Book Review: Ashfall

Posted April 10, 2011 by Kara in book review, Kara / 5 Comments

Book Review: AshfallAshfall by Mike Mullin
Series: Ashfall #1
Published by Tanglewood Press on 2011-10-14
Genres: post apocalyptic, young adult
Pages: 476
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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 seach 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.

Wow. This is a tough book to review. I’m just going to speak from my heart and not think about it. I liked it. I did. But it was so so hard to read. Not because it wasn’t well-written. It was extremely well-written. It was just so depressing. There was not one moment of happiness in this book. Not one. That makes it really hard for me to read. I thrive on little bits of happiness. Even when life sucks more than you can possibly imagine, I’m always looking for the one ray of light that won’t make me lose my mind. And I really felt for the characters in this book, because they didn’t even have that. There was NO hope. And I mean none. It affected me more than any other doomsday novel I have read. But it was a hard read. At the same time though, I couldn’t put it down. I truly enjoyed it.

The things I loved: I loved the descriptions of the settings. The author did a great job of conveying how stark, grey, and hopeless the landscape truly was. The abandoned farmsteads, collapsed buildings, dead animals, and murder scenes…all written fantastically. I loved the main characters of Alex and Darla and the evolution of their relationship. It didn’t happen overnight. There was a a lot of tragedy, and it felt extremely realistic. That’s the thing about this book. Everything felt extremely realistic. Even if something like this could NEVER happen, the author had a way of making you believe that it could happen. Tomorrow. Which makes it incredibly scary.

The things I didn’t care for: This is meant to be a world-is-ending novel. So why then when things were looking so bleak and you thought everyone was gonna die did something or someone come along and save the day? Like a book of matches. Or a lady that wanted to take care of you like you were her own child (which would never happen by the way, at least not in this kind of world). There were others too. And how many times did I have to hear about how the protagonist was skilled in Tae-Kwon-Do? Or that he was a fan of World of Warcraft? There were descriptions of WOW in the book that I felt were wholly unnecessary.

But in all seriousness, those were minor things that were easy to overlook. Aside from my out-of-control nitpicking, it really was a fantastic read. And I am just so thankful that I got to read it before almost everyone else. So thanks for that. Loved it.


5 responses to “Book Review: Ashfall

  1. @abookvacation – The publisher recommends ASHFALL for 14 and up. I know of a few younger kids who’ve read it, but some parents may be concerned about the grimness of the world or about Alex and Darla’s emerging relationship.

  2. @Kara – Okay, disclaimer up front: I’m Mike Mullin’s wife, and so a little biased (ya think?) 🙂 THANKS so much for such a heartfelt review of the book. Mike woke me at 4:00 a.m. to tell me how excited he was to read your comments. I appreciate the effort you made to share both positives and the things that bothered you about the story. I had two responses to your ideas…

    I’ve read ASHFALL numerous times and, yes, the grimness is intense. That’s something that Mike and I talked about a lot. I was interested to read that you didn’t see any moments of hope, so clearly, on a first read, the intensity is still overwhelming.

    Regarding the thought that no one would show compassion – there have been studies done on the ways in which people react in a disaster and apparently, many communities do pull together to provide help for others. The various studies are outlined in one of the books that Mike read in his research process for ASHFALL; it’s also one of the things that really surprised him, since one’s assumption would typically be that people would move into ‘every person for themself’ mode.

    Thank you again for your generous praise. You made our day.

  3. I can’t wait to read it, I am so jealous you have already 😉

    As far as the doom and gloom sometimes I really want that for a book. I know when you get attatched to characters you want them to live the happily ever after, but that isn’t real life. I seriously respect writers that don’t give in for the ending. “And they all got married, and named their nemerous children after all their friends that died. The end.”

    Ok after commenting, I am still jealous. Have I mentioned I LOVE the new cover? Because I do.

  4. ABookVacation, I would definitely say it’s young adult. There is a serious romance in it, plus there’s also some pretty brutal and bloody scenes. I enjoyed it.

    Margaret, Thanks so much for commenting. I really enjoyed reading it. Interesting points you make about communities helping out. Personally, it’s just hard for me to believe when you consider the fact that they would be giving out the only food they have left to survive with. As for the farming thing they had going on in the end there, I could totally see that happening though.

    ajkulig Exactly. That’s one of the many things I loved about it. It had a realistic ending. It didn’t wrap up with a nice little bow. And honestly, while I was reading it, I was pretty sure it would end that way. And I was okay with it.

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