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Ashfall by Mike Mullin
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Ashfall (edition 2011)

by Mike Mullin

Series: Ashfall (1)

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6299615,431 (3.96)52
Member:callmecayce
Title:Ashfall
Authors:Mike Mullin
Info:Tanglewood Press (2011), Hardcover, 476 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:read 2012, young adult, science fiction, library

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Ashfall by Mike Mullin

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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
I really like dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels as much as anyone, but this one was kinda meh for me. The volcanic disaster is what drew me to it in the first place, since I've never read a post-apocalyptic novel involving volcanoes.
Maybe it was the protagonist, or the several mentions of his knowledge of tae kwon do. None of his actions really seemed all that believable. I started disliking the book somewhere in the beginning, when Alex was staying with Joe and Darren. Then I started nitpicking at pretty much everything. It was when Alex left immediately after Darren killed one of the looters that almost killed the three of them. Alex viewed Darren in a different light I guess, but if it were me, I'd feel safe that at least someone has a gun to defend everyone with.

There's so many situations that just felt off. Let me just say that Alex has absolutely no idea what he's doing. He started off with a lot of bottles of water, and he downs them like it's nothing. As if he's never heard of rationing. There's so much detail about skiing down such and such road that I pretty much ignored. I don't know the area, it's not like I can picture it. Mentioning major highways, sure. But mentioning every street you come across or which direction? I really didn't care.
The whole journey of this book lasts about a month after the volcano erupts. People were already resorting to cannibalism. The FEMA camps were more like concentration camps, and I find that to be highly unlikely. The army's attitude toward the ash felt like it was more of a zombie outbreak instead of something that isn't at all contagious. There's no reason to kill their pets. Looking at graphs of where ash would spread if the caldera did erupt, the majority of the east coast should be okay. So I'd assume that at least some aid would come from the east and some parts of the south west right? Again, I was really nitpicking.

Lastly, Darla. I really loved her. What I didn't love was her relationship with Alex. I realized when I just finished reading that I'd love their relationship more if they were just friends. The romance didn't add anything at all, it was more awkward than anything. It wasn't believable after only knowing each other for six weeks. Then again it is a teenage relationship. I mean, the last thing on my mind during an apocalyptic situation would be to make finding condoms a priority. Or having sex for that matter.
One last thing is the tae kwon do. Alex is fifteen, then later turned sixteen, and is described as average size, maybe slightly below average. He's still a kid. He's not very threatening. Although that woman they meet whose husband got eaten was pretty scared of him. He's obviously a kid. And the fact that she thought Alex and Darla were married. They're teenagers. Teenagers don't look like the twentysomethings on TV that play teens.He's also not going to take down men more than half his size.

I have a lot of feelings and issues about this book. I don't think it's worthy of one star, but it's pretty close. Not sure I'd read the sequels. And if I do, it won't be anytime soon. ( )
  darkartsy | Oct 10, 2014 |
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 how to love someone so much they'll die/kill for them. 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 imprisoning and torturing them through neglect. 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.*** ( )
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
I was impressed at the survival details--and believed he'd done his research. Having researched volcanic eruptions thoroughly myself (initially from my own interest, later to write my own novel), I was impressed at his knowledge of scientific details, too.

It's a good story, but you can't win me over to your tale unless you do your research, and Mullin did. ( )
  Lou_Cadle | Aug 24, 2014 |
After all the hype I was a little disappointed in this one. I liked the story as it was ok, but I wanted a lot more of what the further impact was across the country. I'm sure it was supposed to be more of a focus on a single person and their story, but I still wanted that additional info. I was expecting more like Life as We Know It. It fell a little short for me.

I will, however, be growing more kale and other types of produce and staying away from FEMA camps if at all possible. ( )
  Mirandalg14 | Aug 18, 2014 |
*No spoilers.

Somewhere between 3.5 and 3.75.




What sets Ashfall apart from the many dystopian novels that have hit the market in recent years, is that this is no fantasy. Sure, this story is a figment of Mullin’s imagination, but the reality is that Yellowstone is a supervolcano and while eruption during our lifetime is improbable, it isn’t impossible. The devastation that happens in Ashfall could happen to us tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t. Keep them tightly crossed.


The book starts off with a bang – a huge bang. Mullin’s descriptive writing made it easy to grasp how immense and horrific a Yellowstone eruption could really be. I haven’t scientifically verified that he did his research, but it sure read like he did. If you’ve seen such movies as The Day After Tomorrow or 2012, you know how easily depictions of catastrophic events can get silly. The written depictions of the eruption and aftermath were not silly or overdone. Mullin didn’t exaggerate for effect, probably because when it’s a catastrophic event you’re talking about, exaggeration is unnecessary. It’s scary all on its own. I’ve read worse things in books, but again, what makes this hit a nerve is the fact that this could really happen to you. Tommorow.


As a MC, Alex worked nicely. I didn’t dislike him or want him to die and that’s always a good sign. I’m often rooting for MC’s to die deaths as slow and painful as my having to read their stupid antics. He wasn’t overly bright, but neither was he completely TSTL. I felt like his reactions to his circumstances were genuine, so bravo, Mullin. He wasn’t all good, though. He was a Harry Sue, albeit a sly one. It wasn’t overly in-your-face, but looking back, he had numerous instances of Harry Sue-ism. I don’t like that.


As for Darla, the secondary MC, I liked her, too and in many ways, more than I liked Alex. She was smart, savvy, sassy, and as handy as Macguyver in 1987. She could fix anything, but it was believable, given her background. Her circumstances were, amongst many bleak things, the saddest. I shed one tear while reading this book and it was for her. Mullin did a fine job in portraying her emotions and I got caught up in them. For the most part, though, she was a fighter and the voice of reason. She often tried to talk sense to our Harry Sue, but he would have none of it. Her foresight was as good as his hindsight. Too bad he often overruled her.


I’m happy to say that the romance in this book progressed at a normal speed. No insta-love. No triangles. No nonsense. I wasn’t swooning or anything, but I was content with the romance and how it didn’t overpower the rest of the story.


Overall, the book is good. The main idea is plausible, the characters are pretty likable, and there aren’t too many lulls in the pace or in the action, but that’s also where the weakness of the story lies. The amount of “hairy situations” our MCs got into were many and it was a little too much. It’s good to keep the story interesting, but realistically speaking, I don’t think they would have faced so much adversity so quickly in real life. I could be wrong (lawd, I hope I’d be wrong), but I felt like it was all a little much.


Despite its shortcomings, Ashfall is a very decent start to the series. If you’ve not yet tried this one, give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised.




For more of my reviews, visit my blog:



( )
  JennyJen | Aug 14, 2014 |
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Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
—Will Durant
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For Margaret, my Darla
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I was home alone on that Friday evening.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.

Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.

With nonstop action, a little romance, and realistic science, debut author Mike Mullin tells a mesmerizing story. Readers will turn Ashfall’s pages breathlessly, and continue to ponder Alex and Darla’s fate long after they close the book.
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After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.… (more)

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