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Ashfall by Mike Mullin (thoughts)

July 12, 2012

From the publisher’s website:
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.

Ashfall was published last October, but I don’t recall hearing anything about it until I was at BEA in June. Cait and Sarah were buzzing about a book that was on the exhibition floor, Ashen Winter, the second in a trilogy. As a rule, I wasn’t taking any sequels if I hadn’t read the first book, but after hearing all about it from Cait and Sarah and chatting with the woman at the Tanglewood booth, I knew I’d have to make an exception to that rule for this one. And while I haven’t gotten to Ashen Winter yet, it was worth it just to get me to read Ashfall.

Ashfall is not for the faint of heart. It is a book that doesn’t make light of disaster and its consequences to nature and civilization. The intensity of it reminded me of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy. If you know me and my love for that series, you’ll understand that that’s not a comparison I make lightly. I was out of breath after the first 50 pages, and still had FOUR HUNDRED PAGES TO GO. It was quite stressful. But in the best possible way.

My favourite part about Ashfall, though, were the characters, specifically Alex and Darla. Right from the beginning, Alex is completely honest about the fact that he is no action movie hero. He’s a teenage boy who is scared of this new world and goes through tremendous growth on his journey to find his family. And then Darla comes along. I love that Darla is such a strong female character – tough as nails and resourceful, but also loyal and vulnerable.

Besides Alex and Darla, there are a whole host of other characters who make an appearance during their trek. Some of them are completely frightening, some you pity beyond belief, but all have an impact on the story. Alex and Darla’s journey isn’t just a battle to survive the ashfall, but to survive what has become of society.

One thing I appreciated about Ashfall was that it didn’t end with a huge, terrifying cliffhanger. It actually ended on a slightly hopeful note, considering the circumstances. Still, I am eager to start Ashen Winter, wondering which characters, if any, will make a reappearance and what challenges await Alex and Darla.

But first, I’m going to need a little break to catch my breath.

WHEW.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2012 7:24 am

    I picked up the sequel at BEA too and need to read this one first. As a general rule I avoided sequels unless I’d read book one, but this was one of the two exceptions that I made because it looked so interesting.

  2. July 12, 2012 11:54 am

    Ah, I’m so glad you liked it!! I understand completely about being out of breath – the first part of the book is like this huge roller coaster where things seem to be going good and then wham, you get shot through an unexpected loop-de-loop! My hands are itching to pick up Ashen Winter but I’m trying to be good and read books that are published before it first (it’s hard though!).

  3. July 12, 2012 3:37 pm

    I’m so glad you liked it. Unlike Cait, I totally picked up and read Ashen Winter already. It’s awesome! A bit darker than the first one, and lots of breathless moments.

  4. July 12, 2012 6:00 pm

    I got Ashen Winter at ALA (well, sort of. Someone left it near a bench & I found it & decided to keep it) and I’m SO glad that Ashfall is worth tracking down. I’m already a big fan of Ilsa J. Bick’s Ashes, and I was kind of worried this one was just a rip off of her book. It has similar elements (including the title) but seems different enough that I think I’d enjoy reading it. :D

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  1. Book Review: “Ashfall” | The Cheap Reader

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