I’d heard a lot of great things about Ilsa Bick’s ASHES, and I love me some apocalypse, so I anxiously snatched it up. The first half of this book is an incredibly fantastic, edge-of-your-seat, bite-your-lip survival story. An electromagnetic pulse pretty much ends life as we know it, killing most adults and leaving the majority of children as Changed. (Changed is just a nice word for zombie, really). Alex is stranded in the mountains with nothing but the pack on her back and an annoying young girl tagging along until they join forces with Tom, a soldier on leave. The three seem safe (read: Unchanged), but they are left to fend for themselves, both in the mountains, and the world beyond, when they finally make it out of the forests.
The world post-EMP is very much like McCarthy’s THE ROAD. Everyone for themselves. Fight to stay alive. Point guns at each other and steal food from people that need it. Scavenge. It is terrifyingly realistic and haunting. Alex and Co. keep their heads in all the drama, as well as a sense of right/wrong. I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. But half-way through the book, an event forces the three to split up. This is where the book took a turn that I didn’t enjoy as much. I can’t talk to the second half of the story without ruining the book, but I will say it felt like two distinctly separate stories to me. And there’s a cliffhanger that was awesome (in regards to the twist), but left me hanging (nearly all the things I desperately needed closure on where left unresolved).
There is no doubt that Bick is a talented writer, though, capable of weaving a high-stakes survival story that is rich and haunting. I mean, there were times I felt I needed to run to the store and stock up on iodine tablets, beef jerky, and flashlights. She did her job, and did it well. (I think I really might go get some iodine tablets now…)
Originally reviewed here