Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ashfall, by Mike Mullin (fiction) - volcano disaster, dangerous trek, epic determination

book cover of Ashfall by Mike Mullin published by Tanglewood Books
As volcanic ash fills the Iowa skies,
violent earthquakes rattle the cornfields,
booms louder than cannons go on for hours and hours,
it seems like the end of the world is now...
but the end is just beginning.

Yellowstone's geysers and fumaroles have always hinted at its geothermal potential for destruction. The supervolcano eruption long feared by geologists has come at last, and Alex's home 900 miles east is under attack from its furies.

The enormous ash plume will spread through the atmosphere, block out sunlight, cause sudden and long-lasting winter weather. No sunshine means no crops growing, no crops means no food, widespread famine and desperation. Imagine the damage that sharp corrosive ash will do to auto engine air intakes, aircraft jet engines, delicate lung tissue of people and animals.

And Alex heads out into this ashfall with meager supplies and no sunrise to guide him eastward, trying to reunite with his family, to survive.

Visiting Yellowstone National Park last September, I smelled the sulfur of its hot spring pools, saw entire forests killed by rising super-scalding water levels, watched Old Faithful geyser jet up hundreds of feet into the sky. Yep, this supervolcano potential is real, and scientists are closely monitoring it - but can't stop it.

First-time author Mike Mullin describes a perilous apocalyptic world which is all the more frightening because it really could happen at any moment. Book two in the series, Ashen Winter, will be published in October 2012 - pre-order it as soon as possible at your favorite independent bookstore because you won't want to wait a single extra day to read what happens after Ashfall!
**kmm

Book info: Ashfall / Mike Mullin. Tanglewood Books, 2011. [author's website]    [publisher site]   [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:  Alex wants to skip visiting his uncle’s goat farm, and his parents finally agree to let the 16-year-old stay home alone this time, on that September weekend when the whole world changed, when a supervolcano eruption rocked civilization to its core.

It’s not like Alex was planning a wild party in his parents’ absence – just computer games and junk food on the menu. But those teen pleasures are gone now, like clear air and electricity and sunshine and phone service and clean water and trusting other people. Even 900 miles from the Yellowstone supervolcano, earthquakes throw houses around like kids’ blocks in their Iowa hometown. Then the ash begins to fall from the sky…and fall and fall and fall, clogging car engines, making it hard to breathe, getting into every crevice of his clothes.

Determined to get to his family, Alex gathers whatever food and gear he can, then heads east cross-country on Dad’s skis. Driving to Warren takes an hour and a half – how long will it take now? Slogging through ever-deepening ash, running short of water and food, he avoids farmhouses where he can see rifle barrels glinting in the windows, tries to find shelter in this flat farmland it gets colder and colder.

He keeps moving east, encountering very few refugees, some even less-prepared than he is, one much more dangerous than anyone he ever wanted to meet. Wounded, he stumbles into the first farmyard along the road and is taken in by Mrs. Edmunds and her teen daughter. Luckily, Darla has enough veterinary training to sew him up, and there’s corn to feed them for a while. Unluckily, trouble is coming down the road toward them, fast.

Can Alex really get to his uncle’s farm under his own power? Can he protect Darla and her mom if they go with him? What’s their biggest danger – the ash searing their lungs, the sudden heavy snowfall, or the viciousness of other people?

Vividly portraying a dystopian scenario that’s entirely too possible, Ashfall  is first in a series, followed by Ashen Winter (book 2).  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) My personal copy of book. Cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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