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Dragonscale is rife. When you become infected with it, it looks much prettier than its consequences. Soon it will cause you to overheat and spontaneously combust. It’s contagious, and there is no cure.
Nurse Harper Grayson is a happy-go-lucky take charge kinda gal. One who loves singing Mary Poppins songs but will fight anyone standing in her way of looking after her patients. Mary and her husband Jakob have a plan if they become infected as they want to end their lives on their terms so have a pill waiting just in case. Harper finds out she is pregnant though, and this changes her outlook as she knows she cannot harm her child. When she becomes infected, she finds out what kind of man Jakob really is and knows the only way to keep her child alive is to run.
The Cremation Squads, however, are out there. Bands of people intent on killing the infected as soon as possible so that the virus cannot spread anymore. Harper manages to run and is found by a strange group of people who take her into their colony. There is the fireman she met once before at the hospital desperate to help a child. Then there is Allie, a teenager prepared to fight the world to protect her deaf brother, Nick. Accidents start happening in the colony, though, and as more and more people turn to fanaticism to cope, the accidents become deliberate ways of sabotaging those they mistrust. Soon the crowdthink takes over and anyone found not towing the fanatics’ line finds themselves punished by archaic methods. Harper realises that the only way to save her baby is to try to convince the fireman to go with her to a safe place for the infected. But the fireman has demons of his own and is firmly on the line between this world and a mad reality.
This is the first book I have read by Joe Hill and didn’t want to compare any aspect of the book or the writing to his father, but as soon as characters from his father’s books or a mix of their names cropped up I found it quite weird as I stopped concentrating on the work and started looking for the eggs. A mix of names can be overlooked but when you straight-out use a name like Tom Gordon it’s just too in your face. His style of writing is interesting; very evocative in some places and very slow in others. The story itself is quite a journey with the focus shifting around between the characters, which meant that very often you couldn’t feel as much for the character as you would have liked to. There are some definite WTF moments that were either too drawn out, not necessary or just plain seriously? I think I preferred to look at what was under the story instead of the surface as you see how people react in a crisis they were never prepared for and how even though you think you are in charge of your own decisions, that when the crowd believes something you don’t, you fit in for fear of being ousted. The shared hysteria around punitive punishment also made you feel extremely uneasy.
The ending was pretty obvious and when it came; it felt oddly dissatisfying. Luckily, the grammatically mistake-free editing of the book allowed for ease of reading so that you could focus your attention on the story itself. The beginning of the book really drew me in with a fantastic idea, but the meandering and tangents that the reader was thrown on made it a slog in places to get through. It felt as though the parts that needed expansion were cut short and some parts that really didn’t need as much description got the full monty.
I’ll definitely be trying more of this author’s works and thought this was a very interesting introduction to my Joe Hill journey.
- Melissa Breen
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