Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Book: Ashfall
Author: Mike Mullin
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Release date: October 11, 2011
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Series: Ashfall #1

Summary from Goodreads: Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don’t know it’s there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

First impressions: With regard to how I came to read this book, the phrase “borrowed from a friend” is not entirely accurate. Let’s call a spade a spade – I was book bullied into reading this. One of my pals in our writing group went on and on about how scary and awesome it was, so she happily pushed it into my hands. I’m so glad she did!

Lasting impressions: This book could actually happen. Which is definitely equal parts scary and awesome (as a reading experience, not as life).

Conflicting impressions: Alex may have needed to know how to kill and skin animals. I didn’t. Too real for me.

Overall impressions: Have you heard of the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone? You haven’t? You should Google it. It’s terrifying. I first learned of it through another fiction writer, James Rollins, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that it could blow in my lifetime. That kind of real, impending natural disaster is ripe for the picking when it comes to good stories.

Mike Mullin does not disappoint. Our young protagonist, Alex, is home alone when the volcano erupts and his neighborhood is quickly decimated by falling ash. Determined to try and escape the deteriorating conditions, Alex heads east across Iowa trying to reach his family across the Mississippi in Illinois. He straps on a pair of cross country skis and heads out.

This version of post-disaster American life is dark, frightening, and full of danger. It quickly becomes dog-eat-dog, and Alex runs into his fair share of unsavory characters out only for themselves. He does all he can to survive, relying on his own skill, luck, and occasionally the kindness of strangers. Just when you think he’s found a bit of peace, something else goes wrong and he’s forced to move on. It’s gut-wrenching.

It would be unfair to give away too much. Will Alex find his family? Will he figure out how to survive in this new and dangerous landscape? What will happen to the U.S. in the aftermath of this horrific eruption? We get a great story full of action and terror, and the promise of more with the reveal at the end. I can’t wait for the next installation in this series!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

11 thoughts on “Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

  1. Getting book bullied now, are you? Wish someone had this so I could borrow it! This is one that is on my TBR list because I know it could happen. Makes it a little more exciting. I watch Discovery Channel way too much to not know about this one.I have never seen a bad review of this novel. That your only conflicting review is too much detail on skinning an animal tells me a lot!! I might skim that part! LOLGreat review!Still making me want to read it!Heather

  2. Yikes! It does sound like an exciting read. I just saw that damn end of the world movie, 2012, over the weekend and this made me instantly think of it (and Woody Harrelson! lol) Anywho, this setting and situation sounds terrifying!

  3. I loved this one too! It was surprising because I didn't really like writing style, all the little details that the author felt the need to include, like the skinning of the rabbits and going to the bathroom and whatnot. But I ended up really being taken with Alex's story.As for the supervolcano, from what I understand from professors and readings, it is highly improbable that it will explode in our lifetimes, though possible. I don't know, I'm not too worried about it… (Famous Last Words) 🙂

  4. OH M Y GOD. "Alex may have needed to know how to kill and skin animals. I didn't. Too real for me." WORD, WORD, WORD. I was so squeemish during that. It was misplace and, ugh, gag. The end.But, moving on, I didn't LOVE it but I really liked that the book was so rooted in something realistic. It was bleak, but it was honest. I'll probably check out the next book, but fingers crossed there's no more graphic skinning of animals.

  5. I have this one on my list but you definitely make it seem like quite the adventure. I think I have it categorized as dystopian but it doesn't seem to be that at all.

  6. Hmmm, I keep hearing mixed stuff about this book. But from what you've said, even your conflicting impressions is intriguing me a bit more.

  7. Yay, glad you liked Ashfall! That realness definitely put a whole other level of creepy anticipation. I for one can’t wait to dive into Ashen Winter, I think things are going to get even worse for Alex and Darla on the road.

  8. Actually the first time that I went hunting I was 5 (well I had to clean the deer–I didn’t have a gun)—it was part of being brought up in West Texas. Though I don’t know that it was a necessity, it is a weird trait to have LOL

  9. I really liked this one too. The scary part for me was this really could happen. I think it made the novel so much more raw for me. The sequel to this was up on NG. I eagerly requested it and was denied. Maybe you’ll be lucky if its still out there?

  10. Pingback: Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge: 4/15/12 - Smash Attack Reads

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