Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Ashes

Title: Ashes 

Author: Ilsa J. Bick 

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 

Part of a Series?: First in series 

Goodreads summary:
 It could happen tomorrow . . . 

An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions. 

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP. 

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human. 

Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling novel about a world that could be ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.

3.5 stars but rounding up because I’m feeling generous. 

Ashes borrows heavily from other popular dystopian books like The Maze Runner and Enclave. EMP bombs knock out the world’s power and turn everyone within a certain age range into animalistic beasts. Alex and her companions have to survive this new, deadly environment while running from vicious zombiefied teenagers and geriatric grandpas with guns. 

Minus the EMP stuff (I’m disregarding whatever scientific reasonability there is behind Bick’s explanations because I know next to nothing about stuff like this), Ashes is a pretty generic survival dystopia book. But I think Bick elevates the actual story to a higher level because she has a way of making everything seem more dramatic. Ashes is the first book in the series—which I plan on continuing—which means that a lot of questions are proposed, but not a lot of them are answered. Cliffhangers plus incredibly gory details? This book practically screams “make me into a movie.” The sequencing of events is very cinematic, with intense revelations and action scenes counterbalanced with an even measure of character building. I have a very visual way of thinking, so Bick’s to-the-point writing style is refreshingly satisfying. 

I actually ended up liking the characters. The first ten chapters (they’re short) grated my nerves. Alex and Ellie were too childish and too selfish when they initially paired up together. But they both grew on me, admittedly. When Tom, the soldier, joined their mini family, Bick created a very cute makeshift family unit. 

However, the entire last third of the book (the part in the Christian-y commune of Rule) went a tad slowly for my taste. Don’t get me wrong; there were some fascinating characters living there and some key developments were brought to light. But compared to the gritty edge from the first two-thirds of the book, I felt like the Rule chapters threw off the book’s fast momentum. Furthermore, I thought the addition of a second love interest for Alex was not appropriate.Chris felt like a last minute decision. There are plenty of books that survive without love triangles, and I felt like Ashes could’ve been one of them. If anything, the development with Tom’s disappearance gave the Alex-Tom relationship the needed amount of drama without the addition of another guy.

Overall, the book has plenty of faults. But I think this is a good start to a promising series.

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