The Last of the Firefighters

In Daniels’ (Fire Chief, 2011) futuristic novel, a firefighter in Colorado’s Front Range copes with various technological advances that render his profession obsolete.
In the not-so-distant future, Johnny Stasso becomes a firefighter after an early traumatic experience and a failed attempt at finishing college. The profession suits Johnny well, as he has a passion for saving lives and keeping people safe. But as he raises a family with his wife, Nina, in Boulder, Colorado, he finds that staying a firefighter isn’t so easy. Well-intentioned technology companies develop firefighting equipment that, as the years roll by, becomes more advanced and renders Johnny’s job more administrative than active. It’s a wonderful premise, and Daniels’ greatest strength is portraying the technologies, which don’t seem terribly far-fetched: gear that monitors the firefighters’ vitals, robots that haul gear for battling wildfires, and so on. He’s at his best when the technologies reflect those of the present day; for example, when firefighters arrive at a university, it’s hard not to envision cell phones when Daniels describes the scene: “Distracted students wearing their virtual reality goggles were everywhere, and several took missteps in front of our trucks before their friends or alarms from the goggles caused them to stop and look up, surprised at our presence.” But although there’s a lot of fun in seeing what new technologies will come next, the story’s protagonist lacks complexity. Johnny is a likable but unreflective character, aside from a jarring scene in which he plans to murder someone in a jealous rage. Too often the story plods forward with repeated, undistinguished episodes of firefighting. If Daniels had allowed Johnny to be more involved in the decisions surrounding the various technologies, it might have made his character more interesting; usually, however, Johnny’s a passive victim. The fact that Nina works for one of the tech companies is glossed over for much of the book, only to be brought up at the novel’s conclusion in an unsurprising way.
An often entertaining, thought-provoking exploration of how technology may replace humanity, but relatively light on plot and characterization.

Pub Date: May 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494907273

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

A somewhat fragmentary nocturnal shadows Jim Nightshade and his friend Will Halloway, born just before and just after midnight on the 31st of October, as they walk the thin line between real and imaginary worlds. A carnival (evil) comes to town with its calliope, merry-go-round and mirror maze, and in its distortion, the funeral march is played backwards, their teacher's nephew seems to assume the identity of the carnival's Mr. Cooger. The Illustrated Man (an earlier Bradbury title) doubles as Mr. Dark. comes for the boys and Jim almost does; and there are other spectres in this freakshow of the mind, The Witch, The Dwarf, etc., before faith casts out all these fears which the carnival has exploited... The allusions (the October country, the autumn people, etc.) as well as the concerns of previous books will be familiar to Bradbury's readers as once again this conjurer limns a haunted landscape in an allegory of good and evil. Definitely for all admirers.

Pub Date: June 15, 1962

ISBN: 0380977273

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1962

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