Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite. And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.
For Alex, being left alone for the weekend means having the freedom to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek to search for his family and finds help in Darla, a travel partner he meets along the way. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster.
My last school year, as you might’ve guessed, my science class was centered around one topic: earth science. And, as you know, I ended up learning far more than I EVER, EVER, ever wanted to know about rocks.
One day when I was in second grade, my class went on this wildlife study like they do every year and our leader gave us two graham crackers with melted marshmallow on both. We talked about the earth around us and continental plates and how the continents move and then we smashed the two graham crackers together in different ways, sometimes grinding against each other and one going underneath the other, sometimes the two of them going head on and crashing, sometimes just narrowly avoiding the other. Needless to say, we ate everything in the end. I would’ve be content ending my rock study at that.
But noooo. We learned about marginal seas, fracture zones, accretionary prisms, lahars, deep-sea trenches, lava flows, hot spots, continental margins, triple junctions, what makes volcanoes dangerous (yes, more than the typical, they spew hot stuff) and much more. At the end of the year, we had to do a model of where the Earth’s tectonic plates would be in 100,000, 000 years, which was the project that eventually stressed me out the most–but was actually really cool. We also ended with a lot of tongue twisters to practice saying to be able to enunciate the words we said in the play we did this year. Stuff like batholiths and laccoliths.
According to the packet we were given, ash is the small particles of glass that comes from the fine spray of lava that instantly freezes after it’s erupted from the volcano. Some of that ash comes up into a cloud into the atmosphere, eventually drifting down as an ash fall, though some of that ash ends up running down the side of the volcano as an ash flow.
I think that if I had read this book before I did that rock study, I wouldn’t have been able to get through it. Every time I see the book Ashes, Ashes, or yes, Ashfall, I can’t help thinking, ash is the small particles of glass that comes from….
This was actually a great book though, and I enjoy the small tidbits of science information in here. I’m really glad that Mike Mullin didn’t put too much of that kind of stuff in, though I’m all for science in books. I have to say, there were some parts where I almost gave up on the book, but right when I was finally about to do it, this book really took off.
I have to say, Alex was a little boring for me in the beginning. Just sort of…average, you know? An ordinary guy. Throughout the story though, he shows his gritty, strong-willed side, and I liked that about him. It didn’t necessarily feel like he grew, but more like he brought out a side to himself that he didn’t know that he had. It’s when humans are pushed to their limits that they grow stronger, and bring out those parts of themselves–good and bad–that they never knew they had in themselves. He changed himself to protect himself and Darla.
Darla was great also. I loved how she began to trust Alex and eventually grew to love him, when in the beginning she had hated him. It’s interesting how that works. Like that one Simpsons episode where Lisa goes to that one tent during the festival and sees her future horrible love life. She meets this dude who she hates in the beginning and then ends up loving him. But they go through some problems…
Anyway, I myself had no problem with the storyline or the writing. It was gritty, powerful, sensitive and smooth all when it needed to be. It was the themes, the nitty gritty, the nitpicking-worthy things, that got to me. I can really see how this novel would be unsettling to some people. I guess this is one of those books that wasn’t for me. Mike Mullin’s voice just didn’t fit me, I guess. In the end, I’m one of those rare people who thought this book was average. 3 stars. Still, a great story, just not a book for me.
pg count for the hardback: 466
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