Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ashfall series by Mike Mulin

 I read these three books following the Iowa School Librarians Association Conference in Des Moines.  Mike Mullin, an Indiana author, was a featured speaker on Sunday afternoon and evening.  I was so intrigued by both his encouragement to us to write and the process he used to write these stories.  I am disappointed in myself for not reading these before the conference - because I have questions I would love to chat with him about!

The catalyst of these books is the eruption of the super volcano under Yellowstone National Park. There really is a volcano there and the prediction is that the eastern edge of the ashfall would be the Mississippi river.  It was with that bit of information that Mullin created his story.  Alex is a 16 year old boy left alone for the weekend at his Cedar Falls, Iowa home while his parents and sister travel to Apple River near Galena, Illinois.  It was that Saturday afternoon that the eruption occured.  Alex's house is destroyed and he barely escapes to his neighbors' across the street.  This house is not safe either as civilized society quickly unravels and they are attacked by a group of youth.  Alex barely escapes and decided that his only option is to travel east and find his parents.

That is the beginning. Ashfall is the story of that trek east.  Everything we take for granted - water, sunlight, warmth, food, transportation - have all disappeared under the weight of the ash.  And with an earthquake opening the local prison - you never know who you will find when you stop at a farm house.  Alex's one amazing piece of goodluck was stopping at the home of Darla and her mom.  Against Darla's better judgement she and Alex become friends and eventually they are the key to keeping one another alive.

Ashen Winter and Sunrise continue the story - and I don't really want to give too much away in my summary.  Instead, I want to comment a little about how these books have affected me...I am not a doomsday person. I tend to believe that human nature will move ahead and life will remain mildly pleasant. It is almost impossible to believe that as you read these books. Life is impossible.  Really impossible!  Laws don't make sense anymore and so people in each enclave create their own law - at the cost of the next village down the road.  It is a dark time - both literally since the sun is gone for more than a year and figuratively!  These books are not fluffy reads - there is death and violence and cannabilism and general sadness - as well as love and sacrifice and hope.

The presentation by Mullin really brought the story to life as he shared about choosing the house and the road that Alex would follow.  He pictured these places as he wrote each part of the book. I found that fascinating!  As a reader I set the books in a known place - so to think of this for the writer also is really interesting!  Mullin was very approachable and welcomed questions from the librarians and the students he talks to.

I would love to chat with someone after reading these books. I would like to trade stories and thoughts and preparedness!!  Highly recommend these!

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