Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Ashfall by Michael Mullin

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite. And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.

For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to search for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.

“For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own.”
“A librarian can’t live by books alone, and I wouldn’t eat them if I could. Feel too much like cannibalism.”
“Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is terrifying torture.”
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget).
The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.

Ashfall was just great, great, great! Enough gushing (and a pause for a brain search for more adjectives.)

Here's the scoop: Ashfall starts with a bang! Within the first few chapters, Alex is separated from his family, trapped under rubble, plunged into darkness, covered in ash and on a perilous journey to reunite with his family. Along the way, he meets the resourceful Darla (she is amazing btw, can she be my friend now, please?) and many bad things happen to our heroes (and some good, but really these guys are put through the wringer).

I loved Alex's voice, Darla's spunk and ingenuity, the setting, the tone and, most of all, the action! Mullin plunges the reader into this post-supervolcano-eruption world and through Alex's eyes, we feel as lost and scared (and, eventually, angry and brave) as he is.

Alex meets a wide cast of characters along his journey from looters to preachers and it was interesting to peek into their lives as well. The survivors in Ashfall were realistic portrayals of a large cross section of people and neither the best or worst of them felt like caricatures. Be warned, Ashfall, is not for the faint of heart: good people are hurt, bad people get away, rabbits are skinned and ash is itchy in private places. But every detail is gritty and great even if they are sometimes sad.

Mullin has meticulously researched this world and I loved that he added more links and information on supervolcanoes at the end of the book to feed my curious spirit! Ashfall is a sure-fire page-turner that you need to pick up right away! The sequel, Ashen Winter, is already out in stores, lucky for us, friends, because you are going to want to get your hands on it about 2.2 seconds after you turn the last page of Ashfall!




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