Oct 22, 2011

Review - Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
October 11th, 2011 from Tanglewood Press

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

Holy nightmare of a concept! Alex is a 15-year-old boy and home alone when a volcano erupts in Yellowstone and basically causes hell on Earth. Um, no thank you! I would lock myself inside my house and just hope to be rescued at some point. Alex has a little more survivor skills than I, so he treks out to find his parents and sister who are a few hundred miles away. Easy trip by car, but with all of the ash he has to ski his way to them. His journey is nothing short of terrible and frightening until he meets Darla and her mother. They both take Alex in after he has a run in with a guy named Target. FYI, nothing good comes from a man with a name like that. Alex loves his new safe haven even though he knows he has to continue on his journey to find his family. Not so lucky for him, he is on his way in no time after the ish hits the fan at Darla's house.

This book is all about adventure! Running, chasing, hiding, starving, near misses...this book literally has it all. Alex's journey is full of everything you don't want to find on a trip. Dangerous men, liars, weapons, hungry children - all very scary and downright heartbreaking at times. Alex grows up through his journey. He has no other choice. He could give up and accept the fact that he will probably never make it to his parents, but he is motivated to truck on and decide his fate for himself. Love that!

I really like Darla, but I don't like her name. It sounds so homely and plain. That name paints a picture of a girl who doesn't have the same spirit and drive as Ashfall's Darla has. She is such a great character and at times the heroin of the story. She is wicked smart, resourceful, and is Alex's guardian angel. She has her fair share of ups and downs in the story and we see her evolve as well. I think the next book in the series could be from her perspective. Just a thought, Mike. *wink*

At times, the story stalled in a few places and felt a bit windy (that is old people slang for talkative). Personally, I could have used a little less detail and scenes back to Alex's childhood. Just a personal preference. Regardless, there are plenty of hazards and surprises to keep the story moving along and not a lot of downtime from the action. The story also incorporates geographical and agricultural elements, and before you know it, you're learning something.

There are some pretty frightening and violent scenes in this book one involving rape. Also, there is talk about sex and pregnancy. I have to applaud Alex and Darla for not being so naive and being mature and open about sex and the consequences that may arise. For these reasons, I would recommend for 14+.

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Look for Ashen Winter in 2012
You can find Mullin at his website and on Twitter