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Friday, November 25, 2011

MEN in YA: Ashfall by Mike Mullin (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Dystopia
Publication.Date  October 11th 2011
Published By:  Tanglewood Press
WebsiteMike Mullin

Ashfall - Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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     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.

“A librarian can’t live by books alone, and I wouldn’t eat them if I could. Feel too much like cannibalism.”
“I used to think that teachers who gave homework on weekends should be forced to grade papers for an eternity in hell.”
“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.”

    I first heard about Ashfall around the time when my hubby and I were planning our Trans-America trip and we've been spending hours after hours searching through the depths of Uncle Google for interesting places, landmarks and other must-see things along the way. I remember my husband showing me pictures of Yellowstone National Park, and how out-of-this-world beautiful it looked like, with all its unique vegetation, geysers and hot springs. I wanted to go there so bad! And that's when I saw someone's Waiting on Wednesday post, spotlighting Mike Mullin's Ashfall... And the book sounded so fascinating: a Yellowstone Volcano eruption covers a great portion of North America in a blanket of ash? How cool does that sound?!  I knew that I had to get my hands on it!  I read it the same day I got it in the mail. I couldn't bring myself to put it down. I loved it. I then re-read it - which is not something that I usually do, as I simply don't have enough time! Yes, it was that good! Compelling, disturbing, touching, thought-provoking - Ashfall is all that and more! Its power lays in it's realistic grounding, after all The Yellowstone Caldera is known for the most violent eruptions, ones that had previously released vast amounts of ash into the atmosphere, leading to extinction of many species. The most scary part? It could happen again. Anytime.

"I was home alone on Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing, in the same way my parents remembered 9/11, but more so. Together we lost the old world, slipping from that cocoon of mechanized comfort into the hellish land we inhabit now. The pre-Friday world of school, cell phones, and refrigerators dissolved into this post-Friday world of ash, darkness, and hunger."

     With these words starts the story of Alex, a teenage boy from Iowa. He's home alone when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, covering the sky with a thick layer of volcano ash. A chunk of rock blasted off the eruption hits Alex's house, collapsing a part of it and nearly killing him. He then spends a couple of days with the neighbors, hoping for his parents to return from their weekend trip. It isn't until a group of armed man breaks into their house in search of food, that Alex realizes that there will be no waiting it out. The ash-covered world is no longer the world he once knew. It's not safe anymore, and no one is coming to help him. There is no electricity, the phones and cells no longer work and the food supplies are running low. Desperate to find his family, Alex puts on his skies and sets off on an impossible journey. A journey that will change the way he sees the world forever.

“Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is terrifying torture.”

     Mike Mullin is a phenomenal writer. He doesn't need vampires, werewolves, demons or any other supernatural stuff to keep you at the edge of your chair. With his painfully realistic depiction of a disaster-stricken world, Mullin not only scares the living @#$% out of you, but also makes you feel for his characters to the point that you hurt, cry and laugh along with them. This is an extremely well-written novel that (at times) reminded me of The Stand by Stephen King (in a way). Of course, there are probably more differences than similarities, but the overall feeling of despair, hopelessness and uncertainty, mixed with hope and a sense of adventure, adds up to an equally fascinating and mesmerizing read. A frightening portrait of a world that could be our own soon.

“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.”

     The civilization (as we know it) crumbles into pieces in a shockingly short period of time. The catastrophe brings out the worst of human nature. People turn into ruthless and merciless savages. They will stop at nothing to satisfy their basic needs of food and shelter. With amazing accurateness, Mullin paints the grim, ugly reality of the ash-covered wastelands and the travails of the survivors. The atmosphere is heavy, gray and extremely depressing. All of a sudden the world turned into a dark, treacherous place, in which everyone you meet could be a potential threat. Mullin certainly does not hold back and Asfhall is disquieting and very graphic at times. There are parts of this book that will make you cringe in disgust, but there are also other parts that will make you tear up, or even laugh!

“But even more than I wanted to check out and give my emotional wounds time to scab over, I wanted to live.”

     Despite the masterful storytelling and the utmost fascinating setting of this book, I found the main character slightly unbelievable - at least for the first half of the book. It didn't stop me from enjoying the story, though, as the issue I had with him  was really not that big of a deal. It's just that.. After the gang attack on his neighbor's place, Alex seemed to be deeply shocked and terrified, repelled by the sight of blood and disgusted with the violence. That's one of the reasons he left that house, running through the door without ever looking back. That's, of course, totally understandable, considering he's just a teenage boy, who've never been exposed to anything like that. But then.. a few chapters later we see him fighting ferociously, killing people. All tough and brave... It was, like I said, just a bit too thinly stretched for my taste. He seemed so vulnerable and sensitive at first, so lost and scared, and then all of a sudden we see him turn all macho and bad-ass. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the change, as it indicates the character's growth, I just think it was rushed a bit. The contrast between these few chapters was too strong not to notice.

     But that's basically the only issue I had with this book. Everything else was beyond fantastic. Ashfall is no doubt one of the books I will be coming back to. It's worth reading, so don't hesitate to pick it up!

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This review is posted as a part of the MEN in YA event (Nov 20th - Dec 20th)

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About the Author
Evie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.
She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and  chatting with fellow book-worms.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing


Sharon @ Obsession with Books said...

This sounds like something I would enjoy.. I love your review! it's definitely going on my TBR pile.

Sharon @ Obsession with Books

Giselle said...

Ooh Evie i LOVED Ashfall! It was disturbing and freaking freaky!! This could freaking happen!! AAAAAAH

Xpresso Reads

Evie said...

@Sharon - It's truly a great book, hun, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it! :) Thanks for stopping by <3

@Giselle So happy you loved it, too! :) I know, right?! It's so scary because it's soooo real! Thanks for the comment <3

Zoey Talbon said...

I haven't actually had any interest in this book, but I might check it out. Great review, Evie :)

Evie said...

@Zoey thanks for stopping by! it's a very good book, captivating and, well, super scary! You might enjoy it :)

A Canadian Girl said...

I haven't read many post-apocalyptic novels because they tend to be more on the violent and depressing side (obviously). I've seen nothing but positive reviews for Ashfall though so I may just have to give it a try and then read a cheery book afterwards :)

roro said...

MUST READ THIS/ have netgalley copy / will read soon

Rebecca said...

I'm about to pick this up later this week and can't wait! It looks soo good. :) Really glad you liked it. Although it sucked you found the main character a bit unbelievable... I can't say that sounds promising. o: But I do hope I enjoy it! Great review. :D

Lisa Richards/alterlisa said...

I'm pretty sure I have this as a Net Galley copy and it has jump to the top.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Awesome review. I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

Giselle San Miguel said...

This is getting me excited. I wanna get scared! LOL


Giselle @

Andra said...

Wow...just wow...your review really makes the book come to life...I'm actually quite terrified of volcanoes maybe not terrified..but still. Those are some powerful quotes...I'm adding this to my TBR pile straight away!

Amy S. said...

I read this book last winter and really liked it. My favorite part by far was when the 2 main characters were interred at the FEMA camp. I found that part the most realistic of all, and perhaps the scariest part of all. I am definitely looking forward to reading Ashen Winter. Plus Mike Mullin is an Indiana (my home state)author!

Gaby said...

I keep and I keep seeing this book EVERYWHERE and when I did read what it was about I was on the ify side. I still am about now I'm sort of on the ok maybe I can read it so yeahh :)

marybelle said...

I read ASHFALL & absolutely loved it. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Karina A. said...

The story reminds me of what happened a year after I was given birth. They always talk about the volcano eruption and how scary it was. The book is like bringing it all to life. I'll definitely read this!

sary said...

I love dystopian books! I absolutely adore the cover! It is creepy!

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