Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Ashfall Trilogy by Mike Mullin

The Ashfall Trilogy by Mike Mullin consists of three books.

1.  Ashfall, 2011
2.  Ashen Winter, 2012
3.  Sunrise, 2014

In Ashfall, the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park explodes.  This releases such a huge quantity of ash that the world is immediately thrust into a volcanic winter.  Alex is alone at home during the eruption, and he sets off through the ash in hopes of finding his parents and sister, who are visiting relatives.

The book is slow to get started, and Alex is alone for the longest time.  The story is actually quite realistic for that reason, but the realism makes it boring.

On the other hand, the fight scenes are extremely short and not realistic.  Alex, who has never had to kill before, is able to almost instantly kill every opponent with only one or two hits.  Wow.  I am not one for fight scenes that last for pages and pages, but it's a bit concerning for fight scenes to last only one short paragraph with almost no effort.

The book has more graphic violence than I can stomach.  I read young adult novels to avoid the more graphic violence in adult novels, but the violence in this book is on an adult level.  Nearly four pages deal with an extremely detailed description of a rabbit getting killed, skinned, and prepared for consumption.  I didn't read more than a few words and skipped the text until the description was over.  A few other times I had to skip over lengthy excessively graphic descriptions of death.

The book gets much better after Alex begins traveling with Darla, although I still had to skim horrific gore.

Darla is quite likable.  She's better than Alex.  I kind of wish the book had been narrated from her point of view.  The story could have begun as Alex arrives at Darla's farm and been narrated by her.  If that had been done and if the gore had been left out, then the story might have been outstanding.

One thing that is off is that nobody coughs or has trouble breathing.  The ash would have caused people with even minor asthma to have major problems.  In fact, even people with no prior history of asthma would have developed asthma.

I wasn't sure at all whether I would be interested in reading more than just the first book.  I found I cared greatly about the characters by the end of the book, so I decided to purchase the second book.

In Ashen Winter, Alex makes extremely stupid impulsive decisions that cost him and Darla dearly.  Each time Darla tells Alex emphatically that something is a really bad idea, he does it anyway, causing disastrous events like the total loss of their supplies or the abduction of Darla.  I quickly became quite annoyed.

I skipped around 20 to 30 pages in the middle of the book.  I got so disgusted about Alex's stupidity that I couldn't read it.  After that point, I read through to the end.

This book doesn't have the problems of the first book, but those problems were traded for others.  Darla and Alex are apart for most all of the book.  This was a big mistake, since Darla is the best part of the first book.  Alex's extreme stupidity is the other huge flaw in this book.  The entire plot is driven by Alex's stupidity.  Other ways could have been found for the same sequence of events to occur.  It's laziness to rely on one character being so incredibly stupid.

Still, I enjoyed most of the book and wanted to know how the story would end, so I proceeded to the third book.

In Sunrise, Alex and Darla continue their struggle for survival.  Interestingly, Alex is cured of his stupidity in this story and assumes a leadership role.  He leads hundreds of people as they build a new settlement in order to survive the volcanic winter.

During the volcanic winter, some people have become cannibals as a means to survive. Page 523 has an insightful comment about cannibalism.  "Cannibalism is simply not a viable long-term survival strategy.  The problem solves itself."  Indeed it does.

I love reading the reviews on Amazon after I finish these novels.  I particularly like the more critical reviews since they bring up good points. One reviewer wrote, "[Darla] was able to get their new community set up using wind turbines to heat their greenhouses but they’re still having to barter for candles? I’m no survivalist but it seems to me like they could have come up with something there."

Ah-ha!  When I read that, I suddenly realized that I learned how to make candles from crayons when I was in grade school.  I'm sure crayons could have been scavenged, then melted, and a string used as a wick.  Voila!  Therefore, the trouble acquiring candles was not logical.  I'm sure lots of old crayons were available in the abandoned farmhouses.

The third book is probably the best book in the series and has the least flaws. However, the first two books have to be read in order to enjoy the third book.

I was quite pleased with my reading experience once I finished the third book.  Even though the first two books have many flaws, the story of Alex and Darla is quite compelling and enjoyable.

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