be?

Best Book About Burma

From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe. I’ve read several books about or set in Burma since moving here in August, but this moving and poetic memoir resonates like no other.

Best YA Book

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I love the characters in the moody, magical, atmospheric Raven Boys series, especially Ronan and Blue. I’m already craving book four!

Best Big Fat Book About Magicians

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This tale of competing magicians in an alt-history Britain where magic is real was a complete and fascinating world in itself. I think it sat unread on my shelf for so long because it was so big and daunting, but it was worth its weight in literary gold.

Best Overall

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I love how David Mitchell tosses all conception of genre into the shredder and writes exactly what he wants, stories of epic scope and wild inventiveness, intricately structured and brilliantly written. Also, extra points for a gorgeous cover.

So that’s my list. Here’s looking forward to another year of happy reading in 2015!