I had recently seen mention of this book on one or another online forum so had my library order me a copy after I checked out the blurbs on Amazon. Overall, it wasn’t a bad read, though I don’t think I quite share Suzanne Collins’ (author of The Hunger Games) exuberance about it.
Twenty years prior to the start of the book, America was decimated in a war with China, during which the titular plague was released. Millions died during the war and aftermath. Stephen Quinn was born a few years later and has lived his entire life as a scavenger. He, his father, and his grandfather have criss-crossed the country countless times, picking up trinkets and baubles they find and trading them for food and supplies at Gatherings a couple times a year. You know, the type of lifestyle that fires up the adolescent adventuresome mind but in reality would suck more than a souped up Hoover.
As the story begins, Stephen’s grandfather has just died. A military veteran, he was a stern, even mean, taskmaster to both his son and grandson. While he taught them many skills necessary to survive, those skills were hard won and only achieved after sometimes brutal abuse. Stephen and his dad continue on with their travels after a rather unemotional burial.
They soon come across a group of slavers and the dad decides to step in and save the victim. He is severely injured during the confrontation and Stephen sets out to find help. He ends up in Settler’s Landing, a small village that looks almost untouched by the outside world. There, he finds much more than he bargained for in a new friend named Jenny. She is defiant, outspoken, and dangerous. Together, they commit what was meant to be a prank but ends up setting off a firestorm that threatens the entire village.
The story is written in first person, which I had a bit of a problem with in this book. Because it is written that way, you can already assume that despite the trouble Stephen has throughout the story, he makes it out ok in the end. I also found it somewhat unbelievable that this teenager who has spent his entire life living on the road can’t shoot a rifle very well, despite having been taught how to do so by his grandfather. He just came across as much too adolescent given the circumstances. In this type of world, you’d expect kids to grow up very quickly, wouldn’t you?
It was a quick read and there were some interesting parts but it could have been so much better, to my way of thinking anyway. I’d have liked to hear much more about the roving bands of ex-soldiers, the slavers, and just about how the world works in the aftermath of the war and plague.
Not a bad read, like I said at the outset. But, I’d borrow it from a local library rather than spending money on it.