Review: Ashfall

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starting with your basic premise – the blowing of the Yellowstone caldera, Mullin makes a nice, solid, if not always pleasant read for the post-apocalyptic world – no zombies, or diseased people, except for what might come from heavy ash fall, and bad nutrition, but just the story of a 15 year old boy, left home for the weekend in Iowa, as his parents and sister went off to Illinois and his uncle. When the caldera blows, there are some really great descriptions of what it might be like, even as far away as they are (read the author’s notes at the end for more info), and some of them I have never heard of before, like the noise. After things calm down to an ashfall, the boy takes off to find his parents, using what he can scavenge to get by on a trip that would take only a few hours by car, but now takes weeks. Along the way he meets up with good people and bad, and some help, and some hurt, and he picks up a young girl companion, who is more help to him than himself I think. What happens along the road, whether or not they make it, is the bulk of the story – as I said, it’s not always pleasant – the author doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of some people, mob mentalities, authoritarian problems, and just plain nastiness, nor doe he sugar coat realities, like skinning a rabbit (having pet rabbits I had to skim that part), or butchering a hog – all is told in raw, plain detail – neither to alarm nor to gross you out, but simply show what a normal town-living boy would have to cope with. And questions arise about who do you help, and who do you not. And should you help, if it means less chance for yourself as winter closes in. The book grapples with these questions in a real way. A sequel in coming Fall 2012. Reminds me of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Tomorrow When the World is Gone series. But this is more of The Road for YA.

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