Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ashfall (Ashfall Book 1) - Mike Mullin (ARC)

Title: Ashfall (Ashfall Book 1)
Author: Mike Mullin
Genre: Sci-Fi
Expected Publication: October 11th 2011
Formats: Hardback

Available for Pre-Order at:
Amazon UK
Alibris UK

Ashfall is the first book that I received via Netgalley and as I have always enjoyed dystopian stories I was excited to see that I could get this ARC through the site. Now that I have actually finished the book I really have to thank Netgalley, Tangelwood Press & Mike Mullin for enabling me to read this enjoyable page turner.

The story itself follows Alex, a regular 15 year old boy who is left alone for the weekend at his home in Cedar Falls, Iowa when his parents and sister go away to visit his Uncle. His life is changed forever however as the super volcano in Yellowstone Park erupts in a huge explosion spewing debris & ash across the entire country. With his home badly damaged, communications cut off and chaos beginning to descend Alex decides to set out alone to find his parents. Alex then travels on a dangerous, long and fearsome journey across a bleak and dystopian landscape.

I have to admit that I do enjoy post-apocalyptic and disaster related fiction, so Ashfall was probably always going to appeal to me. However, I do think that even if this hadn’t been a favourite genre of mine I would have enjoyed it anyway. The descriptions of the volcanic explosion’s aftermath are superb and Mullin has created some really intense scenes that came across with a feeling of genuine realism. I could easily imagine the social breakdown evident in the story coming to pass in the face of such a cataclysm.

I would add that there are some rather mature topics covered in the story due to the setting. This includes references to cannibalism, rape and murder, but these events are not dwelt upon and are all relevant to the story that is being told. Mullin’s does try and temper these sections though with the odd bit of humour and a mild romantic side plot. In fact, I was happy to see that the romantic plot wasn’t some example of instant love at first sight. The two characters actually develop a relationship through the hardships they face together.

My only small criticism is that at times the story would slow down quite notably and some bits felt a little bit repetitive. Of course, when you consider that a lot of the story relates around people trying to struggle through deep ash and snow it is probably understandable. It didn’t really detract from the overall story though as around these slower sections, the plot flew by with action and thrills aplenty.

In regards to the characters, Ashfall is mainly built around two major characters and the author has worked hard to develop them. They both have their own flaws but are also intelligent people who are incredibly likeable. Alex has an internal strength and nobility that he at times seems blind to and his determination to find his family is admirable. Then there is Darla who is smart and witty, with a knowledge of machines that I would love to possess. These two characters really suffer throughout the journey but their core personalities and beliefs keep them going.

In conclusion, I found Ashfall to be a great page turner. It is a superb dystopian post-apocalyptic story full of intensity, despair and yet a little bit of hope. I think anyone who enjoys this genre should pick this book up and give it a read. For myself, I am looking forward to the second book in the trilogy, Ashen Winter which is due out in 2012.