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.