Thursday, May 10, 2012


by Mike Mullin
April 2012

One Friday evening 15 year old Alex is home alone, messing around on the computer when the earth starts to rumble and the lights in the house go out. An earthquake? Unlikely, since Alex is in the middle of Iowa. Then all hell breaks loose. The floor tilts and the ceiling crashes in. Later a loud roar sounds out, like a never-ending clap of thunder.  It isn't long before Alex finds out that the Yellowstone supervolcano has erupted and life will never be the same.  He sets out to find his parents and little sister who had gone to visit relatives in Illinois for the weekend.

Ashfall  is the story of Alex's journey to Illinois. It's a survival story as he battles hunger, robbers, sudden winter and ashfall.

I liked this book and hate think that this (the supervolcano) could actually happen.  I wonder, however, if we, as a people, would degenerate as fast as the people in this book.  Almost immediately Alex encounters violent criminals. He also encounters communities of people banded together, but the threat of bad people begins so quickly.   On second thought - looting after Hurricane Katrina or the looting and rioting last year in London in August of 2011 after a protest in Tottenham - I suppose it could happen that fast.

It helps the plot of Ashfall that it takes place mostly in rural Iowa. Along Alex's journey houses are few and far between. This would have been a different story had it taken place in a large city.

Mike Mullin does a good job of taking Alex from spoiled teenager into a manhood forced upon him by adversity. Alex is the narrator of the story and his voice subtly changes as moves through his ordeal.

This is Alex's story, but I wanted to know more about how the nation handled the disaster. We get a terrible glimpse of it when Alex and his traveling companion reach a refugee camp which ends up being more like a concentration camp.  But what about the rest of the country?

The sequel Ashen Winter will be released in October so maybe I'll have my answer then.

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