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The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
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The Eleventh Plague

by Jeff Hirsch

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In a post-apocalyptic world, society struggles to rebuild itself, only to work against the forces that destroyed it. Young Todd Hewitt hears voices of all the other men in his village--oh, wait, that's The Chaos Walking series. Wave after wave of attacks demolish most of the United States and civilization must face the consequences of the alien invaders--oh, wait, no, that's The Fifth Wave. In a world ravaged by nuclear war, civilization struggles to rebuild after suffering dangerous fusions that mix together man and machine--wait, that's the Fuse series. Huh. Why is it this plot seems so familiar?

Yes, the post-apocalyptic genre is a very popular genre at the moment. Yes, there is usually a catch--Chaos Walking has its "Noise", The Fifth Wave has aliens with their weaponry, and Fuse has the interesting mix of a nuclear winter and purists that escaped the blast. However, these quirks or twists are what make those series interesting. They provide a channel through which the rest of the book is filtered and, rather than tell the reader how the world has changed and then fill in background information with narration, they show the reader what has transpired and then demonstrate with world-building the wreckage that has come about.

You may be wondering why I've spent the last two paragraphs writing about three different YA series and not mentioning The Eleventh Plague. That's because the background information, the world-building, the little 'niche' that makes a series interesting and gives it its kick are all absent. Rather than have dynamic characters like Pressia, Todd, and Cassie, we have Stephen. Stephen demonstrates none of the likability or power of his counterparts. Instead, Stephen constantly thinks of his abusive grandfather, whom he buried physically at the beginning of the book but cannot bury metaphorically until near the book's end. He ruminates constantly on how his grandfather would have reacted, despite the fact that he clearly hates the old bastard.

Moreover, at the beginning of the book, it's almost as though the role of protagonist and supporting character are reversed. Instead of the character who wants to break the boundaries and see what the world was like in the "before", a rather typical desire for a dystopian or post-apocalyptic protagonist, Stephen just wants to keep wandering around and keep everything safe. His father is the one who longs for the past.

While we're talking about the Before, it seems rather striking that the book's title is something that has happened before Stephen was even born. Unlike The Fifth Wave, where Cassie's flashbacks give us meaning and context to the book's title and the readers relive it with her, we are told about it, not shown. Stephen spends endless paragraphs telling us about the past and very little time *showing* us the past. It's paragraph after paragraph of exposition.

The preacher in The Knife of Never Letting Go, the aliens in The Fifth Wave, and the ominous Dome in the Fuse series (and those who control it) are much better developed opponents than anything The Eleventh Plague has to offer us. We don't know why the slavers do what they do, other than assumed greed. The Chinese and the Americans had a war that escalated, but we haven't seen any of it. Rather than show us exactly how everything fell apart, Hirsch glosses over it. It's as though he couldn't be bothered to come up with a plausible enough conflict to explain wiping out most of Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and decided to skip over it instead.

Subsequent confrontations with antagonists feel contrived. Will Henry (seriously, what is with this guy giving surnames that are also first names?) is weak at best. The notion of spies from another settlement fails to gain much traction and Caleb Henry, as well as his son, remain one-dimensional distractors.

The book's most interesting character, Jenny, struggles to rise above the mediocrity of the book and doesn't quite manage it. What confused me about her and her brother was that they were supposed to be younger (at least, Jackson was) and yet the book treats them as the same age. I wonder if Hirsch simply forgot this detail, as he did so many other things.

When Stephen, at the beginning of the book, believes that there is nothing else out there and then denies wanting to live in another world, it also seems contrived for him to develop loyalty toward people he has only known for a few days. This isn't a Disney film. It takes longer than that to change deeply held beliefs. Moreover, as he consistently errs toward whatever his grandfather would have thought was best, it feels like he is a shadow of a character, one who defers to someone we've never met and that all his development consists of phantom movements.

The one positive thing I can say about this book is that it contains a lot of action. Indeed, there is little rest time for the protagonist and his list of supporting characters. (There is also little depth to any of the characters and deaths and injuries are lackluster at best).

I'm not sure Suzanne Collins ever read the book she reviewed. If she did, perhaps she was too tired from the success of her superior series to give an accurate declaimer. The last time I read a book this bad was I Am Number Four. I had to struggle to finish that book too. At the end, I skimmed the last few pages, because reading any more was torturous.

I feel bad for disliking this book, since he'll be at a conference I'm attending tomorrow. I wanted to like it. I mean...just reading through the entire book gave it more of a chance than it really deserved. ( )
  liveshipvivacia | Apr 26, 2014 |
The Earth is destroyed after the war. Steven, his father and Grandfather are making a living at scavenging and selling what they can find. Soon Steve is on his own after his Grandfather dies and his father has fallen into a river hitting his head and becoming unconscious. What will become of Steven now? ( )
  ThePageturners | Mar 29, 2014 |
No you die hard fans of the zombie apocalypse, this is not that kind of book. The eleventh plague is something much more, a journey and experience into raw human emotion and how our species reacts when we go from living, to surviving. Showing that when we no longer become to the top of the food chain, we react in not the most calmest of ways. As many of my other reviews, just a heads up, this is a mature book, so don't expect a happy go lucky story and zany characters.

It's been a while since I actually read this book, and for good reason. It's not the easiest of books to explain without getting offtrack. The story is the stereotypical "humans being infected by unknown virus", but manages to stand out for not being based around zombies, but rather the possibility of a real virus that could kill humans. The story is dark, as well as enthralling. It's dark mood is clearly shown at the beginning of the book, and makes no attempts to hide it. The characters are much better then the story and setting, as they range from main hero, to main badass female, to supportive role models, to that one annoying friend we all enjoy reading about. They develop over the course of the book, and experience the horrors of the world. As this being a mature and dark book, characters will die off so don't try to have optimistic thoughts while reading, because they will be crushed...Several times.

The Eleventh Plague is one of the many popular apocalypse books coming out in recent years, but stands out in my mind for its great cast of characters, interesting story and an unapologetic view of our world. Also, it isn't about zombies, so that's a win win. For many nerds today, this book scenario would be a dream come true, to the world, their worst nightmare.
  br14kabu | Mar 5, 2014 |
I loved this book! Yes, it is another book about the apocalypse. No, it is not like all those other books.

This is a story about Stephen, a boy who loses his family and finds a family and town willing to take him in. Most everyone is accepting of him (with the exception of a few - you always have to have a conflict) and this teaches him to trust again. The book talks a lot about standing up for what you believe in and helping others.

A great read with a good message and a positive ending. ( )
  WiseYoungFools | Feb 12, 2014 |
Wasn’t exactly the survival story I thought it would be
  butterkidsmom | Jan 18, 2014 |
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To Gretchen. You never stop changing my life for the better.
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I was sitting at the edge of the clearing, trying not to stare at the body on the ground in front of me.
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Book description
The wars that followed The Collapse nearly destroyed civilization. Now, twenty years later, the world is faced with a choice—rebuild what was or make something new.

Stephen Quinn, a quiet and dutiful fifteen-year-old scavenger, travels Post-Collapse America with his Dad and stern ex-Marine Grandfather. They travel light. They keep to themselves. Nothing ever changes. But when his Grandfather passes suddenly and Stephen and his Dad decide to risk it all to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen's life is turned upside down. With his father terribly injured, Stephen is left alone to make his own choices for the first time.

Stephen’s choices lead him to Settler's Landing, a lost slice of the Pre-Collapse world where he encounters a seemingly benign world of barbecues, baseball games and days spent in a one-room schoolhouse. Distrustful of such tranquility, Stephen quickly falls in with Jenny Tan, the beautiful town outcast. As his relationship with Jenny grows it brings him into violent conflict with the leaders of Settler's Landing who are determined to remake the world they grew up in, no matter what the cost.
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Twenty years after the start of the war that caused the Collapse, fifteen-year-old Stephen, his father, and grandfather travel post-Collapse America scavenging, but when his grandfather dies and his father decides to risk everything to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen's life is turned upside down.… (more)

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