When Alex convinces his parents to leave him alone for a weekend, little does he know that the world is about to change. Something crashes through the roof of his house, setting it on fire and soon the whole neighbourhood sounds like it is under siege. This is the beginning of the eruption of the super-volcano under Yellowstone National Park.
Alex makes the decision to try and find his parents who are over 100 miles away through ash and snow. The plot wanders as much as he does, going from one post-apocalyptic scenario to the next and I felt it was at least 100 pages too long. I liked the world where ash dominates every thing they do but I felt the writing style was aimed at a younger reader. Yet the content was at times rather graphic (murder, rape, cannibalism). There was a tendency for chapters to end with a dramatic statement, which works once or twice but was over-used.
I know teenage boys eat a lot but it seriously got on my nerves when Alex was describing starving when he was getting a good three meals a day. OK they were uninspiring meals out of cans but I’ve eaten less some days and I think my mind would be more focussed on surviving the ash-filled world than my grumbling stomach. The importance of sourcing food seemed a central concept to the book and, whilst cruel to the characters, it would have made more of an impact if they didn’t seem to always have something to eat.
I was already starting to tire a little of the story when a character announced that the rest of the world was starving because of the lack of American corn after something like 8 weeks. What? I would have been more inclined to accept that the super-volcano’s eruption was so immense it created ashfall across the planet. I think the supermarkets of Britain could feed the country for a year with what’s in their warehouses, and the contents of my cupboards would keep me going a month. Air travel would be disrupted (remember the volcanic ash cloud we had last year?) and we probably would have to live without bananas. Yes, an eruption of the kind featured in the book would have severe long term consequences to the global climate, but we’re not all going to face the same problems as the vast open country of the midwest.
I suppose it’s not a bad introduction for a younger reader on the implications of natural disasters but I wanted more science or more social commentary or more something! It just fell a little flat for me. I’d have probably given it an extra star if I’d not got annoyed near the end with the “the world can’t cope without America” message.
Thanks go to Tanglewood Press for providing me with a copy to review via NetGalley. Ashfall is available now in hardback and ebook formats.
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