Monday, December 26, 2011

The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague is a futuristic dystopia YA novel from Jeff Hirsch.

The America we know is gone. Through a series of events and a brutal war, America was hit with something the survivors now call the Eleventh Plague. It was an airborne agent that caused a new, deadly strain of flu - and killed two-thirds of the population. Very few people are left. And many of those who are should be avoided.

Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn never saw any of the actual war or carnage, he was born after. His parents were already living a mobile life, finding happiness in their love, along with his grandfather. His family are salvagers, those who travel the desolate countryside looking for things of value and importance to trade for food, weapons, and clothes. It's their survival.

It's been many dark years since Stephen's mother died and it's been just him, his dad, and his grandpa. But when his grandfather dies - a mean, bitter, tough old man - trouble begins to snowball for the two remaining generations of Quinn men.

Stephen's dad seems lighter out from under his father's brooding, angry shadow - and when he sees a couple of Slavers (a different kind of survivor, those who buy and sell people for their livelihood, as well as snatch them up whenever they can), he intervenes. One thing Stephen's grandfather always stressed was not to intervene - keep to your own business, protect yourself.

And in Stephen's father's heroic moment, he is injured so badly that he is in a coma. And Stephen is suddenly all alone. But then he meets up with people from a place called Settler's Landing - a community with houses and civility and even a school! It seems impossible and suspicious to someone who has grown up like Stephen...

When things spiral out of control, Stephen knows that he was right - nothing as good and well-intentioned as Settler's Landing was meant to last after the Eleventh Plague...

The Eleventh Plague is very effective in the beginning in setting a grim, stark tone of a world completely different from ours - but realistic enough to believe, making it scarier. It's a dirty, unpleasant life surrounded by multiple dangers - but you root for Stephen right away.

Jeff Hirsch has created a well-done, good, futuristic world that is hopeless - yet hopeful. Especially as we come to Settler's Landing. There's a tone of classic paranoia and survivor-instinct in The Eleventh Plague. Yet, for me, the most fascinating thing about the story was Stephen's psychological adjustment. His distrust warring with his deep-set desire for a place to call home, a place to be safe is certainly effective.

I don't want to give too much away, as the premise is already meaty enough - but I'll say that The Eleventh Plague is a very good novel - and will find many fans, I'm sure. I liked it quite a bit, but the last third or fourth of the story just didn't keep me as hooked as I expected. I was still very satisfied with the novel overall, I just wasn't jumping up and down about it.

It happens. But - of course - you may jump up and down with book-love! So go pick up a copy! :)

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