Author: Mike Mullin
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park dont 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 search 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.”
Thoughts: Out of all the apocalypse books that exist, Ashfall and the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park hits home as an extremely possible scenario. Mr. Mullin’s post-eruption world is frightening in its realism. Add to that the growth of a self-absorbed teenage boy, a population that has lost almost all vestiges of humanity, unimaginable trials and tribulations, and the early stages of a poignant love affair and Ashfall is one hot addition to a growing list of excellent YA novels.
Mr. Mullin does not shy away from the fact that his hero is still a boy. Alex’s reactions to certain events are short-sighted and childish, especially given the circumstances in which he finds himself. Because of this, Alex is not always an enjoyable hero. This only serves to make the entire story more believable, as a sixteen-year-old is not expected to act 100 percent responsibly at all points in time during a catastrophe and proves that he has much room for growth and improvement.
Mr. Mullin’s post-eruption Iowa is as bleak and stark as one would envision. His ability to paint a picture with words is impressive, if simplistic. He chooses, however, to spend a large majority of the time allowing the reader to get into the mind of Alex, which only serves to further build the connection between the reader and the hero.
Having met Mr. Mullin at the GLiBA trade show this past October, and having seen firsthand his proficiency at tae kwan do, it was quite amusing to read about Alex’s own skills at this sport. It definitely comes in handy in certain scenarios. I can envision quite a few boys taking up the sport after reading Ashfall.
In all, I was quite impressed with Mr. Mullin’s debut novel. While it presents a bleak picture of humanity in the face of a life-changing global event, it offers enough hope to want to read more. However, for those who are loathe to start yet another series, it does end with enough answered questions and resolved conflicts to satisfy most readers. For those who are interested in seeing what life may be like if or when the volcano at Yellowstone erupts, Ashfall presents a realistic and frightening picture of what may be in store for the Midwest.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to GLiBA for my copy!