Ashfall by Mike Mullin

ashfall

The basics

Title: Ashfall

Author:

Series: Ashfall #1

- Ashfall (2011)
- Ashen Winter (2012)
- Sunrise (2014)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

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.

in short

The supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park erupts and causes all kinds of problems. The USA is thrown into a harsh winter. Alex, the main character, was left alone for the weekend but then the volcano caused a problem and he needs to set off to find his family. He treks across the US and finds Darla, who is a badass farm girl, and eventually they find Alex’s family. His parents aren’t there, but his sister and uncle and aunt and cousins are at the farm. They stay there.

what went down

  • Alex’s parents drive to Warren to visit Alex’s uncle. Alex would rather stay home and play video games (I don’t blame him) and so he gets left behind. The supervolcano erupts, and the power cuts out. Then the ash starts to fall. Alex’s neighbours are lovely and they look after him for a bit.
  • Alex and his lovely neighbours get attacked. They win, though.
  • Alex decides to head out to Warren. He tries to use a bike but it obviously can’t get through the ash, so he takes his dad’s ski gear and skis over the ash.
  • He heads to the school, which is full of refugees. He sleeps there for the night and then heads out.
  • Alex runs out of water. He comes across Elroy and Edna’s home. They reluctantly take him in, and give him water and a bed. Elroy wakes Alex up and tells him to leave. Alex didn’t plan on staying anyway.
  • Alex finds a guy called Target, who wants to put a crew together. Target is kind of scary because he’s good with an axe. Turns out that Target is a dick, and he attacks Alex. Alex gets hit in the torso with the axe. Alex pushes Target into the fire and Target runs off in flames.
  • Alex skis to a farmstead. There’s a girl there who is cycling on a stationery bike, presumably to generate energy. It’s Darla. Alex faints, not from the sight of her, but because of the pain and blood loss from his wound.
  • Darla’s mum fixes Alex up, and in return Alex stays at the farm and works for the family.
  • Alex and Darla go to a town called Worthington. Darla wants to find a vet so they can take a look at her rabbits, which seem to be getting sick. Unfortunately the vet died.
  • Rita Mae tells Alex and Darla that twelve million years ago, a volano erupted in Idaho. The animals got sick from breathing in the ash, and that’s probably what’s wrong with the rabbits. Rita Mae also mentions there being a refugee camp in Galena, and that the government isn’t bothering to help Iowa but is instead focussing on Illinois.
  • Alex and Darla return to the farm, but it’s not looking good. There’s a guy in the kitchen who is assaulting Darla’s mother. Alex kills the guy. Then Target arrives. He shoots Darla’s mum. Alex and Target get into a fight. Target runs. Darla’s mum dies.
  • Darla and Alex hide in the barn. Target returns and sets it alight. Alex kills Target.
  • Alex and Darla return to Worthington. They stay there for the night and then set off to find Alex’s family.
  • Alex falls in some water and nearly freezes to death, but thankfully Darla has her wits about her and removes his wet clothes.
  • There’s a snowstorm, which makes everything so much worse. Alex and Darla have to find shelter. They stay for a couple of nights before setting off again.
  • They find a house where they can stay for the night. There’s a gun there so they take it.
  • They find a woman with a baby. The woman is trying to find a place to bury the baby, although the baby isn’t dead. Darla tries to warm the baby, Katie, up. Alex gives the family some food. Katie dies during the night. The mum reveals that her husband was caught and eaten by cannibals.
  • They come across a pig barn where the farmer has died. They decide to kill one of the pigs for food.
  • They ski along the highway and discover a part that has been plowed.
  • Alex and Darla get caught by soldiers from Camp Galena. They’re taken into the camp and aren’t allowed to leave. The soldiers shoot the rabbit. Bastards.
  • Alex tells the soldiers about a barge packed with wheat. He and Darla get called in to see the director. The director doesn’t send people out to the barge immediately and everyone thinks he’s being an idiot.
  • Darla gets a “job” fixing bulldozers. She gets fed in exchange, and she smuggles some food into Alex.
  • Some guard offers Darla a “job” entertaining the guards in the evenings. Alex is disgusted and breaks the guy’s nose. He gets locked up for it, so Darla has to steal a bulldozer to break him out. They escape the camp.
  • They finally reach Warren. They get to Alex’s uncle’s farm and find Alex’s sister. But both of his parents are gone.

how did it end?

Darla and Alex stay at the farm. Darla builds a gristmill to grind corn. Uncle Paul won’t let Darla and Alex sleep in the same room but Alex sneaks into Darla’s room in secret. Paul breaks his leg. Not Alex’s leg, his own leg. Alex goes to get a doctor to set it. He asks for payment and they give him kale, which is packed with Vitamin C. Darla barters and suggests that they trade the kale for pork with the mayor. So they should be getting some meat very soon. At the end, Alex reflects at how far he has come.

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