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.
I’m still trying to sort out how I feel about this book. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t really get into it, even though the action was constantly moving the story forward and there was lots of tension, plus many obstacles for Stephen to overcome. But I found myself not really caring about the story or the characters. I think that’s because much of what’s in this book has been done before in various venues, and it didn’t really contain any unique twists.
For example, America has been ravaged by a plague and much of the population didn’t survive. As a result, the government has collapsed and society as a whole doesn’t exist. It’s anarchy, weak vs. strong, survival of the fittest, etc. This concept has been the backdrop for many stories, and yet there is often something unique about each story. In Eleventh Plague, Stephen stumbles into a pocket of the world (Settler’s Landing) that’s close to how it was pre-Collapse. So, yeah, I guess it’s unique, except it pretty much takes us back to the present day, and that’s not where I want to be when I’m reading a dystopian novel.
Once we get fully entrenched in Settler’s Landing, there isn’t anything really unique here. The villains, Caleb and his son Will Henry, are basically large bullies with lots of influence, a huge sense of entitlement, and seem to enjoy inflicting pain on others. They’re not the kind of villains I love to hate—I prefer the calculating ones skilled in manipulation. Or, at the very least, they have an unshakable belief that what they’re doing is for the good of those around them. I didn’t get a sense of either in Caleb or Will Henry, so I never really got into them as antagonists.
The love interest is Jenny Tan, an outcast in the community because of her ethnic background. When she’s first introduced, I felt some sympathy for her situation and was looking forward to seeing how her story was going to intersect with Stephen’s. But as we find out more about her, we discover that she has created much of the discord between her and the rest of Settler’s Landing. I ceased to like her at this point. There is a moment where she understands this, and she does grow as a result, but the damage was done and I wasn’t invested in her enough to care.
I know all this sounds like I hated the book, but I didn’t. It was an okay read. I just couldn’t seem to connect on any level.