What’s scarier than a flu that can kill you? A flu that can burn you alive from the inside out as it kills you. Since “Everybody caught a fatal flu and died” would be a pretty short book, Joe Hill’s new doorstopper, “The Fireman”, is about a lot more than that. Of course, there are lots of shout outs to his father’s famous “Fatal Flu” book, “The Stand”. (I won’t say any more than that, though if I was a fat guy named Harold or Cross, I would be feeling Cross indeed). But Hill’s work stands alone in its theme; what would you do if you had a disease that rendered you a danger not only to yourself, but to everyone around you?
“The Fireman” contains some of the most brutal horror this side of “Lord Of The Flies” that I’ve ever seen, the kind only desperately frightened people can produce. Yet there are many scenes of kindness and bravery too, and I do like the idea of a “safe island” run by ex-VJ Martha Quinn. There’s some lovely imagery, particularly the descriptions of the Dragonscale, the golden markings that signal the infection. I’m still haunted by the dream of the glowing church members singing Mary Poppins’ “Chim Chim Cheree” (though personally, I would probably be singing Elle Goulding’s “Burn”. Does that make me a bad, bad person?) Now that the weather is turning cooler, why not warm up some tea and crack open the “The Fireman”?