Saturday, 3 November 2012

Ashen Winter (Ashfall Book 2) - Mike Mullin



Title: Ashen Winter (Ashfall Book 2)
Author: Mike Mullin
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Kobo
Amazon UK

“Ashen Winter” by Mike Mullin is the second novel in his “Ashfall” series which is set in a world that has suffered a super volcanic event. Whilst I will try and minimise any spoilers, I would advise people to read the first novel in the series, “Ashfall” prior to reading this review. If anyone is interested then they can find my review for “Ashfall” here.

The story picks up several months after the conclusion to “Ashfall” with Alex and Darla now living with Alex’s Aunt & Uncle on their farm near the town of Warren. Whilst a volcanic winter has descended upon the United States the farm itself is a relatively safe environment and they are managing to survive. However, things change when a bandit attack on the farm results in a gun being dropped that had previously been owned by Alex’s father. Alex, realises that these bandits may know what has happened to his parents are he therefore sets out with Darla to locate the bandits and see if they can provide information on his parents whereabouts. Their journey across the bleak and frozen landscape however is much tougher that what they faced previously as the people they encounter have become much more desperate, ruthless and brutal.

I was a little worried when I first picked up this novel and second books in many series tend to be rather weak. They are usually just filler and an attempt to set up an epic conclusion which doesn’t normally entertain the reader much. “Ashen Winter” however bucks the trend superbly as it is full of action, adventure, danger, friendship and has enough of a conclusion to the plotline that most readers should put the book down satisfied but still looking forward to seeing more in the future. I believe that any fan of the first novel will be fully entertained from start to finish.

An element of the book I was impressed with was the way in which Mullin has used the story to really study and identify the way in which humanity could act under extreme duress. Despair and fear lead to brutality, violence and neighbour turning against neighbour. Some people even turn to cannibalism and gang mentality in an attempt to face the bleak life they now endure. Alex’s own family members even engage in torture and execution with their excuse being that this is what they must now do to survive and protect those who depend upon them. I found this image of humanity’s descent into the savagery, sickening and yet completely believable.

Alex and Darla continue to be engaging and inspiring characters with Alex's determination and faithfulness to the ones he loves showcased to great extent by his refusal to give up, even in the worst of cases. There are also a few new characters thrown in, all of which I found believable and well developed. I specifically loved Ben, an autistic teenager with a vast knowledge of military equipment and tactics who had me smiling throughout. Mullin’s research into autism and military hardware really came across during Ben’s elements of the story.

Overall, I found “Ashen Winter” to be a brilliant sequel to “Ashfall” that will entertain and thrill you from start to finish. Both the characters and social fabric of humanity have continued to be developed in a believable and enjoyable manner. If you have read the prequel then don’t delay in picking this book up as you will not be disappointed.