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DescriptionMany 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.
- Published: 27 October 2011
- Format: Hardback 476 pages
- ISBN 13: 9781933718552 ISBN 10: 1933718552
- Sales rank: 116,218
Reviews for Ashfall
I am a 14-year-old bookworm from Florida. And, like any normal teenager, I like me some good ol' video games. One that I often play is a pretty popular title "Fallout 3".
That game, along with the sequel "Fallout New Vegas" got me into the post-apocalyptic storytelling. My father, too, likes this. He suggested me this book, Ashfall, and I even got a note in it from Mike Mullin himself. I have gotten about 165 pages in...And this book is real, real enough to scare the living ****out of me.
Whether the scene where Darren blows the heads off of those three thugs, or when Alex stabs a prison escapee in the eye with a bo-staff, on top of the whole concept of the ancient supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupting just makes this story seem so...tangible, if you will.
Mullin's use of a first-person perspective really gives you a look into Alex's mind while all this is happening, and gives rather realistic scenarios of what a teenager of about the same age as myself would have to deal with traveling to Warren, Illinois.
With the exception of his stature, and his more liberal use of physical activity in Tae-Kwon-Doe, Alex reminds me a lot of...me!
I have just gotten to the part where he meets Darla, I have yet to see what happens. But I cannot wait to purchase Ashen Winter when I finish this copy! by Noah
A new twist on post-cataclysmic fiction
Mike Mullins takes us on a journey through a set of circumstances that we might not normally think of. So much of post-cataclysmic or post-apocalyptic fiction dwells on a zombie or nuclear warfare ridden theme. The aftermath of a supervolcano eruption is a delightful fusion of real science with a popular genre of fiction. I found the strength of teenage characters to be reminiscent of the Hunger Games series, while still forging through with originality. I have suggested this book to my teenage son who may very easily identify with Alex's fearful apprehension that is coupled with a visceral drive to find his family, no matter what it takes. As the story unfolds, the characters go through a distince set of changes that harden them to the new reality.
The story details show that the author has taken time to research the cataclysm that frames the story. All too often, the circumstances behind the cataclysm are unbelievable but Mike Mullins certainly sets the scene with scientific learning. In my experience, the genre doesn't need too much explanation of the impetus of the cataclysm, but it makes for better reading when the details can be integrated into the story, rather than it just being a past-tense event that is unexplained (The Road, McCarthy).
It is important in teen-oriented writing to show strong female characters, especially with the reality of violence and brutality that would exist in a world without law and order. Maturing readers need to see that strength to help them avoid learning juvenile stereotypes. Some parents fear that dark subjects that this genre are inappropriate for young readers. I have found that it shows teenage readers that true evil exists in our world, albeit sometimes hidden by law and order. One must remain just and compassionate as well as toughand assertive, to truly survive and remain human.
Another fine book that shows this same quality is "One Second After" by William Forstchen. by David Bussell
Powerful and Moving
This book is amazing.
I had written a long review but lost it due to an issue. So I will attempt this review again.
Having read books such as The Hunger Games Trilogy, Inside Out, The Maze Runner Trilogy, The Gone Series, and Divergent; I can honestly say that this book set a whole new standard.
I was hesitant to read this book due to the lack of reviews and having not seen this book referenced in other sources. This book was a find such that I have not found in any other contemporary literature associated with this genre. With references to BlackWater, World of Warcraft, Homeland Security, The EPA, ArmyCore of Engineers, FEMA, and the Red Cross, this book relates the issues to everything that is currently at the forefront of the headlines of today and the past 20 years or so. However that not to say that this book isn't timeless, quite the contrary. It could have been written during the Roman Empire or a thousand years from now and it would still have been a delightful and exemplary book.
Without giving too much away, I am going to sink my teeth into why this book is so amazing. The book revolves around a likable and well formed protagonist named Alex. Who has his fatal flaws and his own development through the book. I will say now that this book could be used in teaching contemporary literature. Alex, who begins the book with the immediate issue that sets the course of the book. The eruption of the volcano at Yellowstone National Park begins the novel. As with any individual facing a unpredictable natural disaster, Alex and his fellow survivors know almost nothing about what is going on. Being a survivor of hurricanes (such as Andrew, Floyd, Alex, and Isabel to name a few) and of other natural disasters (unavoidable living in the Southeast), I have been exposed to situations that are reflected in the novel. The power outages, food issues, and overall loss of daily stability are accurately reflected in Ashfall. While I have not dealt with any disaster even close to the scale that is shown in the book, I felt as though it is completely within the realm of possibility and disasters (such as the 2004 Tsunami, 2010 Hati earthquake, and the 1980 eruption of Mount St.Helens to name a few). This book clearly depicts a doomsday version of a natural disaster.
Having gone completely off topic, I will return to the novel in question. There is nothing particularly unique with Alex as introduced in Ashfall. Alex is a rebellious teenager who fights with his parents and younger sister, plays WoW, and is a black belt in martial arts. His constitution is shattered when he realizes the enormity of the task facing him when he decides to hike to where his family has vacationed at his Uncle's house. Dealing with solidarity that is promoted by the horrors of his initial exposure to what it takes to survive at his neighbor's house, he soon is faced with having to realize his need to have a companion on the trip and this is where Darla steps in to the picture. Without giving too much away, she becomes his travel companion once they encounter each other about ¼ of the way into the novel.
What I love about Ashfall is that Mike Mullin does not depict Darla or Alex as being too much of one extreme or another (a shortcoming in the Gone series and the Hunger Games). They both have their own talents that are balanced by the other. It is only at one point in the novel where one is required to be a typical travel buddy (at the FEMA camp). What I mean by a typical travel buddy is one that goes with the expectations of being either too weak or strong in moral character as is shown by many other authors (Maria V. Snyder and Michael Grant come to mind).
I cannot stress how amazing this novel is and highly recommend it. I will also most likely edit this review seeing as it is my first attempt at a comprehensive review. Comments and flames are more than welcomed. by Jason
Powerful, emotional, and thrilling
Teaser: "Yeah...no." My sorrow dissolved in a wave of pure fury. What kind of place was this, where tens of thousands of people were herded together without adequate shelter, without decent latrines? A cattle pen, not fit for humans. And the the guards, Captain Jameson, they were people just like me. For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own.
My Thoughts: Mike Mullin, as you can see from the teaser above, pulls no punches. This is a dystopian novel and he really makes you feel it. At the beginning of the book, Alex lives a quiet life - he lives in a house in a small town in Iowa with his parents and sister, he attends public school, and enjoys computer games. The most exciting thing he does is take taekwondo classes. He's taken them for years and enjoys them, and at not quite sixteen he's earned a black belt. Then a volcano in Yellowstone Park blows and everything changes (BTW, the volcano is real, click here for more info).
When the book starts, Alex is home alone. His parents and sister are away for the weekend, visiting his uncle Paul and his family in Illinois. Alex fought with his mother about going and was successful in his quest to stay home. That decision proves fateful. Alex is in his bedroom when there's an earthquake type rumble and the power goes out. That event is immediately followed by a cracking noise, the house falling, and his bedroom catching on fire. He manages to escape and takes refuge with some neighbors after his house burns down. He stays with them for several days and they learn that the supervolcano at Yellowstone blew and the affects are being felt all the way to the west coast in California and Oregon (click for a US map if you need a refresher or are unfamiliar with US geography).
For several days, the falling ash blocks the sun and the world is in near total darkness. The ash falls continually for about a week then falls more erratically after that. It's a rare day that goes by without ashfall. The fall has dumped from six inches to two feet, depending on location, topography, etc.The result is that crops have been buried, many killed off, the water supply in many areas is contaminated, power is out, phones are out, and there's little to no communication with the outside world.
After a violent incident at the neighbor's house, Alex decides to find his family. He returns to the remains of his house, scrounges up supplies, and sets off to Illinois to find his family. Thus begins his trek. It's challenging, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The roads are covered, cars are buried in ash, many houses and buildings were destroyed in the eruption and people are terrified. Alex encounters people whose first reaction is to pull a shotgun and people who willingly share their home, water, and food. He also encounters people who, understandably, are inclined not to share but to hoard what they have for themselves. Alex himself discovers how far he is willing to go to save his supplies in an encounter with a little girl at shelter. Later, he redeems himself in a heartwrenching encounter with a mother and her young children. His companion, Darla, is more pragmatic and thinks his compassion will be the death of them.
I rummaged through our pack. "What are you doing?" Darla whispered. "Making some dinner." "Alex, we should move on. Find another camp for tonight. We've helped them enough." ....."They don't have any food or water bottles. Who knows how long it's been since they've eaten." "And who knows how long 'til we'll eat again if you give away all our food." "I won't give it all away." "Where are we going to get more when we run out?" "I don't know.".....If all we did was what we should to survive, how were we any better than Target? I took out three water bottles and the frying pan....."She's right, you know. You don't owe us anything. You should keep your supplies."....."We might die because of all the stuff my stupid, softhearted boyfriend is leaving you. So don't you die, too.You take this stuff, and you keep yourself and your kids alive. You hear?" "I hear."
Darla is not without compassion but she's eminently practical and a bit of a Darwinist. Alex is practical, resourceful and compassionate. He's willing to give people a chance but he's also capable and willing to defend both himself and what's his. Those taekwondo lessons he took come in very handy throughout the book.
I loved this book and I don't love dystopian stories. I do like some forms of sci fi and I think this clearly falls in that category. Mullin did his research and it shows but at no time are we subjected to info dumps or long expository scenes that don't really quite fit into what's going on. He weaves it in so that we learn it as Alex learns it. The story is told in first person narrative and it works very well. We see through Alex's eyes and are in his head as he deals with surviving and finding his family. It happens to us, just as it happens to Alex. You feel like you're there.
Alex and Darla, a girl he meets on his trek who becomes his traveling companion, are very believable, and likable, teenagers. The adults are not all evil or nincompoops or incompetent but complex and detailed. We meet a wide range of characters and get a realistic look at how people react in a catastrophe. Mullin writes plainly and clearly, it's not fancy but it is very, very effective and he has a real knack for imagery.
I remember a lot of those arguments. That Friday they only fueled my rage. Now they're little jewels of memory I hoard, hard and sharp under my skin. Now I'd sell my right arm to a cannibal to argue with Mom again,
Long tendrils of flame licked into the attic above my sister's collapsed bedroom, cat tongues washing the rafters and underside of the roof decking with fire.
But unlike thunder, this didn't stop. It went on and on, machine-gun style, as if Zeus had loaded his bolts into an M60 with an inexhaustible ammo crate.
"Ashfall" is powerful, emotional, thrilling, and it hooks you from the opening line. This book is pretty close to perfect - the pacing, the action, the characterization, the story line, the language, almost everything. The only thing I question is the depiction of the government and the military, it's pretty stereotypical. I'm curious to see what happens in the next book and how events play out about it, not just with the government and the military, but everything. If you like a strong, emotional story that will keep you reading until 3AM (I was so tired the next day but it was so worth it), go buy "Ashfall".
I received an eARC from NetGalley. by Bea Connors
Best books review.
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Ashfall tells the story of Alex how is left at home for the weekend when his family goes off to visit relatives. Alex's happiness is short lived when the Yellowstone volcano erupts and all Alex can think about is getting to his family. Traveling to his family will be the hardest journey of his life. This new world of ash turns out to be a living hell where people will do anything to survive.
This book gave me chills from the first chapter to the last. The story which within two chapters went straight into the action I felt like Alex's town and the others around it had been dropped into the mouth of hell. I was at the edge of my seat watching Alex's journey unfold. This whole book put me on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Alex is faced with challenge after challenge which left me wondering how much more can this poor boy can take. The people around him are going to horrifying lengths to keep themselves alive. Alex see's and experiences things that would make a full grown man cry, scream and just plain give up..
I would recommend this book to others it's an amazing book with lots going on. While this book at times can be dark and scary there is also lots of fun and some of the things Alex thinks and feels made me laugh. It was a mixed book which has so much to give action, love, horror, and so much more.
A breath taking story that will keep you up at night.
5 stars. by annmarie ager
Reviewed by Karin Librarian for TeensReadToo
Alex, a typical teenage boy, is left alone for the weekend because he refused to go away with his parents to his Uncle's farm. He quickly regrets his decision after the unthinkable happens. A volcano in Yellowstone National Park erupts, sending ash across the entire country. Forced to leave after the destruction of his home, Alex decides to try and make it to his family the only way he can - on foot. Taking only what he can carry, he sets out on a dangerous journey, hoping for the best.
Alex encounters many obstacles along the way - many extremely dangerous. When he can't go any further he is lucky enough to come across a farmhouse with people willing to help. Darla, a girl a couple of years older than he is, and her mother seem to be making it so far. Darla's mechanical abilities have allowed her to rig things up to help them stay fed.
But, after disaster strikes, Darla is left with no choice but to leave with Alex as he continues his journey toward his family. Will their food and water last? Can they stay away from the desperate people willing to do anything to survive? Will his family even be there when he gets to the farm?
ASHFALL is a true page-turner. The fact that a scenario like this could really happen makes you stop and think. How long could you make it on the food and water you have at home? Could you protect yourself from people willing to do anything to take what you have? Author Mike Mullin does a great job putting Alex in situations that I feel would be very likely to happen. He doesn't allow Alex to get through the story unscathed and I appreciated it. Realistically, what teen could make it hundreds of miles on foot through dangerous conditions without running into some MAJOR trouble?
I also enjoyed how the author handled the relationship between Alex and Darla. He created two intelligent, responsible characters, and it was a pleasure to take this journey with them. Something else I liked is that Darla is a strong and smart girl and Alex isn't intimidated by that at all. He realizes she is smarter than he is in many aspects of survival and allows her to lead the way when it is necessary.
I really can't wait for the sequel, ASHEN WINTER, which is set to come out in October 2012.
*Gold Star Award Winner! by TeensReadToo
Must-read catastrophe book
Alex is a regular 15 year old boy who is looking forward to his first weekend alone while his family goes to visit relatives in the next state. But everything changes when the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone explodes. Even though it's over 900 miles away, the fallout is devastating. Now Alex must struggle and survive the journey to reach his family.
Let me start by confessing that I love end-of-world stories, whether they are well-written books or bad, low-budget movies. I gobble them up and find myself wondering how, and if, I'd survive similar destruction. This is probably the best end-of-world story I have read. Ever. Something about it just struck true to me.
Alex was a very relatable character. He's an average, slightly geeky teenage boy who is looking forward to a weekend of computer games. Until his whole world changes. He grows up very quickly and makes the huge decision to go find his family. I love that he still makes mistakes that you'd expect from a teenager, and yet seems to have great self-confidence and will power to survive.
I could probably go on and on, but how enlightening is an overly gushy review? I will just say that this story will appeal to teenagers and adults alike. It is a well written, very scary, account of a plausible catastrophe. A must-read. Something that will have you stocking up on water and dried foods.
Since this is the start of a series, I should mention how the ending is handled. Anyone who reads my reviews will know this is important to me. The story ends at a rather logical spot. End-of-world scenarios really can't have a definite conclusion unless the characters all die, and that isn't usually the ending you look for. There is quite a bit left unfinished, but the book felt complete. Of course, that being said, I can't wait for the sequel. by Sarah Merchant