Thursday, December 13, 2012

[Review] Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Title: Ashfall
Author: Mike Mullin
Series: Ashfall #1
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Published: October 11th 2011May 24th 2012 (first published September 27th 2011)
Source: I borrow a copy from a friend.
Blurb from Goodreads: Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano, 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 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.


First thoughts: Ashfall the first book on a dystopian series based on what could happen if Yellowstone volcano erupts. If that happens in the future, I think the world would be pretty much like Mullin describes it in this first book of the Ashfall series.  That's one of the reason I loved this book, the details are so precise and the reaction of the characters are so real that I completely bought the whole story
This story is a great picture of the human behavior in crisis times and it shows us that even if we are always telling ourselves that we are rational and that's what set us apart from animals, when the things get ugly we are just like them: we operate by instinct, we are willing to kill first and ask questions later and we basically live by the law of the jungle.
It took me an insane amount of time to finish this book, but that's almost entirely my own fault, because the pace is good. Not too fast but neither slow. 

Plot and characters: Well, the description of this book is pretty accurate. The Yellowstone supervolcano has erupted and this happened just on the weekend that Alex was left alone in his house because his family went to the country and he refused to come along. So when his room starts to fall apart, Alex begins his journey. First he was taken in by his neighbors, but after seeing them taking the lives of some intruders, he just can't stand being around them anymore. There's no power, food and water resources are limited, and everything is covered by thick layers of ash, but Alex is determined to find his family, so he figure out that skying his way to the country isn't a bad idea after all. In this journey, Alex will learn that human beings are just like any other animal when they feel threatened, and soon he'll find out that hunger and fear can bring out the worst in a person.
Alex is a fifteen years old boy like any other teenager, a little awkward, a bit of a geek and he just want to feel independent. But when the things get ugly he just want her family back. He's not a perfect protagonist, he's so real you can relate to him perfectly and I loved that about him. I really liked how this books shows all the growing up process that Alex went through in this whole tragedy, he starts as a boy and ended up being a man. He learns and matures so much through the book that you almost feel proud of him.
There are a lot of secondary characters on this book, but I don't think they are really important to mention, because they were built for the seek of the suspense and adventure within the story. 
The other important character is Darla, a girl that take Alex when he's badly hurt. This girl is a pain in the ass, I just hated her. She has this smarty attitude toward Alex and spend half of the book treating him like crap, when he's always trying to be useful and to impress her. I guess I didn't get her character, she's a strong girl who has been through a lot, but I think that doesn't give you the right to be a bitch. Although by the last third of the book she starts to behave more like a kind person, she's the main reason why I didn't give this book the five clocks.

About the writing: The story is narrated in first person, from Alex's point of view, which is great, because there are not many YA/NA dystopian books with a male narrator. 
It wasn't really that fast-paced and in took me a while to get involved with this book at first. I was a little bit reluctant in the beginning, but after the action starts to take place, even if it wasn't really fast, I enjoyed it.  
I love the way this book was written, it seemed so real! The author doesn't bother trying to cover the ugly true of the human beings behavior in crisis times, he portraits them as they really are: frantic, chaotic, careless, and capable of taking the life of someone else just in order to preserve themselves. The characters are really believable and I love how the author didn't try to make them perfect, they have a lot of flaws which is good, because nobody likes a perfect character. I found Alex pretty relatable and I loved how her mind works.
Some other thing I really loved about this book was when I found a passage with the description of the cover, that made me realize how well the cover suits the story, check out: "Darla turned away from the bed. She stared at a cracked mirror mounted above the dresser. The mirror was so coated in dust that it didn't reflect anything. She dragged her splayed fingers across its surface, and our reflections appeared, fractured into five narrow lines by the paths she'd drawn." Cool, right?

I would recommend it for: Dystopia lovers, age +13. It had some scenes that may not be entirely suitable for a kid. I would recommend it though, for everyone who likes this genre. 



“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.” 

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

“Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is terrifying torture.”

About the author:

Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out. 

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel. 


  1. I really like dystopians based on natural disasters - they make more sense than just undefined wars.

    LOVE that it was believable, but it's awful you hated the girl.

    Lovely review:)

  2. I've been excited to read this and love dystopian books. Thanks for your thoughts! I'm confident I'll love this one:)

  3. I don't think I've ever read a natural disaster dystopia, only ones due to war/zombies/other 'exciting' things. This sounds really interesting, though. Thanks for the review!

  4. Glad you liked it too!!! :) I totally agree; one thing that I liked about this book is that it's realistic. You should read the second book, too; it won't disappoint. :)

    Thanks for the review! Visiting from Saturday Situation. :)
    Pam @ jellylovesbooks

  5. I like the sound of this book! I have watched a movie about the tragedy or erupting volcanoes and I would love to read a novel about it. Thanks for this review!

  6. I love postapocalyptic books like this one, so I'll definitely add it to my wishlist.

  7. I have this one in my TBR pile and I need to get busy and read it now that the sequel is out. Nice review!

  8. I have had this on my wishlist for a while and am really looking forward to reading it. Just found out about book two on the way and guess I better get busy :) Thank you for your wonderful review, I feel like I have a better understanding of the story and am really looking forward to the read.

  9. This is definitely one I'm planning to read, and it sounds like it's a realistic story from your review, eek! When I read The Age of Miracles this year, every time I had to put the book down I had to remind myself that the events going on in the book weren't really happening in real life. It would just stay with me. This book sounds like it would do the same, and I would like that! It sounds like a great story.

  10. Great review!:) I'm in the mood for dystopian novels lately and I havent heard of this one yet:)

  11. I just finished Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne, it has a huge natural disaster like this book I think you might enjoy it. I have Ashfall on my shelves and I have been wanting to read it and after your review I hope to start it soon. Thanks for your honest review! :)

  12. I've always been intrigued by post-apocalyptic dystopian stories. Great review.
    I'm adding it to my TBR. Thanks.

  13. I've heard about this before and been intrigued. It's good to hear people liking it and saying that it seems plausible (not always the first word used to describe dystopias these days...). I also like that there's a male narrator.

  14. WOW!!!! A page-turner of a book. Very well written. The characters came alive from the first page. Couldn't put the book down until I finished it. Really makes you think about what would happen if a major catastrophe hit. I am recommending this book to everyone I know. Can't wait for the sequel!!! Mike - Great job!
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