Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

cover image by LibraryThing
The world of the Eleventh Plague is a long way from my comfortable office and this blog.  Life has become something completely different.  China and the United States went to war over some hikers in the wrong place at the wrong time. We bombed China and they retaliated with a virus that wiped out the population of the US and maybe Canada and Mexico.  As the cover shows, the United States is now a rusting hulk of what we were.

But, families still exist.  There is still a need for warmth, food, shelter and...

This is the world that Steve lives in - has always lived in.  He was born after P11 (the Eleventh Plague) hit. His life is that of a salvager roaming the Eastern part of US with his grandfather and father.  As the book begins, they are burying Grandpa.  Although Grandpa is dead, his voice and his presence looms large over Steve and his dad.  Grandpa believed that the only way to survive was to stay away from everyone, believe no one and keep moving.  Steve has only known this philosophy. There is no warm fuzzy connection with others - the only way someone would help you is for a price.

Then Steve and his dad have a run in with a pair of slavers and everything that Steve has ever known is turned on it's head. When his dad is injured in a fall and is befriended by Marcus and Jackson and taken to Settler's Landing - the voice of grandpa is challenged by real friendship.  Steve sees the inside of a house for the first time, learns what a school is and what others are willing to give up for a friend.

Although this book is another in the long line of "the world is a horrible place and only teenagers get it" genre. I really liked this one. It felt a bit different. The problems were all personal - there was not a secret agenda or a mysterious technical problem to solve. Instead - it was all about a young boy and the baggage created by a past image of the world and the issues of facing new experiences.  There is a little love interest - a bully - some explosions and death.  I liked it!

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