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Ashfall begins with a bang.  Literally, a bang from a supervolcano!  Alex Halloran is left home alone for the weekend.  Finally, he will have the freedom to do whatever he wants for an entire weekend.  Well, that was before a giant boulder crushes his house, and the ash started to fall.

Mike Mullin’s first novel Ashfall, follows Alex on a 140 mile adventure of toxic gases, murderous cannibals and a ravening FEMA camp. The action begins on the first page, and it does not stop.  Yellowstone has irrupted, and ash is falling like snow.  Plus there are the thunderous bangs, and the ear splitting sound waves.  With no one else at home, Alex seeks help from his neighbors and community members.  He quickly learns this is more than anyone is prepared to handle.

When looters break into his neighbor’s home, and his neighbors fight back, Alex sees for the first time the effect of the disaster on human beings.  He believes he has seen the worse of the worse, but little does he know things can get a lot worse.   Alex decides to set out on his own.  He has made a commitment to himself to find his family in Warren.  He knows he will need help from others, but has more confident in his own skills and morals.  He sets out across the ash on his father’s cross country skis with nothing more than bottles of water, can goods, and his martial arts bo staff.

He seeks shelter under logs, and in abandoned homes.  He is welcomed by some and threatened by others.  Alex sees the devastation is larger than he first imagined.  No one knows how long the aftermath with last.  Everyone is hoarding what little food they have.  Alex presses on.  He is appreciative of the families who are willing to trade or share their food with him.  He knows he will find his parents and stays positive through the hunger and exhaustion.

Until, he gets sliced while fighting a cannibal named Target.  Stumbling into a barn, Darla and her mom nurse Alex back to health.  Immediately, Alex is impressed with Darla.  She shares Alex’s desire to live.  Unfortunately, trouble follows Alex to Darla’s farm, and soon Darla’s world is turned even more upside down.  Darla follows Alex when he has to move on toward Warren.  They work well as a team.  Darla always seems to be there when Alex needs her the most.  Together they never give up hope.

Alex is the perfect mix of a typical boy, heartwarming softy, and imaginative teenager.  He has the determination to overcome any obstacle.  He is stubborn when it comes to helping people, and is quick to act.  Darla is level headed, and knows a little about everything.  Ashfall is exciting before Alex met Darla.  But when they travel together it becomes great.  Darla fills in the gaps.  Ashfall is a serious story of action and adventure, but has a lightness about it that will make any reader cheer.  Their determination is infectious.  I question whether or not I would have what it takes to survive.  Alex is a normal kid living a normal life.  I don’t have a black belt in taekwondo, but a little determination goes a long way.

Alex and Darla’s story continues in Ashen Winter, the second book in the Ashfall trilogy.  What else does Mother Nature have to offer?  And will Alex and Darla be able to survive on determination alone?

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