In a word – enthralling.
This book grabbed me at page one and didn’t let go until page 768. I finished this book in breathtaking speed and didn’t want it to end.
In this story, a mold spore has been released and the infected people develop a disease come to be known as, Dragonscale or simply ‘scale. The infected get marks on their bodies that make it hard to hide that that have it. After some time, the infected burn to death (spontaneous combustion) and usually end up starting fires that spread thus taking over cities and forest and sometimes even states in ash clouds and fire. As the disease spreads, the healthy and the sick are pitted against each other. Governments have ‘camps’ for the sick, that end up being just places for people to burn without harming the healthy. Cremation Squads led by fanatics roam the streets and kill anyone who is infected before they can burn and cause more damage. Structure and government break down, and chaos ensues. The sick go into hiding and wait to die, but one man may have found a way to beat it. He can somehow control the fire and use it at will.
We meet the Fireman through Harper, who is a school nurse turned emergency room nurse who contracts the virus after leaning she is pregnant. She saves a boy the Fireman brings into her hospital and for that, he is in her debt. After she contracts the virus, her husband slowly unhinges and tries to kill her and her unborn baby. She flees and finds a a group of sick people living together in an abandon summer camp. There she officially meets the Fireman and learns that he has a way to keep from burning up; she wants to learn how so that she can deliver her baby.
Through out the whole book you see how sick people want to live, even knowing that that they have a death sentence one them. You see healthy people panic and do deplorable things. You see people control people with fear and ‘miracles’. You read about compassion, love, and humor in unlikely places.
One of the most real passages I have ever read I read in this book and it resonated because how true it is. “But you know…by dinnertime, I had mostly quit thinking about it. It didn’t take long to feel like just one more of the century’s possible but unlikely apocalypses, like an epidemic of bird flu wiping out billions or an asteroid cracking the planet in half. You can’t do anything about it, and it’s happening to poor people on the other side of the world, and the kids need help with homework, so you just stop thinking about it.” If that doesn’t speak about how desensitized we get from all the bad news we hear I don’t know what does.
Another passage that terrified me in this book: – we meet a woman (Renee) who is confined to the hospital but making the best of it. She starts a reading circle for the kids and a book club for adults and when Harper asks Renee about her choice in books, (Because of how short it is), Renee says: “There is something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. “
How terrifying is that? That we might die and never know the end the current book we are on?