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Ashfall #1


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Under the bubbling hot springs and 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.

For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to search for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.

466 pages, Hardcover

First published October 14, 2011

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About the author

Mike Mullin

14 books1,646 followers
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.

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Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 23, 2018
all those people who are afraid that the legalization of gay marriage will lead to people wanting to marry their pets have every reason to be afraid.

as soon as it becomes legal to marry a book, i am going to marry this one. and i assume at some point i will cheat on this book and divorce it and marry another book, but for a little while, we will have a storybook relationship and a joint checking account.

and it will be wonderful.

so - okay - for those of you who have not had the opportunity to read this since it is not out until OCTOBER (try to win a firstreads copy - there is one up for grabs), i will give you the rundown:


that was enough to get my attention. but if you need more, you should know that this is about a fifteen-year-old boy left alone for the weekend, trying to get to his family in the wake of the mother of all natural disasters. bandits, cannibals, fighting, snow, ash ash ash, murder, rape, love, camps, marauders, fantastic action and real human sentiment.

i loved every minute of it, i really did.

i read a lot of teen survival stuff, it's kind of my thing. and this one does it just right - the way i wish more books would do it. it is very realistic. sometimes these books want you to believe kids in this situation become all goody-goody and selfless. surviving does not automatically make you a good person. in fact, it usually means the opposite - survivors are the ones who have to make hard decisions sometimes. morality does not necessarily translate or apply in the same way. true, this kid is not entirely selfish - he definitely has heart and respect for human life and holds on to some pity.

but he'll do some stuff.

and the girl he meets up with is the same way. complicated. capable. not some helpless creature, but also not some strong bright angel. the responses feel very natural and realistic. and they both have moments of weakness and failure. these are characters i can root for. prince charming doesn't care if you root for him, he is self-satisfied enough to not even notice you. alex and darla are flawed marvels of stubborn life in a newly shitty world.

and there is so much texture, so much background. this world is completely realized; even if some of the scenes are brief as alex makes his way, they are always richly detailed and ba-DOW!!

i cannot recommend this book highly enough, to you people who like this kind of thing.true, it is dark and bleak and tough, but the violence is never gratuitous or shock-value. it is similar to the way things played out in the road. this is just the way things are. get on board or don't survive.


love love love, and i made a horrible strangled noise when something happened THAT I HATED, MR. MULLIN, but it had the intended effect, i guess. but still, i hated it. heart = broke.

did i mention that this book is good?

but, really, why does this kid drop so many architectural terms?? muntins?? porte-cochère?? there were more, i don't know 'em. la-di-dah, alex, is all i can say...

okay enough.
read it.


hhahaa, suckers!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,904 followers
November 20, 2014
Alex starts off this book as a somewhat spoiled teenage boy. He refuses to go with his family on a trip to his uncle's farm. He wants to stay at home and play World of Warcraft and just flipping sulk.
He doesn't have much sulking time though because something hits his house and crushes in the roof and sets the house on fire. That can get a teenager off his ass. Well, sometimes.

We learn that the super volcano at Yellowstone has exploded. Don't go and Google that shit like I did. It will scare the crap out of you.

Alex grows up fast and goes in search of his family. Along the way he is joined by Darla..who is flipping awesome. It's rare in young adult books that the female mc is cooler than the male one but it happens here.

We were tired, hungry, and wrapped in multiple layers of filthy winter clothing. None of that mattered to me; I was in love. I thought Darla was, too-but maybe with the bulldozer.

Don't get me wrong. Alex is very likable and not a wuss at all. There isn't really insta-love in this book and thank you Jesus and Mike Mullin for that.

Now for that frigging disaster. This one actually scared me. This could happen. My little mind can't deal with that kind of shit. I know signs would be placed up for people like me.

Profile Image for Jim.
77 reviews255 followers
July 1, 2012

June 27, 2012


I strongly recommend a visit to karen's fabulous review, which (along with her encouragement) got me interested in this gripping and realistic tale.


So here is what we are talking about. We will start with some science.

Pic #1: Ashfall zones from known eruptions of the Yellowstone Supervolcano:

'Age=' : millions of years ago for the specific eruption.

How likely is an eruption during our lifetimes?

"A rough estimate based on geologic records indicates there's a 1-in-10,000 chance of a "supereruption" at Yellowstone during our lifetimes. However, given the erratic nature of volcanoes, that number doesn't mean much. The bulging pocket of magma swishing around beneath Old Faithful might never blow its lid again. Or, it might put on a surprise fireworks show next Independence Day. Scientists just don't know."

And what does that huge caldera look like? First, a science overview.

Pic #2: Above ground (schematic):

Pic #3: Below ground (model):

Yep, that's what we are talking about. Now for the longer review.


July 1, 2012

Okay, let’s set the real-world scene.


In the foreground is the Yellowstone River, winding peacefully through the Hayden Valley. From what we see here, this could be any (alluvial) flood plain from any sizable river, formed from sediments that eroded from the mountains in the distance.

Yes. But. This particular flood plain is the floor of the Yellowstone Caldera, northeastern portion. It lies directly over the the bulge/magma hotspot shown schematically in Pic #3 above. And those mountains in the distance are the edge of the caldera. In plain English, the mountains are the RIM OF THE VOLCANO. If and when there is another major eruption, this peaceful valley will be a seething, violent cauldron, and millions of tons of molten rock and ash will spew forth.

A similar caldera from the same hotspot (but in southern Idaho) was formed between 10 and 12 million years ago, and the event dropped ash to a depth of one foot, 1,000 miles away in northeastern Nebraska. Within the past 17 million years, 142 or more caldera-forming eruptions have occurred from the Yellowstone hotspot, as discussed in this Wikipedia article.


In what follows, I will focus (as usual) on big-picture aspects of the story, and stay (mostly) away from plot details. If you are completely unfamiliar with the book, there will be some mild spoilers in the details. But most of those are implied in the publisher’s synopsis.

And watch for comments by SPECIAL GUEST REVIEWER, karen!! (YAY!!). karen’s comments will appear in this format.

So let’s talk about some general aspects of this book.


Will the Yellowstone caldera have another massive eruption at some point in the future? I think the odds are very strong that it will.
The site is under continuous surveillance, and you can check up on the latest at the
USGS/University of Utah website.
There is even a webcam where you can watch for the next eruption:

Note the wispy puffs of steam here and there at ground level. And this quote from the webcam page:

”This area hosted a variety of rock- hurling hydrothermal (steam) eruptions during the 1930s... In recent years, similar smaller blasts have been known to occur.”

Now, if that doesn’t get your heart pumping, then you fail the geek test.

Will the effects of a major eruption be devastating for all life within a radius of hundreds of miles (including human, if we survive all those other apocalypses that may come sooner than this one)? Absolutely.

Here are some critters that were fossilized by a previous eruption of the hotspot - the one in Idaho, mentioned above. The pic is from Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, in Nebraska. And yes, that is volcanic ash that surrounds them (and covered them before it was cleared away).

There is a ton of science on this subject, and hundreds of web pages, scholarly articles, books, etc. that delve into all the scientific details. The Yellowstone Supervolcano is very real, and a lot is known about it.

The author placed the scene of his Ashfall story in Iowa, about 900 miles from the eruption site. I think this choice was reasonable based on the ashfall zones from relatively recent eruptions (see map in Pic #1). The ashfall might not reach quite the depths discussed in the book, at that distance from the caldera. And the noise levels described in the days after the eruption might also be somewhat overstated. But these are minor quibbles, I think, and the quibbles could also be wrong.

In any case, it seems very likely that all human life within several hundred miles of the caldera would be exterminated by the combination of projectiles, ash, poisonous gases, and habitat destruction (and there are other factors that the reader will discover). So, I would say that the Iowa scene was an excellent choice overall for the story as written.

Human behavior, post-apocalypse:
For review purposes, let’s just say that some really bad human behavior happens, beginning soon after the initial cataclysm. As a reference point, think about New Orleans in the days and weeks after Katrina. There were acts of extraordinary heroism, courage and selflessness. There were also acts of barbarism, violence, and savagery. Many of us watched coverage of those events, and I doubt that we will ever forget what we saw. Now, instead of toxic flood water, think of a blanket of ash and an atmosphere of sulphur dioxide and other noxious goodies. And a VERY much larger impact zone.

Do normal rules of law, order and civility break down in such situations? You bet. Do people of high character rise to the occasion, match wits with the disaster and the demons, and win a few battles here and there? Yes, they do. Both of those manifestations are handled extremely well here, and in stark, vivid detail. Not for the squeamish, but certainly not over the top in my view. I found it all highly engrossing and very believable.

Male POV:
The merits and demerits of this first-person male narrative approach have been discussed elsewhere. I thought that Alex was very effective as the story-teller, and both the telling and his character became more interesting and nuanced as the story rolled along. There were moments, especially early, where Alex was, umm, annoyingly obtuse. And yes, I wanted to slap him around a few times as he struggled to master the obvious. But for me, those problems disappeared around 20-30% into the story, and I give kudos to the author for the highly believable growth in his character.

karen’s comments: i was talking to mike mullin at ala, and he said that one of the things he likes to do is reverse the typical gender roles. so darla is very mechanically-inclined, and practical, while alex is a bit more emotional than your typical boy in YA novels.

Strong, smart female protagonist:
Darla was definitely one of my favorite female leads in recent memory, and I will continue to emphasize the critical importance of intelligent, proactive women whenever I find them in my reading. Put simply, Darla is a prime force for survival of the good guys. More on this from karen below - but she is resourceful, clear-headed, very determined, and extremely capable. AND - she takes the initiative. No wimpy girl, waiting around for the strong guy to point the way. NO WAY!! Darla is a winner in every sense.

karen’s comments: and it's great that she is older than him, and that he does look up to and respect her, despite being a giiiiiirl. but they are still on equal footing. they both have something to teach the other, and that's where their attraction come from; not this more shallow connection you see a lot on YA, where it is all surface level, or seems to arise because of proximity only, and not because the characters have any real feelings for each other.

Survival tactics
Let this sink in for a moment. Most of the area covered by ashes is farmland that normally produces a sizable percentage of the nation’s food (and a huge amount for export). Wheat, corn and other staple crops; cattle, pigs, and poultry - all wiped out by the ashfall. The repercussions are felt worldwide, and some of this is detailed in the book.

But the everyday struggle for the next meal is uppermost in the story. Town-boy Alex must learn quickly how to cope. Farm-girl Darla, with her knowledge of machinery and creative use of all available items, is critical to most of the adaptations. I was really impressed with the way these aspects of the story were handled.

karen’s comments: these two have come through the trenches together, but their relationship doesn't seem to be because of external conflict; that thing that happens when two people share the same traumatic experience and that binds them together emotionally, but that conflict made the relationship possible just by bringing them together in the first place. they do keep rescuing each other, to varying degrees, but i think their characteristics are compatible even without the circumstances, you know?

Who’s in charge of recovery efforts? And WHERE is the government aid?
Some reviewers have questioned the near-total absence of U.S. government support in much of what happens here.

What really interested me was the mechanism by which the government DID play an active role, and the extremely sinister aspects of that. The prominent role of government contractors in recent U.S. military engagements - and one company in particular (**Blackwater/Xe**) - were very much in my thoughts as I read those sections. The other prevailing theme in this regard was the martial-law mentality of the scene, and the loss of human values that resulted.

karen’s comments: well, there is an attempt made in the book to gather people together into refugee camps, but what happens there seems to be a criticism on the way FEMA is unprepared to deal with large-scale events of this kind. there aren't enough supplies, no one really knows how to handle the volume of people, no one knows how long this situation will continue... and, of course, put the wrong people in charge, and things are going to get ugly. as they do. and it only becomes more horrifying in the sequel, the problems with the refugee camps. we just have too damn many people in this country, and if something like this happens, this is a very realistic portrayal of how things could go down. (hiding under my bed now)

Is there a sequel?

Why yes, there is! And karen has a copy of the ARC, and has written a preliminary review. The book will be released in October 2012.

karen’s comments: the sequel... well... i don't want to give too much away, but darla and alex become separated, and as time goes on and food becomes scarcer, people become harder and more imaginative in their fight for survival. there aren't "good guys" and "bad guys," there are just people trying to survive. and while some people do in fact seem very very bad, usually mullin will throw in a scene that humanizes them a little, so they can't just easily be dismissed as "bad." it's a very smart thing to do.

So, I really enjoyed this innovative story about a titanic catastrophe and the valiant efforts of two teens to cope. I did not get hung up on the likelihood of the event. It may not happen for many millennia, but there are good reasons to keep an eye on that enormous caldera.

karen’s comments: what's great about these books is that he is crazy for the science. he doesn't shrink away from using actual medical terminology, or going off on a geological fact-tangent. but in a way that doesn't sound like a textbook. it just makes the story more believable and more important to read. i cannot praise this book highly enough.

Agreed! I thought the story told here was highly plausible in the event of a major eruption, and extremely sobering in its implications. The book can serve as a wake-up call for an action plan. If and when it happens, there will be tremendous death and destruction on a global scale. But forewarned is still forearmed for those who survive, and I took this book as an appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Very Highly Recommended
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,891 followers
July 29, 2011
For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our own.

Being a teenager in a world covered with ashes is not easy at all. Alex discovered that after the eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone National Park. His parents and his little sister had left town just before the earth started to shake and Alex was left all alone in a burning house with no one but himself and two friendly neighbors to rely on. Pretty soon he decided to go on a journey with the hope of finding his family. Since walking was obviously not an option, he found his father’s old skis and prayed that he’ll be able to travel a hundred miles to his uncle’s house on them.

Even if I’d somehow failed to notice the name of the author, it would be very clear to me that Ashfall was written by a man, and I mean that in the best possible way. Details of taekwondo moves, very realistic interpersonal relationships and descriptions of natural physical urges were just a few telling signs.
The love between Alex and Darla was beautiful and refreshing, especially when compared to all the exaggerated and unconvincing romances we came to expect in postapocalyptic YA literature. I loved the way Mullin reversed their roles and removed them from all stereotypes. Darla is a mechanic and an innovator, she is interested in tools and she is, without a doubt, the tough one in their relationship. That’s not to say that Alex is weak or that there’s anything remotely epicene about him. He is resourceful, mature and strong. Sure, sometimes he lets his temper get the best of him, but mostly he is calm and more level-headed than any 15-year-old I’ve ever met.

My biggest problem with Ashfall was the pacing. It was really fast at the beginning which was great and it helped me with getting into the story. However, it remained the same throughout the novel – it never slowed down or sped up and after a while, I got lulled into the rhythm and the initial excitement was gone. The pacing really needs to oscillate in order to keep things interesting.
Unfortunately, this led to a highly anticlimactic ending. I understand there will be a second book next year, but I still needed to have some sense of closure to be happy, and I definitely did not get it. That’s why my rating is closer to 3.5 stars with high hopes for future installments.
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,364 followers
October 10, 2011
The first night after I started reading this book, I dreamt about being stuck in a house and hiding from some people while trying to survive/escape. All night. THAT, is a sign of a good book!

This story is told in Alex's point of view. A huge volcano has erupted and they're now seeing and living the after effects. Which means a LOT of ash falling, incredible climate changes, and desperate food situations. I love that the book started right before the eruption. We got to live through it with Alex while he was unaware of what was happening or why his house was basically falling down on him.

I hate to compare books, especially with big hits like the Hunger Games. But I seriously have NOT read a book since the Hunger Games that has given me such a rush of pulse pounding excitement; not knowing if they were going to survive from one page to the next. Once the ash started falling and Alex figured it wasn't going to stop any time soon, he left to go find his family who were away at his uncle's house. It's a 2 hour drive from there. So imagine slugging through cement-like wet ash, on foot. All food has been scavenged, nothing naturally growing is salvageable, the heavy ash is making houses collapse, no more electricity or phones. Breathing is even a problem. It was exhilarating; every single minute of this book had my adrenaline pumping.

The protagonist, Alex, was extremely strong willed and his character was deeply realistic. I could connect with him and really worry about him to the core. He got into dire situations that were very intense, but still realistic under the circumstances. I could imagine this all happening for real; the human reaction and violence that would occur is how I would expect it. Everyone is out for their own and trying to survive. I'm sure we can all imagine what desperate people will do in these circumstances.

There is nothing paranormal in this book. It's a natural disaster happening in the present. The story itself is nothing like I've ever read, it's certainly original with a strong apocalyptic feel. Following Alex on his alarming and scary journey was thrilling and thoroughly addicting. I would give it 10 stars if I could!
Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews962 followers
May 2, 2012
4.5 stars

Well, colour me surprised: I kind of love this book.

Let me clarify that statement. I didn’t expect to dislike it. I wouldn’t have gone to the effort of procuring it (Ashfall is not available in Australia) if I didn’t have a desire to read it. But my physical TBR pile is literally big enough to do me an injury (albeit a minor one) if it fell on me, and somehow Ashfall repeatedly ended up on the bottom of that stack. Something else always snagged my attention, crept up the ranks. There was always a more enticing cover and blurb elbowing ahead of Ashfall’s rather nondescript packaging (come on, it really is – unlike Ashen Winter’s, which is kick-ass).

There’s just something so satisfying about stumbling upon a book that exceeds your expectations. And Ashfall spin kicked my expectations in the face. .

At risk of sounding like a nihilist – I love apocalyptic / post-apocalyptic fiction. Because so often it’s the darkest, bleakest of stories that contain the strongest messages of hope and strength, and have the most powerful things to say about the human condition. And ultimately that’s what I loved about Ashfall. That at the core it was a very human story about survival, and what drives a person in the face of overwhelming odds.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Ashfall a fast-paced book - the tension waxes and wanes throughout. However, I struggled to put it down, I was so gripped by the premise and Alex’s point of view.

Mullin’s novel unfolds with the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, and the catastrophic fury it unleashes on the United States. The speculative position that Ashfall takes in this regard is obviously open to debate. I’m no volcanologist (sadly – but it’s never too late, right?), and I have no real opinion to weigh in with as to the accuracy of the post-eruption world as Mullin presents it. What I’m more interested in the story that develops in the fallout of a natural disaster, the manner in which the author depicts the world, and the subsequent characterisation of those living in such conditions.

I found Alex’s journey, both physically and internally, extremely compelling. Alex is not a particularly remarkable fifteen year old boy. He’s into taekwando, WoW, finds his younger sister a bit of brat. (Initially, I had some reservations due to the maturity and articulateness of his voice. It seemed too old. But I quickly realised that it was in keeping with his character, and was able to settle into his narration.) Yet the tenacity that Alex demonstrates, his struggle to hold onto his own life and hope for that of his family, and the ways in which he is forced to grow throughout the story are convincingly crafted. Because throughout Alex’s quest, his strengths are believably counterbalanced with his weaknesses. His physical fight to live is tied to his mental and emotional battle to cope with the gravity of his situation.

And Darla. I want to start a tumblr called EffYeahDarlaEdmunds and fill it with her moments of MacGuyver-esque badassery. Not that Darla is whipping up makeshift two-seater ultralight planes from bamboo and garbage bags – not yet, at least – rather, her ingenuity feels plausible and anchored in her backstory. She’s a thorny, abrupt character, yet beneath her tough exterior she too must grapple with grief and the very real possibility of imminent death. However, the Darla-moment that truly crystallised her fist-pump-worthiness was, for me, her conversation with Alex about Darla’s not afraid to tell it like it is, or call Alex on his mistakes.

[Slight tangent: Can I please get a high-five for one of the most frank portrayals of post-apocalypse teen sex (or pre-apocalypse, for that matter) since John Marsden’s Tomorrow series? Thanks.]

Ashfall is at times a brutal, bloody book. It contains scenes of shocking violence, the harsh realities of survival and the darker side of human nature. It takes the reader to deeply uncomfortable places, shows characters doing horrific things, and frankly depicts the cost of survival. Yet throughout this, the moments of loyalty, trust and safety stand out – underscoring the preciousness of human connection. For me, this is what makes Ashfall an exceptional book in its field – I cared about these characters and I believed in the relationship that developed between them. Whatever it’s basis – necessity, love, circumstance – the way in which Mullin portrays this bond is exceptionally powerful against its bleak backdrop.

Final words: Speak softly. Carry a bo staff.
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,238 reviews384 followers
March 20, 2020
Great reread!


SUCH a fantastic book. Well written, well researched, detailed but fast-paced, frightening and exciting. There were several times reading this where I was literally terrified of what was happening or what would happen next for Alex. I wasn't expecting much from Darla (I'm not a fan of the name, dunno why), but I warmed up to her quickly and they play off each other so well. The entire trip from Iowa to Illinois was never boring, and Mr Mullin was able to mix in plenty of humor so the story never got too dark. I need the next one SO BAD right now but I'm gonna make myself wait until I've read the stack of... how many do I have now... four books? *visualizes my couch* Yeah, four. Gotta finish the four other library books before I'll let myself grab the second one in this series. BUT I'M SO EXCITED! This feels like it'll be my third-favorite dystopian series, after Hunger Games and Unwind. Or maybe it's a three-way tie. Who knows.


update: My dad read this last week and loved it :D excited for him to read the other two!
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
May 27, 2011

Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I was really, really excited to read Ashfall. I've been devouring dystopian novels left and right recently. I'm always itching for my next fix. Seriously, I think I have a problem at this rate, I might just have to check myself into some sort of program. Ashfall is a bit different from the current slew of dystopian novels. For one thing, it is written from a male PoV. These seem to be in slow supply these days, sadly.

Ashfall tells the story of 15 year-old Alex traveling from Cedar Falls, Iowa to Warren, Illinois after the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park unexpectedly erupts.

Let's pause for a bit:

If you are like me and didn't really pay close attention in school about volcanoes, or skipped science class, or slept your way to graduation , you may be asking, "What is the likelihood of a supervolcana erupting without notice?" And I would tell you, "How should I know?" But thankfully, this discussion was hashed out over at Anila's review in the comments for your viewing pleasure. Mike Mullin was even kind enough to pop in and answer a few questions.

Back to the review:

So, what happens when a supervolcano erupts? How much damage does it cause? It causes tons of damage! I have to give it up to Mullin because he did some serious research for this book. Alex was able to hear the volcano erupting for days and he lives over 900 miles from it. Enough ash to cover a car on the street fell in his state. Animals died from breathing in the ash. People were starving from lack of water and food.


Alex couldn't walk on it, so his journey is done primarily on skies. On his way to Warren, Illinois, Alex encounters some true crazies. BUT Alex knows Taekwando!
funny gifs
Until the eruption he has never had a reason to use his skills against a person for survival. But as we all know disastrous situations have a tendency to bring out the worse in a person. As a scared kid, he is forced to used his skills in the beginning. However, as he grows throughout the novel he does not hesitate to do what he needs to. I found myself shouting:
Truly, I promise, I'm not a violent person

Ashfall was very realistic in depicting the populace's reaction to the eruption. At times it was really graphic. This book had the ability to make me feel ashamed of the human race at times.

The one negative I can think of, that ultimately is the reason why it did not receive 4 stars, is that a good chunk on the beginning felt slow to me. The book opened strong and I was really happy to see that, but hit a small plateau.


Alex is at one point traveling on his own for days. As a result, there are pages upon pages of inner dialog. But I persisted! Thankfully, the book picks right up after Alex meets Darla. One thing I really loved was that Alex and Darla were neither over powerful or weak. The characters, settings and situations were all very realistic.

There is a bit of romance in the book and I think it was very well done. It was a breath of fresh air to see romance brewing from a male PoV. I read one review where they say all Alex does is think about sex. He does think about it, but I don't think it was an unreasonable amount. You can really tell how much he cares for Darla.

For a first time author, this wasn't bad at all. So, if you are into Dystopian novels, you should check out Ashfall. I know I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

More reviews and more at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16.2k followers
November 24, 2011
*This ARC was provided to me by the publishers. No money or gifts were exchanged for this review.

I seem to be one of the very few that found this book a little on the average side. It really probably wasn’t the book’s fault. In fact, if you’re looking for some good reviews of this book, try out Phoebe North’s Review.

There are several different reasons why people enjoy apocalypse stories. Some people enjoy watching the break down of society and making commentary on that. Some people enjoy the struggle for survival. Me? I like to read them to compare them to what *I* would do. The more applicable the situation to me is, the better. Like zombies, right? Everyone can associate with a good zombie apocalypse. You’re getting your elbow chewed on, I’m getting my elbow chewed on, we’re all being eaten! Look! Something to share!

The problem with more specific disaster scenarios is the risk that part of your audience may not be able to relate to the situation. That was me. Don’t get me wrong. Just because I live in Australia, doesn’t mean I think that we’re going to cruise through a planet-killer like Yellowstone Volcano like we did through the Global Financial Crisis. Of course everything but the most meagre dregs of humanity are going to be killed when that thing goes off. But we’re going to have a different kind of struggle to the one the main character has.

He was a reasonable character who started off a little weak and boring for me. It was approximately page 250 when I had very nearly given up on this book, that he really picked up and I began to enjoy his personal story. Darla’s character is enjoyable from the get-go and I think it is her inclusion in this book that truly pushes it up onto a well-deserved pedestal.

The writing is, for the most part, very serviceable. It is smooth when it needs to be, gritty when it needs to be and achingly painful for other parts. I certainly have no qualms about that!

I suppose, for this book, it was the little things that got to me. Themes that didn’t translate as well across the Pacific Ocean. This book deals with themes of government oppression and corporate greed that vaguely felt silly to me. Though, to be fair, I get why this is an unsettling premise to Americans. My government has never tried to transmit thoughts into my brain! Our military still runs on Windows 03!

Then surprisingly, was the transparent fear-mongering against socialism and how horrible it is to be stripped down and become part of the masses under an oppressive regime. Socialism, government fear, issues with authority and autonomy aren’t as big a deal here and I think gave a triteness to this novel, for me, that a different audience would find powerful and unsettling.

Over all it was a fun read, and for a different audience, I think it would serve its purpose very strongly.

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Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
September 30, 2021
3.5 Stars

CW: Animal deaths/killings during survival situations where food is needed. The deaths and preparation for eating are described, .

Well that was a pretty great YA survival story!

Although the writing is very simple, the story itself is incredibly engaging. Alex faces numerous threats as he makes his way to his family after a volcanic eruption has spewed ash throughout parts of the US. It is very much a plot based story which is great if you are looking for a straight up action survival story. I think this will be popular with teens and I will order a couple for the library.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,109 reviews1,844 followers
June 27, 2011
I remember a high school history teacher telling us that if there were ever a nuclear attack he recommended getting in a car and driving as fast as possible towards New York City, most likely it would be a target and you'd have a better chance of getting instantly killed the closer you were to 'ground zero' (this was when ground zero meant the spot where nuclear warheads would strike, and at a time when we feared IBM's flying over Canada as a doomsday scenario, one that you figure gives you time to realize, yup it's all over, and decide if you should duck and cover, hide in some basement since you never got around to building a bomb shelter, or getting in your car and driving as fast as possible towards the largest population center in hopes of being killed instantly). This advice to sixteen year-olds did spark the discussion about what exactly the Naval Base in the middle of Upstate New York was for, and why there was a Naval Base where there was no water, and was there really a nuclear reactor just outside of town, and since we all knew it was there, didn't the Russians know it too, and would they blow up our stupid little city and we wouldn't have to drive towards New York City? And then some one would bring up, but what about Boston, why don't we drive towards Boston? Because the Russians might not bomb Boston, ok? It's not fair but it's not a city on the same level as New York, ok?

I don't remember anyone arguing with him that maybe it was better to live through being pushed to the edge of a apocalyptic conditions than to hope for a quick and painless death.

Why would someone want to live through a Nuclear Attack? Or in this book's case the eruption of a Super Volcano that has plunged the world into an ash ridden winter that is expected to last for an indefinite amount of time. Coldness, almost constant darkness with high noon looking like late dusk, food shortages, ash floating in the air that can lacerate the lungs, shitty people doing shitty things, Why would anyone want to live in these conditions? Never mind trying to survive in them knowing that it's going to get a whole lot worse before it may even possibly get better? Why not just curl up in a corner and die? Why go on? Maybe some of us will be like my former history teacher, but I think that for most of us would have something kick in that lets us stop thinking about our existential malaise and the rational utility of curling up to die vs the hardship of surviving (I only thought of this just now but I think what I'll call the apocalyptic scenario is another swift leg kick to Utilitarianism (but that is all I'm going to say about that, my last foray into this region turned really ugly and unfruitful for all involved).

But what about the book? Maybe I should just talk about the book, especially since my computers fucking with me right now, I keep losing bits of my review and have to go back and undo things to find them. God, in my own slight annoyances I'm going through right now writing this review I want to just chuck it all (not life mind you, just the review), how could I expect myself to live through any kind of serious survival situation? I don't know, I probably wouldn't, although I do have quite a bit of knowledge of making things burn without using matches, building shelters out of sticks and shit and other Boy Scout skills I picked up by being a loser teenage boy and earning the Wilderness Survival and Emergency Preparedness merit badges (why am I going to on writing this review? Shouldn't I curl up and just give up, I just about lost the whole second paragraph a minute a go, and my cursor keeps moving around and making me insert letters into the middle of words, has anyone else ever lived a life so hard? Woe is me.....).

Fuck, with all these stupid asides and little problems I'm making a mess of this review. Focus!

I forgot I was reading a teen book at times. That is a good thing, right? Not that I'm trying to disparage teen books. At times I even found the book to be a little more brutal or frank than I'd expect a book geared towards teens to be, but then I think I'm just becoming a spinsterish old man and there is nothing in this book that kids wouldn't have been exposed to thousands of times before.

This book deserves a better review than I'm writing. Sorry Mr. Author, I really liked your book, but I have no ability to put my enjoyment into words or write about anything that isn't myself. People who like post-apocolyptic / survival books will most likely get enjoyment out of this book. People like my former history teacher would probably just read this and shake their head wondering why the main character even tried to get out of his house when it was on fire when the whole super-volcano thing started up. But maybe if you are like my former teacher you find some enjoyment in reading about the follies of people who go on living after it would have been advisable to just die.

And on that note I leave you with a song that deals with just that theme:

It's not as though anything will be all right, "all right."
So why do you stay alive when you're left to die?
Profile Image for Cara.
279 reviews704 followers
June 30, 2014
When I looked at this title I kept thinking of that childhood chant, "...ashes, ashes we all fall down!" Well what you know that may not be so far from the truth.

Alex is your normal teenage guy living in the suburbs in Iowa. He fights with his mom, and on his free time plays games and practices taekwondo. From what you can tell he doesn't particularly seem like a special teenager. He's kind of bratty and has a good life. Well Alex's parents and sister decide to visit family, and he fights to stay behind. This is one fight he should have lost because once his family leaves a super volcano erupts and the country will never be the same again.

There is so much that makes this one of the best dystopia novels I've read. It feels completely believable and the explanation of how this could happen is plausible. I was even tempted to categorize this as realistic-fiction because it flows and told like something that has happened already. The story doesn't hold back on every brutal detail. I probably shivered more than once while reading this. I'd be wasting your time even trying to explain how much thought was put into this book. I even tried to nitpick at the story, but I just couldn't. It is just that honest.

Best part of the book was the characters. Alex's arc as a person is striking and masterful. Within several weeks you see Alex grow from being a teenage boy to a young man. He just never failed to impress and surprise me. He is not perfect and no saint. Everything has changed since the volcano, and survival is on the top of the list. With that in mind though you see humanity peek through and Alex still has some of that. Then there is Darla. Oh wow this girl is almost more impressive than Alex. She would be on the list of people I would want in any emergency. This girl is made of the strongest stuff people can be made of, but again she is vulnerable just like everyone else in this situation. I liked them both as separate characters and I loved them together too. Together they are a powerhouse, and it shows how much strength and ingenuity people can pull out when the challenge arises. What makes them both such powerful characters is how they could be people that exist.

Though this hits the end of the world feel right on, it is a strangely a life-affirming book. I could feel myself being proud and disgusted all at the same time about situations that would arise. It strips away all the unnecessary things we live with, and shows life in its barest and probably most beautiful form.

I can't wait to experience what Alex and Darla do next in Ashen Winter.
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
774 reviews514 followers
November 5, 2011
”Everything would be better tomorrow, I thought: a new day, a new dawn. It would have to be better than this. I was wrong. There was no new dawn the next day.”

Cedar Falls, Iowa. Almost 16-years-old Alex has just experienced a major break-through on his way to adulthood: His parents stopped arguing with him and have taken off to uncle Paul's goat farm in Illinois with only his sister Rebecca in tow. Alex luxuriates in his freedom of choice between doing his homework and collecting gold-nuggets in "World of Warcraft", when something huge drops on his house and starts to burn. After freeing himself of collapsed furniture he learns that even outside his bouse nobody has electricity or a phone connection. The fire brigade arrives in spite of that, the next door couple takes him in and things are supposed to settle down, when hell literally breaks loose: Earth- and ear-shattering thunder that lasts for hours and results in a roof-breaking, sun-darkening, perpetual rain of grainy ash. Alex' initial fear and his helpless indecisiveness change into a fierce determination to get away and find his family when the first armed looters crash Joe and Darren's house and turn the supposed nightmare into something horribly real. A backpack filled with bottles of toilet-tank water, cans of food, matches, a tarp and a raincape taken from the remains of his home plus his father's pair of skis and his teacher’s taekwondo staff represent the gear of Alex' lonely roadless road trip towards Illinois. Through the eyes of Alex we face thirst, hunger, exhaustion, cold, fear, pain, greed, murder and rape, but we also experience compassion, charity, faith, cleverness, lust, love, loyalty, braveness, strength, the will to survive and hope.

You could easily tell how much I revelled in reading “Ashfall” by debut author Mike Mullin just by taking note of two facts:

1. The urgent frenzy with which I tore through the 466 pages. I reluctantly shut down my Kindle only to change trains and to walk from the station to my apartment building. Apart from these very unwelcome interruptions I practically read the book in one go.
2. The pure engrossment which made me literally forget that I was reading “Ashfall” for review and which resulted in my having to find the right words in hindsight and to install something resembling a structure into the gushy mush threatening to pour out onto the page instead of relying on previously saved bookmarks and margin notes. I am sorry that I am in no position now to say something profound about the author’s use of language or the quality of his writing style. I simply had no attention to spare.

There is even a third aspect, but it may sound quite unbelievable to those who know my reading habits: I did not read a single chapter for two whole days after finishing "Ashfall" although I had more than one opportunity to grab a chunk of time. Part of my post-Ashfall book abstinence could be explained by my resolve not to shove reviews that should/want/deserve to be written aside anymore. But I am also certain that part of my hesitance was caused by my reluctance to let go of the story, its characters, its grip on my mind and the still sharp-edged imprints on my inner eye.

Who – apart from the handful of readers who meticulously study all bookflap texts - would have guessed that a young adult novel bearing such a – admittedly fitting, but – boring, colorless, and - I say it: ugly - cover (it does remind me strongly of German young adult fiction published in the 80s of the previous century), would encase such a wonderfully moving, deep and breathtakingly vivid addition to the realistic dystopian genre? I harbored some relatively high hopes, but only because some of the earlier reviews sounded pretty convincing. Now I really wish I owned a paper copy – and I would even take one with a pink bulldozer embossed on the dust-jacket.

The two most important aspects that determine whether I will fall in love with a certain book or not are interesting, multi-layered characters who – if they are not likable - can at least be understood from a certain angle, and the believability of the setting and the actions – regardless of how strange or different the fictional world seems to be. Therefore it is essential for me to point out how unartificial Alex voice felt in my opinion and how the author somehow made me swallow everything he handed over in sweet docility without letting me even think of talking back. Whether he describes a desperate family sifting through the rubble of a collapsed gas station and getting aggressive when Alex turns up with a seemingly well-filled backpack, whether he has Alex fighting or building a shelter or kissing a girl, or whether he shows Alex’ embarrassment when Darla discovers his fear of heights, it fit the whole and it felt real and right.

I cannot pinpoint the scene, but at some point I knew that I had fallen head over heels in love with both Alex and his love interest – maybe especially his love interest: Darla is a very resourceful, strong and outspoken girl. After her father died she took over the corn and cattle farm single-handedly and failed school miserably because of that. Her cheerful, religious and rather naive mother certainly did her share - physically - but she completely relied on her teenaged daughter to calculate costs and labor, let unused land, sell their produce and repair the big and small argricultural machines from the start. Without Darla's inventions and Darla's watchful eye the two of them would never have had the chance to survive the vulcanic catastrophe longer than the contents of their pantry lasted. Darla is also fiercely loyal, funny, sexy and astonishingly vulnerable. She teases Alex because of his farm-related ignorance, but she does not scoff or gawk at his real shortcomings. I never expected her to crash so hard . When Alex first meets Darla , immediately several of Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful female heroines popped into my mind: Cheerful airplane mechanic Fio Piccolo in Porco Rosso, brave and compassionate princess Nausicaä, Iron Town’s tough leader Lady Eboshi in Monoke Hime and even Arietty, the Borrower. Although Darla is the one with the physical strength and the inventive brains, Alex makes her feel safe. That sense of safety is not induced by Alex brown belt in Taekwondo or by his manliness, but by her deep conviction that she can count on him and his concept of responsibility. I love the mixture of character traits that make up Alex. He is a bit nerdy and quiet, but he is also a calculating fighter. He does not waver when he has made up his mind. He never loses his compassion, although he occasionally has to quarrel with his conscience, because securing his immediate survival rivals being responsible for the possible demise of others by not sharing with them. But even when sympathy takes over and makes him risk his life, he is not uncautious, stupid or sickly samaritarian. I like the normality of his relationship with his parents, his resolve to act grown-up enough to be taken seriously, his ability to adapt, and his slowly blossoming, tender love for Darla.

Let me also tell you how relieved I have been to read a young adult novel that was completetely devoid of instant-love and paranormally-induced dependencies, but surprised me with a lovely, lovely, love-story that depicts the slow birth of a realistic, strong relationship. A relationship that includes sex as one of the normal components:

"So I thought I’d feel different afterward, after the visible neon sign proclaiming 'virgin' had blinked out on my forehead. I’d spent years obessessing about it, so it seemed like somthing should have changed. Maybe it would have if I’d still been at Ceder Falls High School surrounded by the gossip and the braggadocio of teenage boys. But on my uncle's farm, nobody noticed, or at least nobody said anything. The next day, like every day, we dug corn, chopped wood, and carried water. And it didn’t really change much between Darla and me, either. Yes, making love was fun, but it wasn’t really any more fun than anything we’d already been doing together. Just different."

There is frustration, there are mistanderstandings, there is teasing, there is companionship, there is trust, there is risking a lot – even your life, and there is gentleness and care. For instance, I loved the scene in which Alex helps Darla pee in the refugee camp trench by "being her tree" to lean on and gets splashed in the process.

Speaking of pee: It is mentioned often. At least 14 scenes, to be exact - thanks to my Kindle’s text seach function - revolve around the act of urinating. I didn’t mind. On the contrary, there are people dying of dehydration in "Ashfall". Alex stinks. He uses his spare shirt to cover his mouth with wet cloth-stripes. Not glossing over body functions, but making them part of the whole catastrophic mess adds another layer of believability.

When I was reading "Ashfall" I automatically compared it to two other dystopian road-trip stories I have read recently: Released by Megan Duncan and Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. Both dystopias deal with catastrophic circumstances, too, wave in a kind of love story, the coming-of-age-process of the main character and an episode at a kind of community or camp where people try to survive together. But both stories feature zombies and monsters.

In "Ashfall" there are no zombie-turned humans or other supernatural phenomena to fight against or to survive. There is no bomb or no alien invasion to blame. There is just a plain old natural desaster – the unpredicted erruption of an existing supervolcano sleeping under the Yellowstone National Park – that takes away the sun’s warmth and daylight, the usual means of communication and transport and the access to clean water and fresh food. The author makes us realise the painful way that we do not need a rampant zombie-virus or galactically enhanced physical abilities to turn us into ugly beasts:

"My sorrow dissolved in a wave of pure fury. What kind of place was this, where tens of thousands of people were herded together without adequate shelter, without decent latrines? A cattle pen, not fit for humans. And the guards, Captain Jameson, there were people just like me. For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our own."

The concentration-camp-like refugee camp, which had been advertised via radio as one of America’s safe havens where people would receive shelter, help and food, was what enraged and saddened me the most in "Ashfall" – much more than the also prison-like communities in Released and Ashes did. In the latter two novels the leaders at least act true to their strange religious believes. Somehow this realistic situation in "Ashfall" showing “normal” people acting selfish under the cover of welfare turned me into a hot and cold and shivering lump.

But to wrap it up: Basically "Ashfall" turned me into a fan. Mr. Mullin, that does not happen too often. Especially not after just one book.

A short statement concerning the ending: Maybe I was already biased when I reached it, but I refuse to call the open, but hopeful, maybe even hesitatingly cheerful finale a cliffhanger. Now that I have found out that there will be a sequel (Ashen Winter) I need to read it, no question, but when I sucked up the last words of the last chapter of "Ashfall", I was quite ignorant of the fact and strangely content with the few lose strands I saw hanging in the breeze.

A million thanks to Netgalley and to Tanglewood Press for being so awfully generous with electronic review copies. I immensely enjoyed reading Ashfall and as you can see I gladly will spread the word.
Profile Image for Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen.
1,683 reviews597 followers
May 25, 2015
**4 ~Can they catch a break~ Stars**

Wow...I normally stay away from YA books but this one was good...it was written so well, that at times I forgot that these were just kids trying to stay alive.

Yes, there were times that I felt the book slowed down and others where I found it so unbelievable that these kids couldn't catch a break, but it worked in the long run.

Definitely a different twist to the post apocalyptic world and believable consequences that could happen at any time.

I absolutely LOVED Darla ---- awesome character and well developed!
Profile Image for Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker.
596 reviews371 followers
September 15, 2011
Sometimes it takes a major natural disaster to make you realize how important family is!

Just ask Alex. He is as happy as can be that he was left alone for a weekend. He didn’t want to go across the country to visit relatives. So, now he is by himself and loving life, right?

Not. See, when you are teen trying to act like an adult, sometimes you need to make adult decisions. Sometimes, those decisions are huge like fleeing for your life because a supervolcano has erupted. Sometimes those decisions include fighting (literally) for your life, deciding whom to trust, and figuring out your path in life.

Alex grows up in this book. However, don’t be mistaken that this is a “coming of age” story with lots of teenage angst and lots of tear jerking moments. It’s not. It has action, lots of bad people, a bit of good ole fashion violence, a really smart girl that puts Alex in his place, and a sweet romance (with the smart girl no less).

Besides being a fun, natural disaster survival book, it also has a great main character in Alex. He is so real. Sure he has some skills that a normal teen might not have- he can kick your ass with his karate skills (I mean Taekwando) but he really thinks like a normal teen. Remember, he is in this mess in the first place because he was tired of doing the normal, boring “family” stuff. Later, when he meets Darla (aka the smart girl), he is totally impressed with her mechanical skills (like the concept of a girl being able to do really cool mechanical things is a strange concept for a teen boy). When he wants to get up close and personal with Darla, well forget the supervolcano, because he is about to erupt if he doesn’t find condoms!


Fun, fun, fun. It is so refreshing to just love a book without it having some super serious plot and lots of angst. It is so refreshing to have a male protagonist that could easily be modeled after a real male teen!
May 8, 2015
Christmas present from Jen (Nevada Jen)

*4.5 Stars*

For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own.

Oh my gosh, guys...this book was SO good!!! I think I'm only shocked because, well, I kept putting it off and putting it off and then my wonderful Jen bought this for me for Christmas. Turns out??? I am a total MORON for not reading this before now!!!! I could smack myself for not reading this sooner-SERIOUSLY.

Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is terrifying torture.

What is so amazing about this book, among many things, is that it reads as a day-to-day survival story. I was so happy when I began to realize that we were going to get to see Alex struggling (I mean it...he literally struggled not to die all the time lol) every single day and that it wasn't, oh, I don't know...forced?? He literally broke down everything he did. It almost almost reminded of a Hunger Games type of style, though I don't know why. If this isn't what you like, then this story is not for you. Every day is a new hurdle, because even if you survive the night, you have to get up and face the elements the next day-whether snow, the falling ash you can't breathe in lest you die, rain, or a mixture of the ash and snow or rain, he had to face it every day with no food, water, and no shelter. He was scavenging every moment just to get by-one day he ate skittles from an abandoned gas station. Skittles. Can you imagine? You are dehydrated, exhausted, starving, fighting to keep going and then you find a gas station....but all you find are skittles. Again-SKITTLES.

 photo SKITTLES_zpsk9lp4a90.gif

"Well, I couldn't." I raised my voice a bit and shot clipped words at her. "And I'm not an idiot. And this is getting old. I know you've probably got ash in your panties, but do you have to take it out on me?"
She pushed herself out from under the hood. "Huh? What did you-"
"Ash in your-well, you seem so irritated at me all the time."
"Ash in my-" She laughed. "Yeah, I do. And it is irritating. And what are you doing thinking about my panties, anyway?"

Sigh. I'd have been dead. But, even with all his various brushes with death (I mean, there were a multitude of them), he manages to find the one thing that will give him his extra edge-Darla. Now, I'm not sure how people feel about love in a dystopian world (Um, I'm all for it, clearly) but this wasn't really what I was expecting when I started this book. Darla wasn't your average girl. She was self-sufficient, strong, intelligent, flawed, and loyal. Are you thinking she's the damsel in distress?? Hmm. Lol. Why don't you switch those roles around and you'll be closer to what it's really like...and I loved every minute of it.

My knees and arms hung over the edge of the couch. The room was bright-we'd built the fire up before we turned in. I stared into the flames for a while.
"You awake?" I asked, my voice pitched low.
"Can I ask you something?"
"You just did."
"Obviously, you can ask me something. You just did. You asked if you could ask me something."
"Do you know you're annoying?" I punctuated this comment by elbowing her in the side.

Darla was so rude to Alex from day one. It's not unheard of that we meet an abrasive female lead who doesn't take to the hero right away, but she really doesn't hold anything back, which I found to be utterly refreshing. More than once something serious would be going on and out of nowhere she'd be shouting obscenities at him and I would immediately bust out laughing. In a dark, cold world where there is little chance of survival, it's nice to see that asshole-ness doesn't just wither away and die with humanity.

Darla grabbed the woman's coat and got right in her face. "We might die because of all the stuff my stupid, softhearted boyfriend is leaving you. So don't you die, too. You take this stuff, and you keep yourself and your kids alive. You hear?"
"I hear."
I didn't care much for being called stupid and softhearted. The boyfriend bit I could live with.

And that's not even mentioning Alex's snark. The inner workings of his mind are much like how I'd imagine mine would be if I were in book form-short, to the point, sporadic, snarky, and not without humorous thoughts that should NEVER be said aloud. From the minute I picked up this story, I knew that Alex was a character I was really going to enjoy. Privileged and a bit naive, I knew he was in for a world of awakening, because nothing would ever be the same again. He was a character I loved and rooted for, and he never ceased to make me laugh. And once he met Darla, he became a boy that was so sweet and so smitten that I couldn't help but to be enthralled by their mismatched romance.

Ask someone to lock you in a box with no light, nobody to talk to, and then have them beat on it with a tree limb to make a hideous booming sound. Do that for hours, and if you're still not bat-shit crazy, you'll know how we felt.

This book isn't without it's triggers. It was so realistic. I immediately was googling 'Yellowstone National Park Super Volcano' the minute bad things began to happen. And OMG has this book alarmed me. I don't think I have ever googled about events in a book I'm reading...ever. So this was new for me. There were dark moments where blood and pain were all Alex knew. Loneliness suffocated him as he searched for his family. Companionship was indirectly found when he met this girl who was unwilling to help a stranger out but did anyway, and even then she sometimes didn't act like she cared about him. Rape, gangs, violence, and, obviously the big one, a realistic natural disaster that will make you think twice about where you live. These are all things that you need to know about, and I'm probably forgetting some-OH, HOW COULD I FORGET. Bunnies. If you love bunnies....I dunno if you'd like this book lol. Or any animal, really. This book is about survival and mean people-take out of that what you will.

 photo tumblr_mrthyjndXB1retrrdo1_500_zpswrlkhpu0.gif

So, saying all that, I adored this book. Even amidst all the people you can't trust and the horrible world they now live in, there were some very sweet and deep moments. This book wasn't without it's innocence and young love...in fact, those are my favorite types of romances, and they are rarely done correctly-So, of course I was obsessed with this one. I am so so happy I finally gave this one a chance...It would likely still be on my TBR if my lovely Jen hadn't taken the initiative to gift me this, so I have her to thank, in a sense. Thanks, Lovely, for knowing me better than I know myself. *Muah*

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Profile Image for Ariana.
938 reviews1,302 followers
December 13, 2014
“For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our own.”

Define Humanity: hu·man·i·ty, noun, plural -ties.
1. all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
2. the quality or condition of being human; human nature.
3. the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

Define survival: sur·viv·al, noun
1. the act or fact of surviving, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.
2. a person or thing that survives or endures, especially an ancient custom, observance, belief, or the like.

Define monstrosity: mon·stros·i·ty, noun, plural -ties.
1. the state or character of being monstrous.
2. a monster or something monstrous.

Define Monster: mon·ster, noun
1. a legendary animal combining features of animal and human form or having the forms of various animals in combination, as a centaur, griffin, or sphinx.
2. any creature so ugly or monstrous as to frighten people.
3. any animal or human grotesquely deviating from the normal shape, behavior, or character.
4. a person who excites horror by wickedness, cruelty, etc.
5. any animal or thing huge in size.

I finished reading the book, then the author's notes at the back, and still I kept thinking about this all... I felt so sad, I can't even put into words how much disappointment and anger I have felt. Not for the book, or the characters, but for the whole damn human kind.

Like the character in this book, I felt ashamed... Because what would we be without our humanity?

Would we be better than anything surrounding us? Because we keep thinking that we are the kings of the world, but are we?

How low can you get when you've already hit the bottom?
How fast can you run, when you have nowhere to go?
How long can you survive when the nature rebels against you?
How hard would you bite the hand that have fed you?

In a world that doesn't resemble at all the world as we know it, where it is raining with ash, and it's freezing to death, and sun is only a memory from before the volcano eruption, Alex has one purpose: to find his family that left him behind (there was no drama in the act: in fact they just left him at home for the weekend while they went visiting some relatives. It was supposed to be just another weekend - casual, sunny, not different from all the others.. only the eruption has changed everything), but his journey is not as easy as he might think.

After the eruption people are starting to starve, and they transform themselves in predators, they hunt, they steal, and they kill. They have weapons and they are not afraid to use them, because when there is only one mouthful of food, nobody wants to share it with strangers.

In one encounter with such a beast, Alex finds himself face to face with death, and it's only because of an wonderful woman (Mrs. Edmunds,) and her daughter Darla, that he is still alive. But a price is needed to be paid. And when tragedy strikes, Alex and Darla has no one but themselves, and they need to stay together and work together hard to stay alive.

I liked their relationship and the way they tried to help each other.
Of course, sometimes they were just lucky, some other times it was all too good to be true, but in the end it felt so damn real, and it hurt so badly to witness this madness called survival. It's a tricky thing to survive, because your life might mean the death of someone else, and if you are not strong enough to kill, then you might be weak enough not to survive...

So where do you draw the line between humanity, sacrifice, and survival?
Are you human enough to leave someone die by hunger/cold, are you strong enough to sacrifice a dear animal just to have something to eat, are you enough of a beast to kill someone before he kills you?

But above all these questions, is there a real need to kill? All those characters can put a gun in front of your face, ready to shoot, but isn't it another way? How can you tell the difference between a good man a bad one (generically speaking).. How can you tell the difference between a human and a person?

Listen to me...
When this book comes out, pick it up people, and read it. And if somehow this world comes to an end, just remember this book (if you still can), just remember that you are still human.. Just remember...

Review originally posted at ReadingAfterMidnight.com
Book Source: ARC from Tanglewood  via NetGalley

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Profile Image for Regina.
625 reviews390 followers
December 8, 2011
End of the world story? I am THERE regardless if the book is about zombies, nuclear fall out, or mass pandemic. But, if the end of the world story happens to be about a natural disaster – say like a massive volcano eruption – then I am in heaven. For me, this book is the best of everything in one of my favorite genres. It is a young adult book with a male main character, set in a location I know intimately well because I grew up there, and involving a super volcano eruption and its aftermath. Some survival stories detail the day in and day out of how to survive and some focus on how ugly the world has gotten due to the devolution of human nature – Ashfall incorporates both.

The story begins as many young adult books do, the hero of the story is alone because his parents are gone for the weekend and well, the world ends. The hero is forced to try and survive on his own and he begins a quest to locate his parents. I loved that this story is a rural setting. So many end of the world and survival stories take place in urban settings. The placement of this story in a rural location was not only unique and refreshing but it allowed for the feeling and atmosphere to grow that the characters were alone, stranded and nobody was coming to help them.

The hero is not perfect and he is not able to do everything well; in fact he is pretty much a normal teenage kid. The setting is rural eastern Iowa and north western Illinois and the super volcano erupts in Colorado, spewing ash and emitting horribly loud booming noises 900 miles away to where this story takes place. The entire Midwest appears to be effected by gray skies, extremely cold weather, demolished infrastructure, lack of government and authority and a complete lack of incoming food shipments. The people there are forced to survive. What happens next is the hero’s attempt to make his way through a wasteland, his interactions with people he meets (very bad and some very good) – he has nothing to aid in his survival, except for his basic level of knowledge, his hope that his parents are alive and ….. (drumroll) …. his expertise practical knowledge of tae kwon do. A second character is introduced at some point through the story and she is absolutely amazing, she is truly a heroine. For me, she made the story.

One of the interesting aspects of the book is how the author incorporated issues of corporate greed and deference of government power and authority to private corporations. A third of the way through the story, the characters arrive at a refugee camp, I am not going to post any spoilers, the camp is not run by the United States government, but instead by a private corporation that has been given power and authority to act as a government and is paid with federal money; thus, the outsourcing of federal and military duties to private corporations. And the clear motive of the company receiving the outsourced job was not to help or support society, but instead to profit. This storyline is very subtle, but it is written in a way that draws out emotion and shock. The theme could have been easily over done, but instead it was treaded over lightly enough to provide readers with a visceral reaction and wonder what would happen right now as the result of a natural disaster? Would the scenario Mike Mullin sets up be the one to happen?

So why 4 stars if I loved this book and I have marked it as a favorite? Well, I found the beginning difficult to access as a reader; I was not invested until the crisis began. But once the event happened, this book quickly became one that I could not put down.

The story ends without concluding the characters’ tale, but it does end with hope and it ends without a cliffhanger. I will definitely be reading the next in the series. And note to Mike Mullin if you happen to be reading this, since I am from the area in which you set your book I am more than happy to consult with you. Additionally, one thing you might want to consider is the geographic area for the setting of Ashfall has several nuclear power plants (several!) – how are these plants affected by the eruption of the super volcano?
Profile Image for Tink Magoo is bad at reviews.
1,248 reviews194 followers
April 8, 2016
I'm not entirely sure why I put myself through reading books like this when they cause a sense of panic to flow right through my body and out the end. Honestly I would be completely inadequate; I don't know any survival skills; I couldn't butcher a pencil let alone an animal.

Please excuse me while I run off to take a survival course, learn to run a farm and befriend anyone that would get advance warning of an incoming apocalypse so I can ransack the supermarket/ bookshops/ pharmacies/ diy stores etc. before anyone else can. (On a side note the thought of not having to pay for my shopping excites me far too much.)

Also on my list to acquire - a bomb shelter with inbuilt solar generators, water stations, animals - I'm going to turn into one of those hoarders who lives alone in the middle of Alaska. *Please note I'm recruiting for any skilled professionals who will ponder to my every whim- must be ready to leave their lives behind if an impending natural disaster is imminent*

Anyway what was I supposed to be talking about - Oh, the book!

I loved it. It makes you ask yourself what lengths you would go to to survive. The world building in this was so real that I half expected to wake up on a farm surrounded by ash myself. The writing was descriptive without going over board and describing the curtain texture to me over 2 pages (that shit actually happened in a book I read). Alex and Darla were perfectly imperfect and real. It made a change for the woman to know more than the man, she wasn't some helpless damsel in distress. And of course they'll think of sex during times like that - I would want any escape I could get from the reality they were living.

I could go on and on, but I don't want to spoil anything. This isn't a fairytale with a happy ending, it's gritty, sad, scary, real and hopeful. Can't wait to read the next one
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
February 9, 2017
Ashfall was kindly provided to me by Netgalley for Tanglewood.

Expected Publication Date: October 11th 2011

Ashfall was one of the most well written books I’ve read in a long time. I was so enthralled with this book that I read it a little bit at a time because I wanted to relish this book and all that it was about.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy learning to survive on his own after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts. With the electricity out, the sun hidden behind a cloud of ash, and the obligation to remain indoors to keep from breathing in the deadly ash, Alex has to learn quickly what it takes to survive on his own. He takes shelter with his neighbors after his house becomes uninhabitable; however, after witnessing an intensely traumatic event he takes off on his own in hopes he can get to where his parents are: over 100 miles away. Alex doesn’t blink at the prospect of traveling 100 miles until he realizes that he’s going to need to do this on foot.

The Good
Everything, and I mean everything, about this novel was spot-on amazing. The relationship between Alex and Darla was so heartbreaking and realistic. At the point in the novel where Darla joins him on his journey to find his parents, they have become emotionally dependent on each other because they’re slowly realizing just how lonely the world has become. Watching Alex grow and develop in the novel was also pretty moving. Here’s a kid who at the beginning of the novel who was excited because his parents had left him home alone for the weekend for the first time in his life and he could do whatever he wanted. By the end of the novel that ‘Alex’ is long gone. The one thing that I found so incredible about this book was the complete and utter realism of the book. There’s no fluff to this story and you can truly imagine every single scenario actually happening. Overall, the story of survival and strength is a beautiful one.

The Bad
I was so overwhelmed by the end of this novel that I couldn’t express my opinions and views into sentences. This is not bad. This is me explaining that it took me about a month to finally be able to sort through all my thoughts in order to write my review and to be able to determine wholeheartedly that I enjoyed everything about this novel.

I loved at the end that the author Mike Mullin included information about the research he had done and how he had combined several scientific findings to create what he believed to be a realistic possibility if a Yellowstone supervolcano were to actually happen. Yes, it freaked me out a little (okay, maybe more than a little) at the prospect of something like this really occurring (and yes I totally freaked out at my complete lack of preparation for the end of the world). In the end though, this will now be one of my favorite books ever and I’ll be waiting anxiously (but not patiently) for the next chapter in the Ashfall series.

Interested in more of my reviews? Visit my blog!
Profile Image for Buggy.
490 reviews679 followers
July 4, 2014
Opening Line: “I was home alone on that Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean.”

Well this was super good. I picked up Ashfall and literally didn’t stop reading for about 80 pages. I mean I didn’t even move from where I was standing. The opening chapters are just unputtdownable, with each ending on a note like; “then the explosions started” or “I took off running” and “When she pried the flap of flesh open with her pocketknife, I screamed and passed out” so that you just have to keep reading.

In fact the entire book is one awesome and fairly disturbing adrenaline ride. Following 16 year old Alex who has been left alone for the weekend while his parents visit family out of state (yay) His plans include, sleeping in, playing World of Warcraft and not having to deal with his stupid sister and Mum’s constant nagging.

Then the supervolcano erupts, sending a chunk of rock through the roof of his house and spewing endless ash, darkness and winter into the skies. It’s an epic disaster and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as the deafening eruptions stop and Alex manages to climb out of his neighbors bathtub, oh and witness a guy being shot in the head he begins his trek to find his family. With a backpack a few taekwondo moves and his dad’s old skies he sets out on a harrowing journey.

Within days it feels like the world (and the reader) has been plunged back in time. In chapter 1 he’s playing video games, by chapter 17 he’s been attacked by a psycho with an axe and is recovering on a farm, learning how to butcher meat, tan hides and grind corn. Its survival of the strongest and smartest in this new world and no one (especially FEMA) is to be trusted. Jeez that camp….

When Alex leaves the farm he takes the amazing Darla with him, she’s a kickass heroine who I ended up liking just as much as Alex. Together they’re kinda unstoppable and very sweet. Along the way Alex does make a couple of really dumb decisions –not to the fault of, but with kudos to the author. I got so angry with him -are you crazy, giving away your meager supplies to that woman and her kids, its every man for himself out here. To me this was a sign of good writing and that I was way into the story.

Alex’s character goes through massive changes in the months that follow, so that by the end we see a man, not a teen, changed forever by horrific events. The evolution is so subtle you’re not even aware it’s happened.

I couldn’t help but compare this book to Life As We Knew It –which is another excellent read and took me ages to recover from. They’ve both left me stockpiling food (gin) and supplies, hungry and very, very cold. Cheers.

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,459 reviews8,559 followers
July 1, 2014
Here are the three C's of how I would react if a supervolcano exploded near my hometown:
1) Check Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads for moral support
2) Cry when the internet either A) offers no moral support or B) dies
3) Create a fortress out of books in my bedroom, proceed to lie down and read/weep until my inevitable death

Ashfall felt like a mix of Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In the first chapter a giant piece of rock destroys fifteen-year-old Alex's house, and right away he decides to venture out into the ash and find his family. Along the way he encounters Darla, a tenacious girl with a knack for mechanics, and together they fight to stay alive amidst the chaos caused by a supervolcano's explosion.

Mike Mullin creates a convincing post-apocalyptic world in Ashfall. The ubiquitous ash, the decay of law and morality, and the construction of different societal systems all captured me and took me into the story. As Mullin writes in his author's note, he relies on scientific speculation for some of the events in Ashfall, but his research in regard to reading accounts of past volcanic explosions paid off for sure. Through Alex, he portrays the human side of disaster with aplomb as well:

For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own.

Alex acts as a great mix of ordinary and remarkable. In many ways, he matches the image of a stereotypical fifteen-year-old boy - obsessed with video games, self-absorbed to an extent, detached from his emotions - but his growth over the course of the novel amazed me. He always possessed a purpose, whether it's finding his family or protecting Darla, and his assiduousness guided him in his journey through a changed, unforgiving world.

Darla deserves praise as well. She defies gender stereotypes with her penchant for machines and farm work, but she maintains her honesty as a character through her vulnerability and her relationship with Alex. Their bond reminded of the relationship between Todd and Viola in The Knife of Never Letting Go, as they clung to each other to cleave hope out of rubble and ruin. I look forward to seeing their romance develop because it has a ton of potential.

Overall, recommended for fans of YA dystopia and science-fiction, especially those searching for a post-apocalyptic story with a great male protagonist. I await the second installment, and I am thankful for all of my wonderful Goodreads friends for motivating me to pick Ashfall up.
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
October 25, 2011
Wow. I may need to sign up for some Taekwondo classes. That was awesome.

There was a time when I used to watch all those Discovery Channel science shows. Shark Week, Storm Chasers, I watched them all. My all-time favorites were the volcano shows. Then I learned about the Yellowstone Super Volcano. The sheer size of this volcano boggles the mind and should it decide to blow, life on earth (especially North America) would undergo some drastic changes.

Ashfall begins on an ordinary Friday afternoon in late August. Alex Halprin, almost 16 years old, is being left home alone for the weekend as his parents and sister go visit relatives about 140 miles east of Alex’s home town in Iowa. Alex is a normal teenager, self-absorbed in his own things, and he is excited to spend time on his own.

Rumblings, tremors, earthquakes, noise….a huge boulder hits Alex’s home and sets it on fire. Incessant ashfall blankets everything, causing buildings to buckle under its weight. Alex’s world changes drastically. After taking temporary shelter next door at his neighbors, Alex is forced to embark on a journey to find his parents.

This is a compelling read. Alex’s town is about 900 miles east of the volcano and the devastation is catastrophic. Resources such as food, water, and communications are non-existent. Society devolves quickly. Lawlessness, violence, volcanic ash, and poor air quality make travelling dangerous.

I loved Alex’s character. When we are first introduced to Alex, he is just an ordinary teen, nothing special. Alex matures remarkably fast and becomes strong, resourceful, and dependable throughout the novel. When slogging through volcanic ash on foot, Alex realizes that perhaps the going would be quicker on skis. Alex’s taekwondo skills are most useful when dealing with some of the dangerous characters he meets up with.

I also loved Darla, Alex’s travelling companion. Darla was smart, imaginative, and extremely handy with mechanics. Alex and Darla were perfect for each other and I enjoyed how they learned to depend on each other.

I devoured this book. I could not put it down. I’ve even revised our family’s emergency kit to include some Vitamin C tablets (never thought of that!). Maybe I’ll even register the kids in some martial arts classes.

A sequel is planned for Fall 2012. Ashen Winter – I can’t wait to read it.

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy of this book.

Posted on Badass Book Reviews.

Profile Image for TL .
1,820 reviews35 followers
October 6, 2015
Hmmm... On one hand I enjoyed it and it kept my attention and loved the characters. It had a very realistic feel to it. Loved Alex and Darla, their relationship developed naturally over the course of the story, never felt rushed or anything.

The world around them, it was scary and the tension was high... it was well done and I could see it playing out inside my head. I admired Alex and Darla for being so resourceful and not giving up (even though I wanted to smack Alex one time but I may have reacted the same way, who knows), even when they reached a certain destination.

A certain incident with a certain character and Alex's actions had me seething and cheering for Alex for what he did. I kept giving Darla hugs after that for awhile.

So why the rating? I liked it but wasn't in love with it. It's a good tale but after I reached the last page, I just don't feel the desire to continue. I feel... underwhelmed somehow? Can't quite put my finger on it.

It's a well-written tale don't get me wrong, you should check it out... just for me this is the end of the line *shrugs*

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
August 3, 2011
I decided to give this 3.5 stars, but rounded up to 4.

“For the first time ever, I felt ashamed of my species. The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn’t taken our humanity. No, we’d given that up on our own.”

(I just realised this quote is the same one that Maja chose... but it's a good quote :-D)

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
And then….? What a random place to finish.

High Point.
SUPERVOLCANO. 10/10 for originality, Mr Mullin. Alex. Ash fights. Pancakes. Shot guns. Campfires. Igloos. Determination. Hope. Loyalty. Companionship. Family. Horrifying. Bunnies. Spooning. Ash in uncomfortable places

Low Point.
Where was the lavaaaa? *whinges* I thought this book was going to be less dystopian aftermathy and more ‘HOLY EFF THERE IS LITERALLY LAVA COMING AFTER US RUUUUN’.
But that’s just me who watches Dante’s Peak every time it is shown on ITV2…. Which is surprisingly a lot.
Also, one thing that struck me (mostly at the beginning, actually, it kind of calmed down as the book went on) was how much Mr Mullin really liked his dramatic chapter ending sentence.
It seemed that every single chapter (and they are short chapters!) was like “It was such a normal and boring day… UNTIL THIS HAPPENED…” or “The seconds turned to minutes that then turned to hours and nothing happened. Well, that is until THE WORLD BEGAN TO END.”
It all just got a bit too much....
Also… the ending bothered me... it just seemed really abrupt.

Oh I loved Alex. Mullin created a great character with Alex and considering he found himself in the worst situation you could imagine, he remained strong and so resourceful (seriously, I’d have just parked myself on my drive to wait it out) and persistent in his quest to find his family.
Alex didn’t try to be a badass or become broody/ whingey about his situation but he just got on with things, doing a fantastic job at looking after not only himself but other people around him. Mullin’s portrayal of Alex transforming from a moody teenager into a brave, courageous and moral adult was particularly well-written and moving.
He was also hilarious and a typical boy at times that had me laughing out loud on many occasions.
Oh and he knows taekwondo and can chop you into OBLIVION.
Um, yeah. That’s right.

Yeah, that’s right. She gets her own heading. None of this best friend/love interest nonsense for this lady. Darla is amazing.She’s no nonsense, feisty, sarcastic, vulnerable, sweet and she can skin a fricken rabbit and gut a pig without crying like a small child.
And she has a toy boy and she wears the (albeit a little ashy) pants in that relationship.

Theme Tune.
Surprisingly, there are not many songs about SUPER VOLCANOS. I know, weird, right?
Burn Baby Burn - Ash.

Geddit? Also.. I’m pretty sure that the lava (that there was NO MENTION OF) would burn…baby, burn.

Angst Level.
8/10. There is a section just after half-way in this book that absolutely trod on my heart. With heavy boots on. And then stilettos. But I want you guys to suffer like I did read that without spoiling it.
As I come from a place where the only real threatening weather/natural disaster is floods, it would normally have been difficult for me to imagine what it would be like in Alex’s shoes. But, with Mullins’ brilliant vision of what it would be like (even if it is just speculation) and the exploration of not just how geography would change but how humanity (or, lack thereof) would be affected was brutally realistic and, unfortunately, not that difficult to imagine actually happening.
And that scared the living bejeesus out of me.

Recommended For.
People who are looking for a new take on dystopian fiction. People who love pancakes. People who can ski. People who like camping in the great outdoors…. Surrounding by mountains of ASH. People who have seen better equipment on goats. People who don’t like rabbits…. Or pigs. People who hate getting ash in their kecks. People who worry about where they’d get condoms from if there was a natural disaster People who always think of Pierce Brosnon in potentially life threatening situation, until Mama Mia... when his career became life threatening.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publishers.

You can read this review and lots of other exciting stuff on my blog here.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,375 reviews206 followers
September 13, 2011
One of my many book addictions is the “End of the World As We Know It” stories or otherwise known as “Oh-My-Good-Golly-What–Do-We-Do-Now?” books! :) Over the years, these tales have begun to possess similar plots, events, scares, and attitudes. But Mike Mullin’s Ashfall felt like a brand new bag in many ways! It held such inspiration, morality, and hope in the pages. This story felt more like a journey towards a new way of living in a new world rather than the beginning of the end.

After a supervolcano erupts in Yellowstone National Park, Alex’s weekend of freedom away from his family turns into a struggle and journey to survive in a world now covered in ash, darkness, unpredictable weather, violence, pain, loss, hunger, and fear. Alex sets off on foot and skis on a trek across Iowa to find his family and discovers so much more along the way. Alex’s battle to survive brings him face to face with friends, foes, and Darla!

Alex and Darla are flat out amazing! This book does not shy away from the harshness in a battle to survive, but love is a big part of this story. They were adorable, smart, strong, and caring towards each other and the people they came across on the road. It was a joy to watch these two conquer a problem with patience, strength, smarts, and grace. They encouraged, leaned on each other, and were not afraid to let the other one lead at times. It was just so refreshing to see intelligent young adults with a “we-should-try-it-how-hard-can-it-be” attitude. I fell in love with both of them! But I’ll just say it, Darla was my hero! The girl kicked ass! :)

Some of my favorite parts of Ashfall were the detailed lessons of the different techniques Alex and Darla used to help them survive. They incorporated skills they practiced in their “old” lives, skills they had read about, and theories that they now had to try to battle the elements and starvation. I truly admired their attitudes through out the highs and lows of their travels. I would have wanted to curl up and die at points, but they constantly pushed each other to keep learning and trying. Much of the science and skills, such as pig farming, greenhouses, smoking meat, and grinding corn, were well explained point by point, but at the same time piqued the reader’s interest to perhaps follow up on a topic. I found myself asking—is that true? I enjoyed all the survival lessons—even the gross ones! :)

This story showed the ugly side of a society struggling to survive, but it encouraged the best. My hat goes off to you, Mr. Mullin! You have written an end of the world as we know it story, but infused it with hope. Hope in love. Hope in humanity. Survival is key, but who we choose to surround ourselves with and how and what we do to survive should be the most important parts of the journey.

It was a very refreshing take on the genre and I look forward to the next book!

Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,163 followers
May 12, 2012
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Remember back when dystopian was a new genre and it was supposed to be full of scary, post-apocalyptic stories? Remember how that quickly changed from dystopian to dystopian-romance, a genre dedicated to the love stories of two unlikely people in a society that is most likely (a) keeping the people ignorant (b) controlling the people or (c) infested with zombies/vampires? Well, Mike Mullin takes us back to the original dystopian – the kind that’s scary, believable, and almost a little too realistic for comfort.

The last thing anyone expected to happen was a colossal volcano in Yellowstone to erupt, leaving the land surrounding it covered in ash for miles – even as far as Iowa. Alex, alone at home while his family visits his uncle and aunt, certainly doesn’t see it coming and when it does, his world is thrown upside down. Now, Alex is forced to journey to find his parents – at any cost. But, this new world that Alex is apart of is covered high with ash, bereft of food, filled with dying people, and seems to bring out the worst of human nature. People who Alex thought he could trust turn into murderers, the community where he was brought up in turns to pillaging for survival, and nearly everyone he knows lets him down. Around him, the world may be ending, but for Alex, his adventure is simply beginning…

For some reason or the other, even my highest expectations of this book couldn’t match what it truly was like. Not only is it refreshing to read a dystopian novel written by a male author, it was even more surprising to see it narrated by a male narrator – one who was witty, intelligent, and completely kick-ass. Alex’s narration flows with a poise that makes you keep flipping the pages unrelentlessly, not wanting to stop or be interrupted in the middle. It is engaging and utterly took me by surprise because of how much I enjoyed reading it. Furthermore, Alex’s character was easy to fall in love with. Although Alex has taken taekwondo and can easily defend himself, he still feels fear, disgust, repulsion, and confusion both by his daunting task and the world he now lives in. I don’t think I can properly articulate into words just how real this book felt to me. Let me just say that whenever Alex felt as if he tasted sulfur, I felt as if there was a sulfurous taste in my mouth too. Alex, his feelings, emotions, worries, pains – all of them felt as real as if I were experiencing them. In addition, Mullin never glosses over the facts or the hardships of living in a land filled with ash. There are gruesome and revolting scenes in this story, but they are essential for human survival and make this novel all the more poignant and believable because of it.

Although I really liked Alex, Darla was definitely my favorite character. The only bad thing about Darla is that you have to read a little over a hundred pages to meet her, but she is awesome! If there was a poster-child for the perfect female heroine, Darla would be it. She’s intelligent, brave, and kick-ass, but she’s also afraid, grief-stricken, and doesn’t know when to stop being sarcastic. Her character had so many flaws, but they all added to her sheer perfection and relate-ability. Same goes with Alex as well, but I admired Darla and what she had to go through slightly more than I did Alex. Yet, my favorite aspect about these two amazing characters was their chemistry. Darla and Alex come alive on the page, playing perfect complements to one another. They support one another, understand one another, and show a true caring that can only be called love. Furthermore, their romance never takes away from the serious issues of this novel – it only adds to and fits in with the richness of the overall story.

Ashfall is a story that is nearly impossible to put down. If you look up page-turner in the dictionary, a picture of its cover will be there right next to it. The setting of the story is unique and scary, simply because it is a scenario that could truly happen. The characters are inspiring, the messages universal, and the sequel is coming out far too long away. If you haven’t already read Ashfall, I suggest you go read it now. You never know when the next volcano may erupt, leaving our world in a blanket of ash, so seize the book while you have the time… ;)
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
763 reviews1,477 followers
December 20, 2015
Edit: Downgrading my review to 1 star because, on reflection, I really disliked the gratuitous nature of violence in this book. Note that this is not an objection to the inclusion of violence, but to the fact that it often had only the most minimal narrative impact, in moving Alex and Darla from one point to the next. One of the clearest examples of this is the break-in that occurs at the beginning of the book, when Alex is sheltering with his neighbors, which ends with one of those neighbors shooting two of the three attackers. The purpose of this event, in addition to shock/horror, seems mostly to be getting Alex out of the house, but the impact on characterization is minimal. Throughout the book, violence gets a cursory mention after it occurs, but seems to have no long-term implications (except the idea that Alex has 'become an adult' partly due to it) or psychological impacts. This is clearly a writing choice, conscious or unconscious, resulting from presenting all of the book's aggressors as cartoonishly shallow villains. Those three looters could have included someone Alex or his neighbors knew or recognized, to drive home a point about how trauma and crisis had changed people; instead, they are (in short order literally) faceless menaces. It's all so shallow your feet barely get wet.

Disclaimer: I read this book with the specific intent of boosting my NetGalley statistics. My access to it on NetGalley has long since expired, so obviously that had no impact on my rating or review, but I feel like I should explain why I picked it up.

So: it was that, and it was morbid curiosity only permitted by having forgotten why I took it off my to-read shelf in the first place.

A lot of people love this book and this series, which I'm sure is great for them. Personally, it's not my jam; it never has been since I read the synopsis, but with all those rave reviews I thought... why not? Why not give it a chance and see if Mike Mullin's writing can get me past his premise?

The writing is the reason I nearly gave up in the first three chapters. Had I not been reading this with the specific intent of giving it a chance, I would have just walked away there, because the beginning of this book is - to put it nicely - clearly amateur. There's an agonizingly detailed infodump on Alex's life, in which the reader is thoroughly informed that he does taekwondo and subjected to an honest-to-god description of grinding in Warcraft. The amazing thing about this is that as the book progresses, the prose does get considerably better; I can only conclude that the beginning of the narrative was... entirely skipped in the editing/polishing process, that any of this stuff made it in. (With the exception of the taekwondo, which the reader hears about at length for the rest of the book, none of this even serves as a Chekov's Gun.)

The other big factor here, which underlies some of my other problems with the book as a whole, is quite simply its premise. I'll give Mullin his due: he's clearly done a lot of research into what a Yellowstone eruption would look like and how it would impact the world. Where it falls apart for me is even earlier than that, though, because the idea of the suddenness with which it happens in this book is beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. I can't do it. There's no way I can look at it and either say "Yes, that makes sense," or "That makes no sense, but I'll ignore it for the sake of the story". And here's why: the suddenness of the eruption is the driving factor behind Mullin's projections of human behavior.

Everything else about the book falls out because the eruption was sudden. The sense of crisis, the fear of food shortage, the speed at which people turn to violence - it's all founded in the idea of this abrupt change in the world, unpredictable and unavoidable, in the face of which some people band together and others go on a rampage. But because the premise is implausible, the crisis feels manufactured - just as Alex's oh-so-convenient habit of passing out hungry on the doorstep of someone generous feels manufactured. There was a constant feeling of artificiality tugging at my mind as I read - a problem of particular magnitude in, say, some of the scenes of extreme violence. When everything feels manufactured, the volcano comes to look like an excuse for the desolation and violence of the landscape (from a writing perspective), not the cause.

I would like to put forward the idea that a similar story could have been written in which the eruption was predicted and an evacuation at least begun (though for shock and drama, the volcano could still erupt before Alex gets out). It'd raise some interesting questions: How do you prepare for a volcanic eruption on this scale? Does the US even have the infrastructure? Would we see, as we did in post-Katrina evacuations, a race/class stratification of who gets out first, who gets helped? Who chooses to stay? And how does it reshape people's reactions if they had believed they would escape, and instead find themselves trapped?

There's a fantastic essay I can't track down about The Walking Dead as a fantasy, that essentially by stripping away society the story strips away limitations on its characters. TWD's heroes are all extraordinary, this essay argues, because they may well be the last of the human race. Their every action has great import, and their survival (at any cost) is paramount. This book falls into that same trap, particularly near the end:
"During the trip, I was free. In Cedar Falls or here, I'm just somebody's kid. In between, I was Alex. I decided where I slept and when, who I talked to and who I avoided. Sure, the ash and psychotic killers weren't fun, but I've only been here one day, and already I miss that feeling of freedom, of being my own man."

The worst part of this is that the fantasy of post-apocalyptic freedom from society is, here, overriding the fact that Alex and Darla should be carrying some deep, deep, complicated trauma, which they never show any sign of.

Plausibility falls by the wayside: the book in a nutshell.
Profile Image for D.G..
1,363 reviews343 followers
September 5, 2013
**4.5 stars**

I'm not much for survivalist kind of books but I loved this one. It scared the hell out me though - I'm really not ready for a situation like this. Thankfully, it's not bound to happen in my lifetime. :)

This is the story of Alex, a typical teenager who has to grow up fast when he finds himself alone in the midst of the biggest natural disaster of his lifetime. He's separated from his family (by his own choice) and now that he doesn't have them, he finds that he misses them terribly. He then decides to trek 150 miles to find them and is confronted with the best and worst of humanity.

Although Alex is just 16, this is a really mature sort of YA. The horror of their situation is not glossed over so we know when they are hungry, dirty and even how they manage their bodily functions. There's a lot of fear and the realization that the world as they knew it has ended and that they must be wary of strangers in a way they never were before.

It really touched me how Alex decided to follow his heart and not let himself be swept away by fear. It would have been really easy for him to just look out for himself but he realizes that he's alive because of the kindness of others and he pays it forward when he can even when that's the hard thing to do.

This is not a romance but it has one of the most tender and romantic relationships I've seen in a long time (both in YA and adult fiction.) Physical attraction is not even the first thing for them because really, they are not looking their best. Their relationship is about sharing the good and the bad and just being happy of every minute together, knowing that someone they love has their back and always will. However, they are teenagers in love so of course sex is part of the equation and I loved, simply LOVED, how sex is addressed as something natural and normal. Alex is not the type of asexual teen that can kill a person but never feels anything below the belt like we see in a lot of YA. Instead he's a normal young man who reacts at the proximity of a pretty young woman even in dire situations. :)

I'm really excited to read the sequel...I don't know how much I'll be able to wait before I learn what happens next.

(Provided for review by Tanglewood via netGalley.)
Profile Image for Dichotomy Girl.
2,008 reviews128 followers
January 18, 2016
Halfway through reading this, I felt the need to inform my husband how woefully unprepared we are for the coming apocalypse.

We don't own a shotgun.

I don't know how to slaughter my own meat, or cook over an open fire.

And I am completely ill equipped to deal with the inevitable downfall of society.

Once I accepted my inadequacy and accepted that I would most likely be one of the first casualties, I could sit back and enjoy the story of Alex's battle for survival on his journey to find his parents after the cataclysmic supervolcano and ensuing ashfall.
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