Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

By Mike Mullin
466 Pages
Published by Tanglewood Press
Publication Date: October 11, 2011

From Goodreads:

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.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

Let me state for the record that I am a Yellowstone junkie.  I watch so many NatGeo & Discovery Channel programs about it that I could probably host one myself at this point. And I’m DYING to go there, even though my significant male is neither outdoorsy nor into camping or any sort of “wildlife.” My efforts to persuade him that it’s the coolest vacation of all time by informing him that they have hot springs so hot that if you fell in they’d boil you alive like a crayfish until the flesh melted from your bones have thus far been met with blank stares and stinkeyes. I mean honestly, what kind of a person doesn’t think that sounds like a good time? Am I right?

Since I’m a well-rounded nerd I’m also a bit of a supervolcano junkie, not surprisingly specifically the one in Yellowstone. I mean, dystopian is a great genre even if it’s far fetched. But realistic dystopia? Stuff that could actually happen, like the real possibility of a volcano erupting? TERRIFYING. If you’ve never seen the supervolcano documentary that was produced by BBC One and aired on Discovery Channel and you don’t mind losing many hours of sleep I highly recommend it. Literally effing terrifying. When Eyjafjallajokull (don’t ask me to pronounce it) erupted in Iceland in 2010 I was totally riveted, and it wasn’t even close to a supervolcano eruption.

So needless to say, my reaction to reading the synopsis to this book was a lot like this:

I was not disappointed. The action starts right away and is pretty well-paced throughout the book. It moves along at a steady clip and despite being 460+ pages it doesn’t drag at all, nor does it feel overly long.

Alex is a really cool character – not a big kid, but tough because of all of his taekwondo training. It turns out to be a very valuable survival skill for him and I liked that he had an actual reason for being able to fight for his safety. I mean, there can’t be that many people out there who are naturally strong/good fighters. As good as Alex was, Darla really stole the book in my opinion. She’s really awesome – strong and smart, and she possesses an absolute ton of useful skills she acquired growing up on a farm that prove invaluable in the post-volcano world. Alex & Darla make a great pair and their strengths make up for one another’s weaknesses.

The book also seems meticulously researched, which I appreciated a lot for the most part. There was a part involving rabbits that was kind of gag-city and I had to skip over it, so that’s a warning for people who are sensitive about animal violence the way I am. There are a few places in this book that will bother you. It’s not gratuitous or anything and it’s done for survival reasons, but still…ugh.

There’s not a super cliffhanger ending and I liked that, but I was left wanting more so I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel.

4.5 Stars

Leave a comment


  1. This is one book that I am dying to get my hands on! You’ve made me even more excited for it now. 🙂 Awesome review!

    • It’s really good! I love an author who does his/her research and makes things accurate even when they could probably get away with just making shit up. I can’t wait for the sequel.

  2. I’ve been kinda interested in this for a while, but your description has awakened my inner geek. Ohhhh, Karen. I think our inner nerds may be Soulmates. I’m so going to read Ashfall first chance I get.
    Great review!

  3. I love real dystopia stuff. The kind that could actually happen scares the living shit out of me, but in a good way! I have been wanting to read this one.. I just haven’t had the nerve to buy it yet. I held it in my hands a few times. maybe i’ll get it for my kindle.

    I need to read this for realz. Have you read the moon series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Well, I guess its actually the survivors series. Well there are 3 books. An astroid hits the moon, pushing it closer to earth. It fucks shit up! And… it takes place in NE Pennsylvania and NYC. I loved those books. I bought hella canned foods while reading them. You might like them too! My cousin just finished mine, if you want I can send them to you when I get them back. 🙂

    Anyways, lovely review as always. Your GIF picture is super slow on my work computer, he looks like he’s trying to very slowly scratch an itch. lol

    • I read the first book in that series and I’ve been meaning to read the rest! I’m glad you brought it up, I need to make sure I add them to my list. I don’t even bother collecting canned food. In the event of an emergency someone would probably just kill me and take them anyway. At least this way if I don’t buy any food, we all starve. Take that, my would-be murderers!

      I was going to use my gif of someone very slowly scratching an itch!


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