Maxine's Reviews > Ashes of the Earth

Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison
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's review
Jul 19, 2011

really liked it
Read in June, 2011

I'm sure someone has done a study linking the rise of dystopian literature to the economy or the fear of terrorist attacks. Whatever the reason, new offerings seem to appear on library and bookstore shelves daily. Ashes of the Earth is one of the newest additions to the genre.

Although ostensibly a murder mystery, this book is really about the kind of society which would arise from the ashes of a nuclear holocaust. Author Elliot Pattison envisions a 21st century world forced to relearn 19th century technology, a society faced with starvation, disease, and prejudice; where most people have only enough energy to survive each day while a few make a grab for power and corruption is rampant; where books are banned and child suicides are constant.

However, as Pattison points out in his Author's Notes at the end of the story, it is easy to predict the likely technologies that would arise after complete global destruction; what is not so easy to predict is the effects it would have on the human psyche.

Because Pattison sees more than one possibility for mankind. Throughout the book, Dylan Thomas' famous lines about old age are quoted:

"Do not go gentle into that dark night
Rage, Rage against the dying of the light."

Here, though, it it is not about age but about choices - that, perhaps, not the worst that mankind has to offer need be the outcome but the best - that this new world has the potential to be better than the old if people are willing to fight for it.

In this book, whodunnit is never really much of a mystery; who survives and what they will make of their world is really the question.

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