Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Published: October 11th, 2011
By: Mike Mullin
Tanglewood Press
ISBN-13: 9781933718552

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.


   Alex doesn't want to go visit his Uncle's farm with his family and subsequently die of boredom.  So his parents actually agree to let him stay home alone for the weekend.  After being a jerk to his family all he wants to do is be alone with his computer.  But then Yellowstone has a volcano erupt and ash travels to Alex's hometown, destroying his house and much of everything in the nearby area.   Feeling panicked about his family's safety (even his bratty sister), Alex decides to make his way on foot to his Uncle's house (140 miles) and find out if they made it through the disaster.  Along the way Alex is forced to deal with the descent of humanity into looting, killing and evil.  Food is in scarce supply and many farm fields have been ruined by the ash.  Also, prisoners have escaped in the chaos and Alex almost dies after an encounter with one of the brutal inmates.  He is saved by a girl named Darla and her Mom, who nurse him back to health.  He learns a lot about helping on their farm to harvest the corn that's still edible and how to build machines to simulate modern conveniences.  But when Darla's Mom is murdered and Alex is forced to leave with her in tow, will Darla and Alex be able to safely make it to his Uncle's?  Even after the government turns out to be yet another threat?  This was the best dystopian book that I've read since finishing the Hunger Games series.  I loved how dark it was and the terrifying part was how viable such a future is.  The people portrayed have real feelings and reactions in dire situations.  I especially enjoyed the fact that while most dystopians focus on the world quite awhile AFTER a major disaster, this was the immediate aftermath.  Alex grows and changes so much over the course of the book that by the end he is such a different character it amazes me.  Darla is a wonderful comparison to Alex, because she had major adult responsibilities from the beginning, before the crisis.  She still manages to learn new things about who she is and her place in the new world order.  I would go as far to say that this will be in my Top 10 for books that I've read when 2012 draws to a close.  Highly recommended to anyone with a sense of adventure, who doesn't shy away from harsh content.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores and online.*

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