Sunday, September 1, 2013

Book Club: The Eleventh Plague

 (book cover; taken from Goodreads)

You can probably tell from the cover what The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch is about. Post-apocalyptic America! So, initially I thought this was going to be a zombie book, which made me not want to read it, because I'm kind of sick of zombies right now. But it's not. The background of the story is that the United States and China decided to start a biological war with each other which killed off most of the people in at least those two countries (the rest of the world isn't really mentioned, so I'm not sure what happened to them). What's left is a shell of what once was--amusement parks with weeds and vines growing up the rides, broken billboards that you can see from miles away, abandoned and broken-down houses that could fall at any minute, etc. The worst part is what happened to those who were left: ex-military slavers, abandoned children, scavengers, and small hypocritical towns left where civilization once reigned. The main character is a teenage boy named Stephen--a scavenger like his father. He has lost his mother and grandfather to the hardships of the only existence he's ever known, but at least he always knows where he's going and what he's doing...until his father falls into a coma after hitting his head and Stephen meets a group of men who offer him shelter and security.

First Impression: The main purpose of this world eludes me. Stephen makes references to why the world fell apart, but has yet to explain if the "plague" from the biological warfare is still active somehow. Also, how are there still scraps for them to find after such a long time? I have a lot of questions, and I'm intrigued only enough to want answers so far. This is mostly an adventure/survival story, it seems, without a lot of literary meat or value.

Conclusion: This was a really interesting take on the post-apocalyptic world. Probably the most realistic one I've read, since I could see that war actually happening in the future. It took me a while to get into it, but I like what Hirsch decided to do in part three, bringing it all together. His characters were well-written, too--flawed and never black-and-white (by which I mean he had lots of realistic variation). I never really liked Jenny, but her character was well-designed and served its purpose. Stephen's father could have done a bit more, I think, but he served most of his purpose as well, I guess. I do wish that Hirsch would have expanded a bit and written a longer book. There wasn't quite enough detail for the complicated premise of the story. Not at all what I was expecting but a good read for older children and adults.

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