It’s 10 minutes past the apocalypse. Do you know where your children are?

I started reading apocalyptic fiction at a very young age. I have to admit that it had its effect on me: I like to be prepared. Add in some real life experience with blizzards and power outages. The result: a tendency to stockpile certain things.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t buy things that I won’t use in the normal course of events. I wouldn’t buy a generator, for example. Eventually, the things I buy do get used. I mean, I have almost used up all the stuff I stockpiled for Y2K.

But all those things I keep on hand—the food, water, flashlight batteries, etc—well, I keep all of them at home. After all, that’s where I am going to need them, right?

Wrong.  ASHFALL blew all that out of the water.

In ASHFALL, 15 year old Alex is left at home alone in Iowa while his parents visiting family in Illinois. The supervolcano underneath Yellowstone Park blows; Alex’s home is destroyed. And that’s just chapter one!

This wonderful book, the first in a planned trilogy, follows Alex’s struggle to not only survive but to try to find his family.

These characters are incredibly well-written. As the mother of two sons, I can tell you that Alex is a very believable character with a lot of nuance. Yes, Alex has some serious martial arts skills. Alex has a good heart. But Alex is also inexperienced and makes some really dumb decisions. As a mother reading this book, I could totally buy Alex as a real kid with all those mixed qualities – that he could be that difficult, that kind, that fierce, and, sometimes, that naive….

Darla also is an incredible character. She has great survival skills. I loved the fact that she was actually better at a lot of things than Alex was. She also tended to be more practical than Alex and, in many ways was a much more suspicious character, fiercely protective. And in the world after Ashfall, that just may be a very good thing.

As a mother, I would be incredibly proud of both of them.

This really isn’t a book just for boys nor is it a just for girls book. The fact is, Alex and Darla were both strong characters that any reader, boys or girls, men or women, could identify with.

There were a lot of things about this book that disturbed me and that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since I read it. This is not one of those post-apocalyptic books where the main characters seem to magically find everything they need in an abandoned convenience store. There are real problems in the world of Ashfall and the characters must solve problems, endure real hardships and make hard choices.

Animals do not fare well in this book. (Indeed, they don’t in most apocalyptic fiction.) And the government? Well, you need to read that one for yourself, okay?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, too, that I am eagerly looking forward to hearing more about in the sequel.

I started to tell my youngest son about the book. He happens to live in New Mexico. He listened, then said to me, “Yeah, there’s one of those underneath Albuquerque.”

Talk about hitting where you live…. I think I am going to be hoping for apocalypse by zombie instead….

You can read more about author Mike Mullin and ASHFALL at his author website. Check out some of the great interviews and an awesome fan-created book trailer while you are there!

The sequel to ASHFALL, ASHEN WINTER, will be out in October, 2012.

Disclaimer: I won a ARC of this book in a charity auction, but my review is based on reading the Kindle edition which I purchased.

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