This book, the first of at least three in the series, is by the famed SF author Harry Turtledoeve, who is known for his alt history on such areas as WWII – the Nazis win, the Civil War – the South wins, etc. This is the first I have read by him but it won’t be the last. It starts out slow as he introduces the characters from an extended family, including an ex boyfriend of the daughter, and is about 1 and 1/2 to 2 years out from the end of the book. We meet our protagonist, Colin, an LA detective, who is divorced, and coming off a big long bender from that. His three children include Vanessa, the one who dumped her boyfriend, and started an affair with a Middle Eastern rug merchant and followed him to Denver when he moved there for “business opportunities. Vanessa is a tad self-centered, angry, and stubborn as a mule. Marshall is the perennial doped-up college boy in UCSB who has been in college years beyond his normal graduation date, as he likes the life, doesn’t have to work (Dad is still paying), and so he keeps switching majors. Rob, the eldest, with a major in engineering, is also a weed smoker, but is working hard with his band, Squirt Frog and the Evolving Tadpoles, playing gigs up and down the country. And then there is Colin’s ex-wife, Louise, who walked out on him for a yoga instructor named Teo, as well as the Hellenistic poet studies grad student, Bryce, whom Vanessa had been dating. He likes Colin and so still comes over, plays chess, etc. Colin is like a Dad to him.
In the opening of the book, Colin has taken some much needed rest, and is in Jackson, Wyoming, going to visit Yellowstone for the first time. On his second day there, after he hit the major tourist spots the day before, he goes a little further into the vast park, and sees a young woman, off the marked path (complete with hazard signs about not doing so since the earth’s crust is thin there), and tells her to get back on the path – the cop in him. She explains that she is a geologist, studying Yellowstone’s volcanic history, and has a permit to do what she is doing. They hit it off, start talking, exchange emails, and leave with promises to get in touch if they are still interested. What follows next is the dance of their lives as they move, have upheavals, and everybody lands in different places on the day that the super volcano under Yellowstone, which really is about due to blow, goes off, the biggest seen in millions of years. The book ends a mere few weeks, if that, after the volcano, and I presume the other books will follow the family as they try and deal with the evolving changes in the world and in how you live your lives after something wipes out a whole section of the continent, throws ash into the atmosphere, and also blankets the ground for many states around, effectively killing America’s breadbasket. They are just beginning to feel the pinch of high gas prices, and not much of it, no fresh produce, and supermarket shelves that are emptying, as well as electricity and oil being gone in some areas, which means no heat. And the temperature drops, snow comes early and to places it never does.
His writing is spare, filled with pop culture references including diverse ones like the Hunger Games’ Katness Evergreen and Warren Zevon. Anyone who can put those two people in one book is my hero. His prose is strong , with only a few sentences that don’t seem to be “right.” – i.e. I can’t figure out exactly what he is trying to say – don’t know if that’s his style or an editor’s mistake. All in all, I will be waiting for the next one, probably next year!, and looking for his others, including the series called Atlantis about a section of Florida and around it that breaks away from the continent eons ago and forms it’s own ecosystem, like New Zealand. And the one on WWII and aliens. Plus American Civl War, Iron Age, and many others. Luckily, he is a prolific writer, and I hope the others stack up well against this one, which just happens to be my personal preoccupation and paranoid disaster scenario, since I live in Idaho. The one I fear. Although it isn’t truly post-apocalyptic, since the disaster doesn’t happens until well into the book, it fits best under that category.