Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: Black River Falls by Jeff Hirsch
BookCrushin is thrilled to be a part of the Black River Falls blog tour by Jeff Hirsch. In today’s post we have a special guest post topic that I asked Jeff Hirsch, a review by Teresa & a tour-wide giveaway! Be sure to check out the other stops for more insight into this upcoming new release!
Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories. He chooses to remain in the quarantined zone, caring for a group of orphaned kids in a mountain camp with the help of the former brutal school bully, now transformed by the virus into his best friend. But then a strong-willed and mysterious young woman appears, and the closed-off world Cardinal has created begins to crumble.
What is it about the apocalypse, that makes it such an appealing topic for writers & readers?
Well, to be clear, Black River Falls isn’t actually an apocalyptic book in the way that something like The Eleventh Plague was. The amnesia virus the book centers around has been confined by quarantine to a small town in upstate, NY. Outside of Black River the world is pretty much going about its business. Inside the quarantine though, society has largely broken down. There’s a weak, ineffectual government that provides little in the way of protection or services, but doesn’t get in the way too much. Food, public utilities and basic necessities are scarce. People more or less make it on their own. The characters at the center of the story have retreated to the woods where they sleep outdoors, warm themselves by campfires and try to either put their lives back together or create new ones from scratch.
So I guess you could say Black River Falls is apocalyptic-ish.
Still, the question is why would wiping away modern society be so appealing? I think the short answer is, have you seen modern society? For the longer answer I’ll talk a little about how I came to write the stories I do.
It all started with me being a bit of a news and politics junkie. Cable news. Internet opinion sites. Political podcasts. I devoured it all. And it probably should come as no surprise that being a news junkie in the good ‘ol USA circa 2016 can be a pretty maddening experience.
Politically, our country is tangled up in viciously competing ideologies, political parties we root for like pro-football teams, and special interests so influential and entrenched that they seem practically godlike. Because of all this it feels like our country has become completely unmanageable. Look no further than one of the least productive congresses in history, scores of unfilled judgeships (including the Supreme Court!) due to party stonewalling, and an epidemic of gun violence as massive and as horrific as it is virtually unaddressed. We have huge problems in this country and the people we entrust to fix them are either unable or unwilling to do so. Now, sure, if all of us really got on the ball and made some noise we could probably force the machine to act, at least a little bit, but the sad thing is, we’ve become so hopeless and apathetic that we barely try anymore.
Given all of this, is it really any surprise that we’ve developed a culture-wide fantasy that revolves around tearing the whole thing down and starting over from scratch? Granted, it’d be chaotic and dangerous, but wouldn’t it also be a second chance? Think about it, if the past were wiped away, if all the ruts we’ve become stuck in were finally filled in then maybe, just maybe, we’d able to do a better job of things the second time around.
And beyond politics, I think we live in a time when many of us feel deeply disconnected from the world around us. We live and work in climate-controlled buildings, we eat processed and prepared foods, we buy cheap, practically disposable clothing made by god only knows who, and we depend on technology to an ever-increasing degree. And hey, I’m not Luddite, technology has made our lives better in any number of ways, but still, I think something tells us that if we could push aside all these modern distractions and focus instead on the basics of survival—food, warmth, water, productive work, friends and family— our lives would be more authentic somehow. More real. More whole. More satisfying.
I think these things are the real narratives of post-apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic-ish books like Black River Falls. Second chances. Starting over. Re-centering. We read them and ask ourselves, what if the past was wiped away? The world’s past. My past. What if we got to start over in a new place as totally new people? What if we had a clean slate? Could we make the world a better place? Could we make ourselves better?
Seventeen year old Cardinal is stuck in his community. Ever since that night when the virus broke out and ravaged his city Cardinal has chosen to stay in the quarantined area. He has managed to remain uninfected all this time, and even help his best friend take care of some orphaned children. The virus does not discriminate. Whether you are old, young, rich, or poor; the virus will take away your memories and leave you with a clean slate. Who will you become when you don’t know who you were?
Black River Falls is one of those books that intrigues you before you even crack the spine. The blurb all but drew me in before I had read the first page. There were a few things that were mind blowing about this story, but in other ways I feel like it fell a little flat.
Let’s start with the positive. The idea of this virus that could wipe all of our memories and leave us with a complete blank slate is a little scary. In the book this virus left families just ripped apart. Parents don’t even recognize their children. But Cardinal remembers. He remembers everything.
I think that the author writes some pretty interesting characters, with some sad and deep back stories. That is a huge thing with me in the books that I read, and the authors that I frequent.
For me, I can’t really make up my mind on how I felt about the book as a whole. Despite the characters, I felt that the story was a bit awkward. The beginning of the book was good, but as we get farther into the writing I feel like it got a little bit sloppy as far as POV went. Sometimes the book was written from Cardinal’s point of view, or Cardinal’s point of view of the past, and sometimes it was a mash-up of the two. For me that was a little distracting, kind of like looking through a kaleidoscope. You aren’t really sure where to focus.
If you like a light dystopian-ish book, this is a good read. I would call it one part Divergent and one part The Fault in Our Stars.
All in all, I would give Black River Falls a 4 out of 5 hearts.
Here are some things about me.
I live in an extremely Brazilian section of an extremely Greek neighborhood—Astoria, Queens, which is just to the right of Manhattan. (That’s as you face Manhattan. If you were, say, lying on your back in the middle of Central Park with your head in a northerly position, we would be to your left) I live there with my wife who has a blog and our two cats who do not. One day I hope to have a very large dog that I can name Jerry Lee Lewis.
I used to write plays (I actually have an MFA in it, which is currently number 8 on US News and World Report’s annual list of the top twenty most useless masters degrees) and now I write books for teens. I’ve written two. One was about a girl who wanted to be a rock star and could graciously be called a learning experience.
The second, is The Eleventh Plague and it comes out Sept. 1, a fact I still find pretty amazing.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of BLACK RIVER FALLS, US Only.
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