Friday, October 21, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Cormac McCarthy's The Road smashed into Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy? I'm thinking it would resemble Ashes. My co-worker agreed and suggested tossing in Justin Cronin's The Passage, too. I haven't read it yet, but it's in my To Be Read pile.  From what I know about it, I think it fits perfectly.

I've shied away from the apocalyptic zombie/vampire books. I haven't read The Twilight books. I don't mix zombies with Jane Austen. But I've been watching The Walking Dead on AMC. It's good all around gore. The story and acting are okay, but the gore is supremely fun. The second season started last week which whet my appetite for a tale of zombies or The Zapped, as Alex, our heroine in Ashes, likes to refer to them.

Ashes is the first book in a trilogy by Ilsa Bick. The story pulls you in as Alex hikes into the deep woods of Michigan to release her parents' ashes and, we're not sure and neither is Alex, possibly commit suicide. After losing her parents, she discovered that she had an inoperable brain tumor which she refers to as The Monster. I'm all too familiar with brain tumors, so this aspect really drew me in. Alex runs into a grandfather and granddaughter who are trying to heal their own fresh wounds. As they start to pry into Alex's secrets, the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) hits. Birds fall from the skies, deer jump to their deaths, and Alex feels intense pain. Is it The Monster? Or something else? Alex regains her composure and discovers she's saddled with the granddaughter who is understandably freaked, but refuses to accompany Alex who sets off for the ranger station.

The apocalyptic landscape and the journey remind me of The Road which I really viewed as the son's coming of age story. Ashes ups the ante by removing Alex's parents before the story begins, and we definitely watch Alex mature quickly as the world turns to ashes. Alex is a strong female character reminiscent of Katniss in The Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss and Alex both try to maintain their human-ness as the world falls apart around them. They learn both good and not-so-great details about their character.

What happens to Alex as she discovers changes to the world and to herself brought on by the EMP. What's family? What's your true nature? Who do you trust? Who's left in the world? What or who caused the EMP? Do ethics still apply in a world turned crazy? Join Alex on her journey as she discovers the answers.

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