My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I remember when I was little,maybe, nine or ten years old, and I watched a movie Volcano and was plagued by nightmares for days afterward. It was mainly the lava devouring everything in its path that scared me. I was just terrified that one day it would come up behind me and start consuming me, starting from my legs, as well. Even worse would be just standing there, watching as me legs disappeared into nothing, unable to do anything, feeling the heat rising off of it and my skin being roasted, the smell of it, the smoke battering me from below, suffocating me and poisoning my larynx and blood as I open my mouth to scream. I had a pretty graphic imagination, even then. But the fact is, over the time as I grew up, I never really factored in all the other ramifications of a volcanic eruption. And this book fixed that for me as well. I mean, really, it seems that as I grow up, I seem to be becoming more of a scaredy-cat; reading all these books and watching all the TV shows is slowly but steadily nurturing a coward complex in the tiny corner of my brain that handles all this.
Ashfall is in a sense a guide for everyone, not impaired by he Supervolcanic eruption, but by its side accomplices- ash and stuff. There is no lava-fighting(why?). It’s about survival in a world damaged by the eruption of a long-suppressed volcano, the Yellowstone. This book deals with all the upshots and doesn’t shy away from all the grody details, exactly my type. It also reminds me of another likable survival novel, Life As We Knew It and I’ll go so far as to say it’s even better.
Our main protagonist, Alex, is a likable enough character. Just your average, geeky guy who can do heeya! and chop-chop! stuff(taekwondo). And pretty intelligent and ingenious too, though he only scored average grades in school. While on the way to his parents’, he is a kind fellow who provides food and shelter to a family of four, even though he needs it as well. He puts their survival before his. He’s empathetic and soft-hearted. But he’s not perfect. He is capable of doing stuff, bad stuff, to ensure his own survival. He is, in a word, complex.
The other main character, Darla, is also complicated. She is a hard-working farm-girl who dives headfirst into unpleasant stuff. She’s not as compassionate as Alex and gets mad whenever he does something nice for others, as it endangers their own lives. But she has a soft side as well.
Mike Mullin has created an apt mirror of the world as it could be, if the Yellowstone ever explodes. Worldwide food crisis, military encampments, violent streets and the best of all, fugitives. Because, obviously, if the world went to hell, the police guards wouldn’t be standing guard around the prison cells, would they? He’s paid attention to every tiny detail; nothing is left hanging. The world is so richly scripted- every tiny scene. Although, sometimes it went overboard with weird nonsensical terms that I could make neither head nor tail of. Only once did I feel like he was rushing everything along to meet achieve his own ends, (view spoiler).
I just can’t believe it took me so long to get to this book. Where was it all this time? Oh, that’s right- right on top of my TBR list that I couldn’t be bothered to glance at! Because this book packs a punch, even when nothing worthwhile is happening.
But… I just can’t figure one thing out. I was recently reading about “Shifting Cultivation” while studying the history of agriculture and peasantry(I know!) and in this people used to cut forests and burn them. They they lest the land fallow until the monsoon arrived and mixed the ashes with the soil, which increased its fertility. The way I see it, the people of Ashfall should try it. Well, when the summer arrives, which could be a long time. However, it’s constantly mentioned that the ashes would hamper the growth of plants and crops.