05 November 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

Ashfall (Ashfall #1) by Mike Mullin

Published: 11 October 2011 by Tanglewood Press

Pages: 466 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Post-Apocalyptic, Natural Disaster

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository


Under the bubbling hot springs of 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 he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth.

My Thoughts

Ashfall is one of my favourite genres, post-apocalyptic, and one of my least favourite genres (for many reasons), Young Adult. My aversion to Young Adult novels comes from reading, or more frequently, starting to read, novels in the YA genre that feel far too simplified and clichéd for my tastes.

Having said that, although Ashfall is a YA novel, it all stands out as a great post-apocalyptic novel in a genre currently awash with new ideas and viewpoints, different events and outcomes and questionable ideas on the moral behavior of human beings in a crisis.

The story starts with Alex, a teenage boy left at home for a weekend whilst his parents travel to his Uncle’s farm, two hours drive away. Within hours of being left to his own devices, a super-volcano at Yellowstone erupts, raining ash over the town where he lives and the surrounding areas. Desperate to find his parents, and despite a serious lack of resources, he decides to travel to the farm to reunite with his family.

On his journey, punctuated by experiences with the good, the bad and the ugly of the human race, he meets Darla, a head-strong, inventive and determined girl and after a devastating event, becomes his travelling companion and girlfriend in his quest to find his family. The landscape is harsh, food scarce in an environment where all livestock and food sources have been smothered and crushed by the ash fall, buildings have collapsed under the weight of the fall, and the extreme change in the atmosphere has caused a severe, early-onset winter. People are, rightly-so, incredibly defensive of what they have, desperate to have what they don’t and are driven to the most extreme behavior imaginable.

There are parts of this novel that I found to be unnecessary to the story, and I found the ‘love story’ particularly hard to swallow. However, in the author’s defense, this perspective in any post-apocalyptic story is hard to convey convincingly, without falling into the almost inevitable clichés.

The challenges faced by Alex and Darla on their journey are fully imaginable and probable in such extreme conditions and are very realistically portrayed. Their experiences with the Army and organized humanitarian aid is particularly feasible in a world that has become ever more reliant on instant results and trade to maintain their current standards of living, with small stockpiles of food and supplies.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in PA, or YA that is a little more mature - but even if you aren’t into YA, you can easily overlook the parts of the story that may not be to your personal tastes if you are the kind of reader that can downplay the facets of the story that you find slightly clichéd.


  1. Enjoyed Ashfall too, and it was a pleasant surprise because I made the mistake of judging the book by it's cover (which I think isn't that great, in the world of brilliant YA bookcovers!)

  2. BTW, I'm thinking based on your reading preferences that you might like to pick up Ashes by Ilse J Bick (there are parts I think were longer than necessary, but it's unrelenting in the beginning...there's a slow point toward the end and then a 'knew something was up...but so didn't see that coming' conclusion.

  3. Spooky, I already have Ashes - I picked it up a couple of weeks ago but good to hear your view on it!



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