Monday, August 22, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Monday, August 22, 2011

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.(Publisher'e sumary from Goodreads)

Ashfall by Mike Mullin authentically captures a world devastated by a large-scale natural disaster through the eyes and actions of sixteen-year-old Alex. From his spot on descriptions of the ramifications of a super volcano erupting and the resulting change of landscape, to his realistic characterization, Mike Mullin has created a post-apocalyptic novel that is suspenseful and edgy and impossible to put down.

Mullin delivers a front row seat to his readers as he aptly describes the effects of Yellowstone’s supervolcano erupting. From the artillery like bombardment of Alex’s home and town, the destruction of all the technology we have become so dependent on, to the ash that completely transforms the landscape into a unrecognizable wasteland, in a matter of a few chapters, Mullin creates an atmosphere where life becomes a terrifying struggle to survive.

As with all disasters, Alex soon experiences first hand that people’s reactions are either positive or negative, and while some readers might find aspects of the plot hard to take I feel that had Mullin not included the more negative actions Alex experiences would have greatly skewed the authenticity of the story.

Besides the realistic portrayal of a land in chaos, Mullin’s did a fantastic job with his characters. Alex is a very typical sixteen-year old who adamantly resists a family trip to his uncle’s farm exasperating his mother enough for her to give in to his demands. From the moment Alex decides to go in search for his family, we begin to see that his journey will be as transforming to Alex's personality as the ash is to human existence . With each new experience, Alex’s personality changes from a spoiled entitled teen to a confident caring man.  Along the way, Alex meets Darla, who proves to be a strong and independent character with great survival instincts. Through a tragic turn of events Darla joins forces with Alex, and each in turn, work together to locate Alex’s family. The romance between them is extremely well-written and adds yet another layer to Alex’s growth without distracting the reader from the dire realities of their situation.

Ashfall is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I have read. It is extremely well researched with details that maintain a realistic atmosphere I have found lacking in similar novels. Although there are portions of the book that might not be appropriate for younger middle school readers, (murders and rape) these events are not superfluous, and add authenticity of the story. The ending is cautiously hopeful and perfectly aligned with the emotional weight of the story. Highly recommended. 

Source: received copy for review from author
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