Author: Mike Mullin
Category/Genre: YA, Apocalyptic, Contemporary, Disaster/Action
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.
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.
Well, I’ve certainly had a lot going on lately so I’m sorry to only just now get to this review. But I’m glad to say that Ashfall was certainly a memorable read, with characters easy to recall, so even after having finished a couple of weeks ago I can still easily think back on it to share my final thoughts.
To start with, it touched on a subject that is probably one of my biggest fears. An apocalyptic event. And not just any apocalyptic event (like zombies when I’m sitting around watching The Walking Dead--though those can be scary and who doesn’t freak at that potential idea also?), but a natural occurrence. One that involves something I’ve seen countless documentaries on and have read several interesting texts on, and the thoughts of this super-volcano, or any of the world’s super-volcanoes, erupting are terrifying. When it comes to the potential ideas of some kind of apocalyptic event in the future if possible, I’m genuinely scared of the power of Mother Nature, not to mention the insanity that ensues with humans in times of chaos.
Readers get a taste of all of this with Ashfall in the characters’ experiences and actions. Mullin did an excellent job showcasing how much chaos happens during a crisis, and how much a person can change during times like these. People that Alex knew personally from his community were still mostly kind, though obviously different and ready to fight when a situation needed. Like with Joe and Darren. We see the quick, intense change in Darren in a matter of a day or two after the eruption compared to how he had been portrayed when he was introduced--and then the sudden snap upon the attack on Joe by the intruding strangers as it all fell into place and we knew he was going to protect his loved one and his shelter at all costs, no matter the consequences. Often times, the book does make you question what you would do in the same situation. How you would react and if you’d take the same path some of these characters took. There were times I had to stop and think as well because this is such a realistic event. You just never know anymore given our history with natural disasters.
I liked how Mullin created Alex and showed me his growth from the start through the end with a slow development. Sometimes I felt the story was a little too slow, dragged on at times in parts, but by the end I got the general feel that I needed it. At the start, Alex was an immature brat with not much respect for his parents. He didn’t have much of a voice at the beginning I felt. But that’s how I immediately tagged him when he kept talking about how much he was annoyed by his family, etc. That’s typical of a teenage boy, though! Of ANY stereotypical teenager this age, to be exact (and no, teen followers, I’m not generalizing you all or calling you immature/disrespectful and that sort). After the eruption, it’s obvious right-off though where his priorities really lie: his family. He really does care, even if he complains about them getting on his nerves. Just as I’m sure this goes for the majority of teens. So Mullin pulled off the teen voice/attitude quite well, in my opinion. I also found this to be easily readable for any audience, whether male or female. Maybe I could finally get my step-son to enjoy a book because I’m going to try handing it off to him next.
The writing and details of action were amazingly well-done and easy to visualize. Alex’s use of martial arts was a unique trait to his character development, and helped him out a lot along the way. I think that if he hadn’t had that knowledge, he might not have survived as well as he had by himself so long with all the trouble he met along the way. Or at least it would’ve been more of a struggle. So at times, I did find the talent almost convenient… but I also really enjoyed that he had that fascinating quality since it seems like I rarely read any characters with that specialty. And hey, it would’ve been really weird if he’d set out without any kind of survival knowledge or fighting skills whatsoever and somehow managed to just get on by magically without any trouble, am I right? LOL.
I have to admit Darla didn’t draw me in too well, and even by the end I still wasn’t a huge fan of her character. I liked her well enough to get her and I thought the slow-building romance between her and Alex was well done, but I think I will need more time for her to grow on me. Which could only mean one thing: I’m definitely reading book two.
I’m so glad I finally got to sit down and read this frighteningly wonderful book.