Published by Tanglewood Press
Released October 11, 2011
Where I got it: Digital review copy obtained through NetGalley
Rating: 5 stars
When Alex’s family goes on a trip to his uncle’s house without him, he thinks it will be an awesome weekend to himself. Instead, the caldera under Yellowstone erupts, launching him into an epic struggle for survival while he journeys to try to locate his family. Along the way he is witness to inhuman atrocities as well as astounding kindness. He also meets Darla, a tough-as-nails Iowa farm girl. Together, they struggle through hardship after hardship, fighting to retain their humanity and growing up in the process.
Ashfall truly is a harrowing read. An eruption of this magnitude would be disastrous, and Mullin doesn’t spare his readers as far as the science and implications of such a disaster are concerned. The idea of fiery rocks being blasted 900 miles is terrifying, as is the volcanic winter that results from the ash blocking out the sun. The simple natural effects of the volcano are enough to induce nightmares, but then there comes the collapse of society as well. If anything, the human element in this book is even more dangerous than the weather. Unsavory people are out to make the most of the bad situation, and the government also reacts badly. I didn’t think those scenarios were that far off, either. There was a lot of thought given to how society would react if a disaster of this size would occur in today’s United States, and it would be truly frightening.
When I first began the book, Alex was annoying. He seemed like a teenage boy who didn’t care much about his family, and was selfish. My immediate reaction was that I would not make it through the book if I had to yet again read a story narrated by an immature boy obsessed with sex. What I got, however, was a character that grew and learned about himself and the people around him. Nothing is more satisfying than going on a journey with a main character that has such development that is derived from overcoming obstacles, and that was very much the case in this book. And while sex was a topic that was sometimes mentioned, it was actually treated quite maturely rather than for laughs or shock value.
Darla was an awesome character, too. She was spunky, yet also had a vulnerable side. I really appreciated that she was the one who was good with machinery, and able to do so many things that I would not know how to do. Definitely a strong female role model for readers.
Ashfall was a little bit like the events that would create the world of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. However, there is a lot of heart to this book, and it shows that even in the worst of circumstances, we’re able to survive. Ashfall is a very strong debut for author Mike Mullin.