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.
I was very unsure about starting this book - whilst I love disaster books about volcanoes I also feel a bit nervous starting them because I hate it when authors don't get the science right. Whilst Mullin takes a few liberties with the science in this book every now and again, it's pretty much 95% right and that is pretty terrifying. This could happen and that is the draw for this book, in my opinion.
To start with, the pacing was pretty slow, we're thrown into Alex's life as he gives us a run-down on what's happening in his life, then a chapter or so in the action starts, but it's still slow going. It takes a while to get into it, but after a few chapters of creating an atmosphere I was pulled into this ashen, murky world that was so vivid. I think that the fact that this book focuses on Alex's survival, rather than the romance (which comes in much later in the book and is pretty toned down) makes this book so fantastic.
What I love about disaster books is that they capture the essence of humanity. How even the best of people can do horrible things in dire situations, in Ashfall Alex is faced with situations where he has to go against his morals too protect the people he cares about, but he also sees a lot of crime happen, things that he probably would never have had to see if the volcano hadn't erupted.
The characters and interactions felt so real. Alex was made more real because as well as him going through this wide-spread change, with the world becoming so new to him, he's also going through personal changes such as his romance with Darla and the... ermm... sexual awakening. Darla is relatable, but I felt that she lacked some of the realism that Alex had, she was too brave and kick-ass and I don't think I rang that true to me. I loved the relationship though, how Darla was the man and Alex was being protected by her, I also loved the development.
Overall, Ashfall was an amazing rollercoaster of a read which threw me into the vivid, desperate world and left me begging for more. The pacing was a bit out and at times the book was a little monotonous, but I absolutely loved this read!
Overall Rating: A
Stand Alone/Series: First in a series
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Release Date: October 11th 2011
Book received as an eGalley from NetGalley