Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}'s Reviews > Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Feb 02, 12

bookshelves: young-adult, 1st-in-series, netgalley, free-read, male-authors, arc, kindle-other-sources, read-in-2012
Recommended to Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship} by: AH
Read from January 20 to 28, 2012

What would happen if the supervolcano at Yellowstone erupted?
Ashfall attempts to answer that question by following Alex, a typical 15-year-old boy from the day his world falls apart at home alone while his family are over a hundred miles away visiting his uncle to his quest to be reunited with his family.

What about a supervolcano erupting is so devastating?
Ash. Lots and lots of toxic ash. It covers fields, pollutes the waterways, inhale too much it can kill both animals and humans. It's consistency is so fine it can stick to everything, in small amounts slippery to walk on and once mixed with rain can become like thick mud and when it dries it can harden like concrete. It can be so heavy, the pressure on a roof can bring down a building. Travel becomes almost impossible. No air traffic, trains and cars. Walking is the only option. (Or skiing. Cross-country skiing works, too.) Amenities like electricity and communications are down other than a few radio broadcasts. Civilisation has been brought to a standstill.

Apart from the first quarter of the book which was slow and somewhat boring, that all changed once we met Darla. She brought a much needed spark to this book as an intriguing, prickly, independent and resourceful farm girl who's not afraid of a little blood (understatement!) with the mind of an engineer and a MacGyver-like ability to repair and create things out of anything. Basically, she's awesome and definitely someone you want on your side in a crisis. She's one of many strong women in the book.

I loved Darla but I also loved the effect Darla had on Alex. He learns a lot from her -techniques on how to find and prepare food (those scenes may turn meat-lovers vegetarian, you have been warned), that survival can mean doing things that pre-apocalypse you'd judge people for but not now, and (view spoiler) He starts the book as a sheltered city boy, a nerd, a naive 15-year-old with a black belt in martial arts and ends it about 6 months later, a man of 16, hardened by what he'd seen and done. His generosity and compassion were remarkable, could be considered stupid, but still, he didn't abandon his humanity, his morals, when it really counted. Alex even makes a very mature decision that fully grown adults wouldn't.

Luck. Mullin balances this quite well. In pre-apocalyptic life luck plays a role but now luck is everything. Alex's journey means his life is always in danger, he suffers as do those around him but he's also quite lucky. Some of his clouds have silver linings, like meeting Darla. If he hadn't been injured they'd never have met and he would be dead.

It could be argued that at times Alex is too lucky although I wouldn't say that because although the situation is bleak there is hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't come away from this book feeling depressed despite the subject matter. There's plenty of deep, dark reality: people die in both passive and violent manners, there's the constant feeling of uncertainty. That safe feeling we take for granted no longer exists. The main characters learn from others' experiences as well as by trial and error so it all feels realistic. And there's a bit of humour too.

Alex encounters a great many people and situations: those that are coping, predators, victims, cannabalism, sickness, rescue centres, towns that work together, the religious, etc. They paint a shocking, desperate and vivid picture of what a cataclysmic disaster can do to a western civilisation. Although I do think this is very USA-specific, well it has to be since the supervolcano is at Yellowstone but the availability of guns and the government rescue centre and military responses weren't erm, practical. It's diabolical that the military would care more about politics and money when food is so scarce, their lack of compassion was astonishing considering their main role is to protect the people instead of (view spoiler) Only in America(?).

As for the wider world, it was really strange to see Chinese humanitarian missions granted permission to help the US. And this:

"The vice president concluded his remarks with strong words for 'those nations whose hoarding and profiteering cause the collapse of the international grain markets.' He pledged to use the full force of the United States to insure an equitable..."

Yeah, the US has become a third world country overnight I'm sure they have a huge influence on the world now. /sarcasm

Two things I really like about this book:
The teenage boy thinks about sex, in a YA book.
The teenage girl is older than the boy.

They're probably really strange things to pick up on but I've read quite a few books where the boys have pure non-sexual thoughts and are always, always older than the girl, sometimes by centuries. This is a very welcome and refreshing change.

I'm quite surprised by how much I liked Ashfall, how many times I uttered an "oh my god", "eww" and "oh no!", worrying about how they were going to get out of this or that scrape. I was rooting for Alex and Darla the whole way, hoping they'd survive with as few physical and mental scars as possible, and make it to their goal.

I started this book 60 miles away from home, not the best time, and I wondered what I would do if tragedy struck right then, and my first thought was to get out of the city. Londoners can be scary at the best of times I certainly don't want to get caught there in a crisis. I'm not sure how I'd fare on a journey like Alex's and how it would end for me. Starvation? Suicide? Murder? Would I make it home? Would you?

*Warning: This book contains strong violence, animal slaughter and human suffering.

Favourite Quotes

'What kind of girl cuddles with a cute rabbit she name Buck one minute and the next smashes its skull with a hammer to scoop out its brains?'

'Something about brains and milkshakes didn't compute. Had I wondered into a bad zombie movie?'

'I knew I'd regret leaving Darla, but my family mattered more than some girl I'd just met and barely knew.'

"And I'm not an idiot. And this is getting old. I know you've probably got ash in your panties, but do you have to take it out on me?"

"I...look, it's not logical, but I feel safe with you. I should be freaked out by the dead guy in the room behind us, but I'm not. I know I'd be safer in Worthington, but I didn't feel that way when I woke up that morning and you weren't there."

"When you followed me out of Worthington, that was my real birthday present."

"As it happens I only volunteered to be a camp prostitute. I didn't have to go through with it. But so what if I had? So what if I screwed every motherless guard in that godforsaken camp?"
"I don't-"
"Would that have made me less of a woman in your mind? Less of a person? Just one of those girls, the easy ones, the ones the high-school cliques gossip about and call sluts? Is that the kind of boy you are, Alex? Is that the man you want to be?"

***Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.***
8 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Ashfall.
Sign In »

Quotes Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship} Liked

Mike Mullin
“Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is terrifying torture.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Mike Mullin
“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.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Mike Mullin
“Condoms instantly shot to the number-one position on my mental list of must-find survival supplies, far ahead of food, water, and a way across the Mississippi River.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Mike Mullin
“I felt bad about dirtying their comforter with my nasty clothes, but who knew what might happen later. If something else bizarre went down and I had to run, I sure didn’t want to do it butt naked.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Mike Mullin
“A librarian can’t live by books alone, and I wouldn’t eat them if I could. Feel too much like cannibalism.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Mike Mullin
“So I thought I’d feel different afterward, after the visible neon sign proclaiming 'virgin' had blinked out on my forehead. I’d spent years obessessing about it, so it seemed like somthing should have changed. Maybe it would have if I’d still been at Ceder Falls High School surrounded by the gossip and the braggadocio of teenage boys. But on my uncle's farm, nobody noticed, or at least nobody said anything. The next day, like every day, we dug corn, chopped wood, and carried water. And it didn’t really change much between Darla and me, either. Yes, making love was fun, but it wasn’t really any more fun than anything we’d already been doing together. Just different.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Mike Mullin
“The next few hours were, well, how to describe it? Ask someone to lock you in a box with no light, nobody to talk to, and then have them beat on it with a tree limb to make a hideous sound. Do that for hours, and if you're still not bat-shit crazy, you'll know how we felt.”
Mike Mullin, Ashfall

Reading Progress


Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Steph Great review, as always, Ames! I think my library has this one, I'll have go back and looksee now. :)

Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship} Thanks, Steph. I think you'll like it.

Regina Awesome review. I loved this book and cannot wait for the sequel, your review brought back how much I loved it. And I so agree with you on this:

Two things I really like about this book:
The teenage boy thinks about sex, in a YA book.
The teenage girl is older than the boy.

They're probably really strange things to pick up on but I've read quite a few books where the boys have pure non-sexual thoughts and are always, always older than the girl, sometimes by centuries. This is a very welcome and refreshing change.

Steph :) Sounds interesting; I'll keep an eye out when I hit the library next time.

message 5: by AH (new) - rated it 5 stars

AH Great review! I've often wondered about the skiing on volcanic ash. My husband and I discussed this at length (geeks that we are) and since volcanic ash is like ground up glass, those skis would have been ruined rapidly. Aside from that, loved the points about the teenage boy thinking of sex.
I can't wait for the sequel.
Steph - it really is good - and the magnitude of the disaster is just unreal - if this supervolcano were to blow, pretty much everything west of Chicago would be gone or under at least a foot of ash.

Steph LOL! How cute you & your hubby, AH. ;)

I've moved it up on my TBR list, thanks!

Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship} Thanks, Regina, AH. I'm looking forwards to the sequel too.

message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Great review, Ames! I am starting this one later today, and your review has me really primed for it.:)

Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship} Thanks, Jim! I hope you like it.

back to top