The Eleventh Plague Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-01-03 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 234 user ratings

"I used to think the end of the world meant the end of everything. Now I know it just means the end of civilization. Stephen Quinn has never known government or society, he was born into a world thrown into chaos and decay by a costly war and the release of a deadly virus known as P11. P11, or the eleventh plague was dropped on the United States by the Chinese, who now control the lands west of the Rocky Mountains while the few survivors in the east subsist by salvage, slave trade, or other unsavory professions. To the Quinn family, the only way to survive is to keep moving, but when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father endures potentially fatal wounds, they are for the first time in his life forced to stop moving. Stephen and his father are taken in by the small subsistence community of Settler’s Landing, but he knows from the start that he’s not completely welcome.

Dan Bittner’s narration of The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, while not enough to make him a must listen narrator for me, is solid, well-done, and a certain boon to the book itself. I had seen several ‘meh’ reactions to this audio before tuning in, and I’m not sure if it was my lowered expectations, or the fact that I was very ‘meh’ about my own previous listen (Fever 1793), but I found myself much more easily drawn in and wrapped up in the story of The Eleventh Plague than I anticipated.

I love that Hirsch plops us down in a time after the so-called apocalypse has already occurred, but not so long after that it’s not remembered or healed. In my experience, this is a fairly unique standpoint, and reminded me a bit of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale, which also takes place in a generation that can remember what society was like before. Stephen’s parents and grandfather were there for the release of P11 and the war, they experienced it all, and loved each other enough to bring a child into such a world regardless of the dangers. Stephen has never known any life other than that of a salvager, traveling from Canada to Florida on yearly trade routes, never taking the same path and never getting involved with the plights of others. When he and his father are brought into the community of Settler’s Landing, Stephen is like a skittish animal, unwilling to believe that he’s not up for slaughter. He’s never seen houses in use, slept on a real bed, or eaten three square meals a day. He has had notions and importance of family drilled into his head, but suddenly those definitions are challenged, and the concept of friends is also introduced. I felt that Hirsch did an excellent job of letting us into Stephen’s head during these foreign experiences, and the reactions of the people of Settler’s Landing, both welcoming and aggressive, seemed very real in the world’s current state.

The issue, however, was that I kept waiting for the real story to start–and then realized too late that this was it. When the book trailer has a tag line like “The only way to survive is to keep moving”, I expected Stephen to do just that. I expected he and Jenny to take off and survive on their own–I expected a survival story in general. This wasn’t really it. The Eleventh Plague certainly is a story of survival, but differently than I had anticipated (and kind of desired). It was more about the survival of civilized society and building the future than a more primitive sense of the word.

I also didn’t really feel the relationship between Stephen and Jenny. Something about the pacing of it just seemed…off. He’s instantly interested in her, but in a ‘she’s different’ kind of way, not a romantic kind of way. Jenny is constantly causing and getting into trouble, much of which is in her own defense, but her reactions constantly escalate matters. I felt as if there was no real development between the two of them, which would have been fine if it had been a more physical relationship, but it seemed suddenly as if Stephen didn’t want to live without this girl that was destroying the lives of everyone around her. As much as we got to be in Stephen’s head, I didn’t understand Jenny’s thought process at all. She seemed like your classic angry teen, but I couldn’t help being shocked that nobody ever screamed at her “You don’t know how good you have it!” She wants nothing more than to break free of Settler’s Landing, but as someone of Chinese decent, the outside world would be ten times more dangerous to her as the ‘enemy’ than it was to Stephen and his family. This is never addressed, and that surprised me. Some of the adults made little sense to me as well. I’ve never known any teacher who would give only half the participants in a fight detention, but maybe that’s just me.

These issues aside (the first of which I recognize is completely my own fault for my mindset prior to listening), I did enjoy listening to The Eleventh Plague. I appreciate it so much when this type of book exists as a stand alone, and always enjoy a good male point of view, which I feel Jeff Hirsch provided through the character Stephen. I loved that in a world that had fallen apart, the past and the future were coming together and blurring the lines between them to form the present. The Eleventh Plague is a haunting reflection on what a future of biochemical weapons could hold, how easily we fall apart, and what it takes to come together. It does, at times, get a bit frying pan heavy with the message, but not so much that I was knocked on the floor, and I did like the book as a whole.

Original review posted at Bunbury in the Stacks
" said.

"I kind of had higher hopes from this book. I read The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch and liked it, but it was also very average to me. That's what this book was like. I wouldn't re-read it. I don't think I'd necessarily recommend it, either, unless someone is looking for a very specific criteria that this book fits.
It had the opportunity to be a really great book with the dystopian plotline it put out, but it didn't seem to quite get there. I didn't particularly enjoy reading this book. It was okay, but I didn't like the main characters or the love plot. The female protagonist, Jenny...I really did not like her. I felt like the characters weren't very well developed. Not my favorite. I'd give it a 2.5 or 3 star rating out of 5 stars.
" said.

"Why do I love these post-apocalyptic books so much? And the zombies... I love zombies. This book doesn't have zombies but the world is in ruins after a world war and killer flu virus called P11, the Eleventh Plague. Stephen and his dad and grandpa have been surviving as salvagers, traversing the US from South to North and back again, collecting anything they can sell at the big camps in Canada and Florida. Things take a dramatic turn for the worse when grandpa dies suddenly and then dad gets hurt so badly that he falls into a coma. Luck finds Stephen and his father in the bottom of a ravine when some other survivors are searching the area. It turns out these people are from a place called Settlers' Landing where they have created a sanctuary of pre-Collapse America. They live in actual houses, go to school, have parks and playgrounds, and even celebrate Thanksgiving. Stephen is utterly dumb-founded and completely lost. He has never experienced life pre-Collapse and he longs to stay there and take the opportunity at a normal life. But the world is not what it was, and the sanctuary is not as safe as he thought.

I really hope there is a second book. The character of Jenny needs her own story.
" said.

"Find all of my reviews at:

Stephen has grown up in an America ravaged by war and plague. He has spent his life traveling with his father and grandfather as “salvagers” – picking up whatever they can to trade for items they need to survive. When Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father ends up in a coma after an accident, he finds himself taken in by a group of people trying to rebuild a true community. Struggling to fit in after a life of trusting no one, Stephen is embraced by some, but the target of others. Stephen and his new friend, Jenny, decide to pull a prank to get back at their tormenter, but the prank goes wrong, leading the people of Settler’s Landing fighting for their lives.

This was a buddy read with my favorite 12-year old. (Definition of “buddy reading” with my son: He takes a week or two to read the book, then goes to school and takes a quiz (Sidenote: I’m buddy reading the Truman Award Nominees with him – if he reads 4 or more he gets some kind of reward, if he reads all 12 he gets to party like it’s 1999. I just get to say I’m a middle-aged woman who reads books for pre-pubescents). After taking and passing the quiz, he comes home and then HOUNDS ME ALL FREAKING NIGHT LONG to “hurry and finish already so we can TAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLK about it”. In addition, he’s a huge spoiler, so I seriously have about two hours to read a book before he starts blurting out anything and everything that is about to happen.)

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a problem with the plot. However, since I’m one million seven hundred thousand years old and this book wasn’t written for my demographic, these issues probably don’t even exist for middle-schoolers. I found the tale of a nomadic lifestyle migrating with the season changes across a desolate wasteland to be pretty awesome (my kid says “this part was sooooooo boring”). Add in the discovery of a “town” filled with people trying to recreate normalcy and I was still in (kid says “that’s when it started getting a little better”). Mix in a bit of drama, prank gone wrong, escalation to WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE annnnnnnnd you lost me (but, the kid says “oooooh, that’s when it was gooooood”).

Bonus – although a bit open ended, it does not appear that this will be part of a series (ugh how I hate how EVERYTHING has to be a freaking series!). I rarely like something that I know is part of a series enough to read more than the first book, so I appreciate that this does not say “#1 of the Plague Series” or some such nonsense after the title.

At the end of the day, “The Eleventh Plague” was a decent little book and I got through it (under duress) in no time at all. The kid says “it was more good than it was bad and it was pretty short so if you need to read Truman Books, I’d pick this one”. There you go. If you’re 12 and “kinda” want to read just enough to get credit for reading, this is a good choice. If you’re old and like reading post-apocalyptic children’s books, but don’t have a child of you own to help hide your shame, you can say this one is nominated for an award ; )
" said.

"A fast read that's best suited for younger teens looking for a post-apocalyptic world setting.

The characters are young and act like it. There were several times when I rolled my eyes at their antics because they either didn't or couldn't grasp the situation outside their little community. That things were dire and life was hard, and playing pranks or acting out weren't going to get you anywhere.

For the most part Stephen was a good leading character. He's just trying to figure out where he belongs and what he should do after spending almost his entire life listening to his grandfather tell him what to do. He's growing into himself and doing the best he can, which I get, but there's a limit to how much immaturity I can take. Like with Jennifer. I didn't like Jennifer at all. I understand she had a hard life, but the way she was written made her bratty and insolent.

Overall, it wasn't great, but it was readable and made you think about what you would do if faced with a similar situation. I've read better post-apocalyptic books, but this works for younger teens since it has less gore.
" said.

"With a title like "The Eleventh Plague" one would suspect that an illness/virus is the biggest, most immediate threat that the characters have to face. But the actual story is more like the aftermath of an insinuated plague, involving a fifteen year old boy roaming alongside his father and grandfather as scavengers, until some difficult circumstances come to pass. So there's a bit of false advertisement in the title, because it's more about the people living in the aftermath of the plague. I decided to give this a read anyway, since it's my kind of genre.

I really wanted to love this book, but sadly it wasn't to be. Don't get me wrong, it's well-written in spurts, and I finished it in an afternoon, but sadly it felt very lacking when juxtaposed to books in its same genre, alongside some progressions which I found difficult to believe in the world that was built. I loved the audiobook narration by Dan Bittner, but it was difficult to maintain interest in some measures when the story shifted from survival, to love story, to political rises without a lot of depth. It seemed like it could've been developed a bit more.

The story centers on Stephen Quinn, a boy making his way through civilization with his father and Grandfather. His grandfather passes and changes the survival dynamic between Stephen and his father (considering their grandfather ruled their actions with an iron fist). Stephen's father decides to help two captured civilians, but all heck breaks loose, leading to his father becoming severely injured and Stephen seeking refuge for the both of them in a civilized colony that seems peaceful, but Stephen doesn't trust it. Still, he tries to integrate himself in the society.

The story somewhat drags its feet after the initial events, and there are some actions that Stephen takes that I don't think add up in plausibility to cause the rift that occurs towards the end of the work. In some moments, I see myself following Stephen in his struggles to fit in with the society, but there are other times when I want to throttle him for being so passive and quick to go along with what seem to be very unwise decisions. Still, there are moments here that are well-written, but needed fleshing out in order to give it more weight. I'd be willing to see what else Jeff Hirsch writes in the future, but unfortunately this didn't quite tug at my heartstrings and interest enough to stick with me.

Overall score: 2/5
" said.

"*EDIT shit - i forgot to say one little thing*

i initially gave this book three stars, but when i sat down to write my little book report, i found that i was so bored by the prospect, that it really should lose a star for leaving me so underwhelmed.

because writing book reports is fun!!!

you can put in pictures:

oooh, urban wasteland!

you can arbitrarily highlight your most emphatic words so people will notice you!

you can make links to things that have nothing whatsoever to do with your review (you should click that - halfway through, your heart is going to melt and it will not stop melting until the end)

but this book did not inspire any of that in me.

it is a pretty uninspired post-apoc. tale. or maybe i just have read too many of these things and they get same-y after a while. at any rate - the thing that was good and different in this one was mostly the character of the narrator. and by "character" i mean capital-c character. he is a salvalger, roaming the bleak landscape with his overbearing military grandfather and his milquetoast dad. the grandfather is being buried on page one, but his spirit lives on in both of them - the father seems cowed and weak-willed, presumably as a result of being bullied by grandpa, until he does One Big Thing with disastrous results, while the son seems to have inherited a streak of badassery from his grandfather, but it never goes far enough, in my opinion. it seems to lost steam halfway through, when, surrounded by a real community, he starts to get all soft and runny. it would have been better to see him retain his flint and his mistrust because these are the qualities of a true survivor, but alas, it was not to be.

enter girl, after all.

she is a pretty good character. but this book feels wasted to me. i would have like to read a book that takes place before this one, when the three menfolk were plodding along, trying to stay alive. i would like to read the book that takes place after this one (view spoiler)" said.

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