Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Ashfall # 1
Published: October 11th, 2011 by Tanglewood Press

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying super-volcano, 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 super-volcano 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.
Ashfall is a book I've been wanting to read for a while now... but with books like this, I'm a little weird and I have to be in the right mood/vibe to read like realistic apocalyptic type stuff.  The reason being (and I've mentioned this before) is that I'm a chicken sh!t, scaredy cat.  Same reason I don't read horror,  even gore or things like zombie books.  Thankfully, Ashfall has neither zombies or gratuitous gore, but things do get pretty horrific on the terrifying scale.  In this addictive and plausible read, a Super-Volcano erupts in Yellowstone and in the blink of an eye, the world is transformed - permanently altered.

The story begins with Alex, as his parents leave him alone for the first time for a whole week end as they make their way further south.  Everything seems normal as Alex watches them drive away but it's not soon after that things go horribly wrong.  I loved that the story starts a little before the actual erruption so we can be with Alex as everything starts happening.  It's terrifying but I was thoroughly rivited as everything descends into chaos.  At first Alex has no clue whatsoever what is going on.  He later learns, while taking refuge with his neighbors that the Super-Volcano in Yellowstone has errupted.  After a shocking first initial few days, Alex hauls up and sees his home town transformed as people descend into despair...and worse.  In desperation & fear Alex embarks on a perilous journey to reunite with his family, against all odds.


Alex is a very relatable & endearing protagonist.  His voice as he comes to terms with what has happened, and how quickly the rules of society that we all take for granted begin to crumble around him is both gripping & moving.  It was SO refreshing to read a book with a male POV - especially one as complex and wholly likeable as Alex.  He is well rounded, level headed and an all around fun character to get to know.  The way he deals with such life-altering events made him all the more real for me. He really is forced to grow up in virtually an instant...and he finds himself up to the task. You can't help rooting for him & hoping he finds what he's looking for.  I can really see young/teen boys LOVING this book, simply because of Alex and how real he feels throughout Ashfall.  Being a girl, I can safely say that I couldn't get enough of him myself - he's definitely a memorable protagonist. 


The world as we know it undergoes drastic changes after the eruption.  Firstly, there is the ash - it's not called Ashfall without reason.  Ash falls from the sky long after the eruption is over.   And I mean a butt-load of ash: enough to completely cover the sun, the moon, the stars...and wreck havoc on the climate, weather patterns and ever the seasons.  It feels like reading a story based on a completely different planet -everything is grey & ashen.  Breathing becomes a hazard to your health and even that isn't the worst of Alex's problems.  I was amazed by how author Mike Mullin injected all the elements one could imagine coming into play in a situation like this.  It was never excessive or difficult for me to imagine.  This all felt SO real!


There is never a dull moment - Alex is always facing adversity as he brave the unforgiving & unpredictable elements.  It was chilling (and realistic I think) to see how quickly most people lost their humanity.  People became savage, animals.  With everyone consumed with fear & uncertainty, most of the rules we live by and take for granted on a daily basis were quickly replaced by madness, savagery & violence.  Within all of that new-found primitiveness, Mike Mullin was able to weave in kindness & love in the most unexpected places.  Not everyone becomes horrible.  There are still good people...trying to survive.


Ashfall is a book that stays in your head. Even when you put it down, or try to sleep, or go about your daily life.  And yes, even when it's over - I find myself thinking about it...remembering & above all wondering; what will happen next to Alex & Darla??  It's scary, but it a good way because it makes you think.  It was fully absorbing & stirring from start to finish.  If you're a fan of dystopian or post-apocalyptic reads and you haven't read Ashfall yet, what are you waiting for?! 


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

18 comments:

  1. Oh, hmmm, wow! This does sound like a good read! I myself try to stay away from horror, but it's good to know you enjoyed Ashfall. It's also great that you liked the protagonist Alex! Awesome review, Micheline! :D

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

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    1. Thanks Sarika!! Yeah I don't do well with horror so I was a bit worried initially about the 'post-apocalyptic' element but it was a GREAT read :D

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  2. Yes! So happy to see that you loved this one so much, Micheline. I loved Alex and Darla and just how real everything felt. Like you I liked the little glimpse we get of Alex before the shit hits the fan too. I can't wait to see what you think of Ashen Winter! Awesome review chick!

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    1. I'm happy too Jenni, I'm kinda surprised by how much I loved this and how much it's still stuck inside my head! I can't wait to read Ashen Winter but the synopsis scares me a little too - so ominous o.O

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  3. I'm a coward when it comes to scary books, too! I've been trying to venture outside of my comfort zone more, but there are some books that I know I won't read because I'm too much of a chicken! I will, however, move Ashfall up on my TBR list. I've been really choosy about dystopians lately, but this one sounds like a must-read!

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one who's so chicken! Sometimes, I'll read a brilliant review of a scary book and I'm like: damn I wish I could read it but I'm too scared! LOL I still had to psych myself up to reading this one - even though I knew it was more 'survival-style' action because of the post-apocalyptic theme. I'm really glad I gave it a go though, I'm still thinking about it all the time!!

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  4. I loved this book too!! I can't believe I still haven't read the second book yet. I am such a fail. It's just so long and I got behind last year and haven't had a chance to get to it yet. I love how real and scary this book is. It's really something that could happen so it makes it so much more intense to read. Awesome review as always babe!

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    1. Hopefully you'll read it soon so we can compare notes - I don't think I can stay away much longer, I'm DYING to know what happens next...though I'm kinda scared too >.< Thanks doll ♥

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  5. Yes, this is an awesome series and it is one of my favorites!! Ashen Winter is so good too. I hope you are able to read it soon. I am dying for the next book. DYING. Great review, Micheline!

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    1. Thanks Kara :D I can't wait to read Ashen Winter - luckily I own a copy so I'll be able to jump in soon!!

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  6. I like the sound of Alex. I need to be able to relate to the mc to love it.
    Great review.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  7. YES, so well said!! I really loved Alex and the realism of the situation, too. I mean, it was scary and nerve wracking, all the more so because I cared for the characters and the fact that this situation could really happen, but it was also exciting and memorable!

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    1. Exactly - the more I grew to like Alex the more I'd feel terrified when he met any danger! I think that's why I'm a little scared to start Ashen Winter >.< And SO memorable, I'm still thinking about it almost daily haha!

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  8. I completely understand needing to be in the right mood for dystopias! This one sounds right up my alley once that mood strikes again though :D

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    1. Oh awesome Anya, I hope you'll LOVE it too :D

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  9. I actually had this one in my TBR, but I didn't remember it. It sounds really good, so I added it to my Random Reads list so I'll read it sooner! :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Sweet, I love how that works ;D I hope you'll enjoy this one as much as I did! xxxx

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