Monday, 20 April 2015

ASHFALL/ASHEN WINTER (Ashfall #1/Ashfall #2) by Mike Mullin

ASHFALL/ASHEN WINTER (Ashfall #1/Ashfall 2)
Mike Mullin

Spoilers for BOTH books below
Summary: Alex is a pretty ordinary teenager who gets to stay home alone for the weekend while his parents and younger sister visit his uncle. A few hours after they've left, the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupts and then it's nothing but explosions and fires for days. Once those are done, it's nothing but ashes... for months.

Characters: The main character is, obviously, Alex. As stated before, he's quite ordinary. A bit of a loner and what could be considered a "geek". He spends hours playing computer games and reading books. He doesn't seem to have many friends and he's not popular with the girls either. However, and this is mentioned so often that you just know it's going to be very important, he's a black belt in taekwondo.

Just in case you missed it.

He's a black belt.


Black belt.

He can kick.

And stuff.

Really, really, really well.

Because he's a black belt. In taekwondo.

You might want to mention again... just to be sure
Anyway. As far as main characters go, Alex is okay. He's a bit on the dull side and not exactly able to carry the storyline on his own, but he's not terrible either. He tends to pass out a lot and he makes many bad decisions.

The real reason you might want to read the first book is Darla. She's a bit on the perfect side, she can do a little of everything, is smart, is strong enough, is funny... however, compared to Alex's dullness, it's really hard to care that she shouldn't be THIS perfect.

The second book introduces us to Alyssa and her autistic brother, Ben. She used to be a sex slave and Alex frees her, thinking she's Darla. Ben is a very nice surprise. He is obsessed with the army and knows all that there is to know about weapons, transports and strategies. It takes some time, but, by the end of the book, you want the siblings to be well.

There's also Alex's family. At the end of the first book, we meet his sister, Rebecca, his Uncle Paul, his Aunt and his cousins. During the second book, we find his parents, who are prisoners in a FEMA camp. They were boring and brought the book down.

Review: This is not going to be pretty. The characters didn't work very well. Alex kept doing stupid things, stupid things, stupid things. Then, passing out. Then, getting lucky because someone decided to save him. It's not that I wanted him to die. But it got boring. Fast.

However, that was not the problem. And here I need to address something that has been bothering me in MANY YA books. Authors don't seem all that interested in developing the plot. You know what they do?

They come up with a somewhat original concept. Something that the readers will find in the summary on the back of the book or on Goodreads or somewhere else and go "huh, this might be cool, I'll give it a chance, it sounds better than that Hunger Games wannabe".

Then, they create a couple. One of the characters is kinda dull. They're there to be the Peeta of the couple. I love Peeta, but you know what I mean. Then we have the witty one. The Katniss.

What comes next? "The government is bad. Baaad. Oh, wait. We can't have the President killing children. That's too Hunger Games. But I need something gritty! I need to shock my readers! Oh, I know. Rapists! And... cannibals!"

And this was only the 15th book that I read that went there!

Seriously. What is it with YA writers wanting to shock the readers with rape and cannibals? It's all I can find nowadays. Guess what, you guys. Not original. And not "gritty", to be honest. Just sick. It doesn't add anything to the story.

Back to the Ashfall series. It was boring. It'd go on and on, many pages about NOTHING in particular. And then BOOM, cannibals. Or a rape comment. Or a random fight where Alex would kill someone. But even that would be boring. Because of the reasons above. It wasn't meant to move the plot forward. It was there just to shock me. It's not like Alex would talk about it later on, not really. Those things didn't really have any impact. And I wasn't shocked. I was bored. It was like playing a video game, taking a long time to focus my energy to use a special power... and then having said power be something pathetic and useless.

Sorry, Mullin. I'll read the last book because I always finish the series I begin. But I doubt I'll ever read anything of yours ever again. The Ashfall series had SO MUCH potential. And then... wow. What a disappointment.


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