A mediocre YA novel about the eruption of the supervolcano at Yellowstone which ticks off all the most clichéd tropes of the apocalypse novel as if working from a list: immediate formation of unashamed cannibal rape gangs, check; instant descent into suspicion and savagery by most people even if they’re not cannibal rapists, check; hero’s search for his missing family members, check; romance in the ashes, check; pointless death of pet to provide a third-act fillip of misery, check; government is evil, check; utterly unconvincing hopeful ending after absolutely nothing previous to it has suggested that there is any hope, check.

Sixteen-year-old Alex, a generic teenager with a black belt in taekwondo, is alone at home when his house is hit by a giant rock and bursts into flames. He escapes, only to find that an apocalypse has hit, and shelters with his neighbors. His martial arts skills come in handy when the obligatory post-apocalypse gang invades the house (oddly, they are seeking drugs rather than food) and slaughters his neighbor.

Alex flees to find his parents and sister, who were visiting family in another city. The rest of the book consists of his depressing journey, consisting largely of slogging through ash, searching for a good place to pee, and fighting cannibals. The peeing scenes were the only light moments of the book – they weren’t intended as such, but there were so many of them that I started to laugh every time Alex once again noted that he had a full bladder. At one point, when he is laid up with cannibal-related axe injuries, there is a bedpan peeing scene followed, about two pages later, by a stagger-to-the-bathroom peeing scene. It’s as if the author read one too many books where no one ever pees on-page and thought, “I’ll show them!”

This wasn’t a terrible book – it was competently written, though one-note and with too much repetition and heavy-handed foreshadowing – but the characters were generic and virtually every scene was predictable. Meet an overly friendly man roasting something which smells deliciously like pork only not quite like pork? There is nowhere that scene can go that doesn’t involve attempted cannibalism of the hero. Meet soldiers with machine guns just as you near your destination? There is nowhere that scene can go that doesn’t involve the government being Nazi-like.

As telophase noted, this novel would have been much more interesting with a wider scope and multiple POV characters.

The novel will be published in October. I got the ARC from netgalley.

Ashfall #01: Ashfall


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