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.
Hardcover, 466 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Tanglewood Press
A copy of this novel was kindly provided by Tanglewood Press via NetGalley for review.
Four stars: This is a nail biting, anxiety laden adventure that will leave you hungry for more.
Sixteen year old Alex is planning on an epic weekend. After a hard fought battle with his mother over a family weekend trip to his Uncle's goat farm, he has won the ultimate prize of a weekend home alone. Two days of freedom from his mother's constant nagging and his irritating, bratty, pest of a sister. He shoves his homework aside, to be completed on Sunday night, and immerses himself into World of Warcraft. Without warning something explodes through the roof of his house. Alex finds himself trapped by his desk in a burning house. After freeing himself from the rubble he is taken in by his neighbors. Things will be better in the morning, that is until the earth shattering, ear splitting explosions start, reducing him to cowering in the bathtub. When dawn does not arrive the next morning, Alex discovers the world as he knows it has been decimated by the Yellowstone Super Volcano eruption. He wakes to pitch darkness and a blackened sky raining down ash and debris onto a landscape swallowed by volcanic dust. All modern conveniences such as communication, electricity, and transportation are eradicated. Alex makes the fateful decision to head East over the hundred mile span that separates him from his family. Skiing over the drifts of ash he encounters the harsh, brutal reality of trying to survive in a world where food and water are scarce and civilization has decayed. Will he be able to overcome the insurmountable obstacles that stand between him and his family?
What I Liked:
*This book is action packed and riveting. The moment the volcano erupts you are thrown into the heart pounding adventure. This book deals with all aspects of a major disaster, then initial terror gives way to the struggle to survive. Society is reduced to shot gun toting citizens bent on survival. It is a world where you adapt or die. As you toil through the changing environment with Alex, you ask yourself what would I do? Would you fight to survive? Wait for divine intervention? Seek the easy way out with a bullet? This book had me frantically turning the pages, anxious to see if Alex would weather the volcanic storm. It has everything that you love in a dystopian novel.
*Alex and Darla our main characters are tremendously written. Alex is a typical, nerdy teenager, who has some training in martial arts. As the story progresses his growth and transformation are astonishing. I admired his maturity, humanity and his realization of the importance of family. Darla is the antithesis of a typical teenage girl. She is resourceful, hard working, mechanically inclined and she is quick to utilize her problem solving skills. I loved her capability and adaptability. Alex and Darla are real and compelling characters. I applauded their stubborn determination to survive and their humane, self sacrificing behavior. I found myself invested in their well being.
*I enjoyed the building of the relationship between Alex and Darla. It starts shaky and hesitant. Then slowly trust and friendship emerge to counteract the terror and loneliness that stalks them. The progression of the bond is genuine and pertinent to their situation. It was admirable the way Alex and Darla maturely and responsibly dealt with the romantic aspects of their relationship.
And The Not So Much:
*I was dying to read this book because I grew up living with the Yellowstone Super Volcano an hour and half from my home town; literally it was in my backyard. I was excited to read about the eruption and the cataclysmic destruction that the volcano is capable of unleashing. I was disappointed that the volcano eruption was only briefly mentioned in the beginning of the story. The author does include a note at the end of the story that discusses the volcano, the impending weather disturbances and far reaching repercussions of an eruption. I think having this scientific information woven into the story would have enhanced and contributed to the building of the apocalyptic environment. Especially since the majority of the readers have not witnessed the awe of Yellowstone.
*For me a major flaw in the story was the way the citizens of Iowa were completely unaware and caught off guard by the disaster. It stated in the story that it would have taken approximately nine hours for the ash to reach the midwest. Yet, the people in Alex's town seemed to have little knowledge of the impending doom. It is not plausible with the internet and modern communication for everyone to be so unprepared. There should have been mass terror, panic, hoarding and evacuation. Alex is able to run unimpeded to the fire station and there he finds the firemen sitting around wondering why the phones and dispatch are down. This was where the book missed the mark.
*Ashfall is listed as a young adult title. This novel should be read by mature readers only. It is a book filled with violence, cruelty, shocking brutality and the severe decisions that ensue when a society crumbles. It is a realistic and frightening world that is suitable for older teenagers.
Ashfall is a novel that gets into your head, as it is capable of evoking a range of emotions. It is a terrifying picture of the fragility of society and humanity in the wake of horrendous disaster. The violent actions of some will shock and disturb you but hope shines through as you encounter commradery and community. This is a book that will have you anxiously flying through the chapters as you traverse the dangerous terrain with Alex and Darla and ultimately you will question your own survival instincts. This is an exciting debut novel; the first of a series. Book two, Ashen Winter, is set for publication in the fall of 2012. The adventure will continue as our heroes attempt to navigate through a volcanic winter.
"Before that day, I had no idea that it was possible to be insane with both terror and boredom at the same time."
"I was in love. I thought Darla was, too---but maybe with the bulldozer."
"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."