Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: ‘Ashfall’ by Mike Mullins

“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.”  -- Amazon description

In this world of gray and cold, the action is red hot!

My readers might not be aware of this, but I have a geek-streak for geology, specifically volcanoes.  When I heard that Mike Mullin was writing a YA dystopian novel based on the eruption of Yellowstone, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! 

My first impression of this book is how incredibly well researched it is.  Not only did Mullin have the science down -- he calculated the exact spot in the country to set the story based on the ashfall projected from such an eruption -- but he also knew how the characters would feel, both physically and emotionally over what was happening around them.  The opening scenes where Alex is experiencing the first 24 hours of noise and darkness were amazing!  I felt like I was there right alongside him.  This feeling stayed with me throughout the book, putting me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Alex as a character was very likeable.  He came across as a regular kid.  He had some background in martial arts, but even in dangerous situations, but he never turned into a crazy ass-kicking superhero.  Instead, he behaved like a good kid who was scared and determined to survive.  I also like the character of Darla.  I’ve known farm girls like her before.  She was smart and tough, but also kind.  She doesn’t immediately take to Alex, because she’s afraid of having to stretch her and her mother’s limited food and resources to accommodate another person, but you know it’s not due to selfishness -- she’s truly scared of starving to death.  The danger comes at the pair from all angles -- weather, no utilities, lack of food and water, dangerous bandits on the roads willing to kill to survive -- but even so, they exhibit warmth and compassion to those around them. 

Lastly, on a personal note...I grew up in this part of eastern Iowa, so this book struck a particular cord with me.  I asked Mullin on twitter about his research of the location and he told me he and his wife traveled there and drove around to get a feel for the land.  Not only was I impressed by his spot-on descriptions, but he also captured something in the essence of the people who live there that I felt honored the toughness of the Mid-Westerners I grew up with. 

Overall, I give Ashfall...

Plot - 5 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Scientific Detail - 5 bookmarks (Good research without overloading the reader with facts.)
World Building - 4 1/2 bookmarks (The camps completely creeped me out!)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Aaron Johnson (Alex), Jennifer Lawrence (Darla) 


  1. Yay me! I knew Yellowstone was on a super-volcano and I even live in Australia. The things you learn from watching Stargate...

    This sounds like an interesting book, and you have tempted me to read it even though it's way outside my usual genre.

  2. @Jessica -- thanks for taking some of your valuable reading time with ASHFALL! Glad you enjoyed it.

    @Ciara -- If you want a copy of ASHFALL, The Book Depository has the cheapest price on the web right now and they ship free to Australia. Also, my publisher released the ebooks w/o any geographical restriction, if you prefer that format.

  3. Sounds pretty good. I added it to my reading list =D

    New Follower: Trev @

  4. It's great to hear how much research he did to make it realistic. This sounds awesome! Great review.

  5. What I liked most about this book is the great plot line. I loved that it is based on real facts on something that could happen. As the reader, you are immersed in the city full of ashes, the smoking burning through your nostrils and the thrill of a journey to come.