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 post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.
I’m surprised to say, after a very, very rough start for me that almost ended in a skimmed-through read of a little over half of this novel, that I liked this book. It wasn’t great – any novel that takes half of its length to finally pick up and start to get good can’t be called great – but I liked it.
Ashes starts right before the big EMP, or electro-magnetic pulse, that wipes out all modern technology, and most of the population. The only survivors are the very old, the very young, and very few of the in-between – of which Alex is one. It delves right into action and survival, an abundance of it that had me bored and reluctant to return to the pages very quickly. See for me, no matter how much gore or action, there comes a time when I need some story progression, or I lose interest. The first 75 pages were promising, filled with questions to be answered and penned by a talented writing hand. Unfortunately, after that initial burst of awesome, Ashes loses steam for about 200 pages that are almost completely devoid of story progression and don’t answer a single question from those first 75 pages. I was left with chapters and chapters of action, action, whiny eight year old girl, action, hey look a new guy, action, rushed romance, action…. You get the deal. I was all out of interest by the time we came to a 20 page long dog chase. If I weren’t one of those stubborn readers who refuses to not finish a book I start, I would have abandoned Ashes then and never looked back.
For once, my stubbornness paid off. For all the flaws of the first half, the second half managed to reel me back in and capture my interest in a way I’d completely given up hope on.
Once I slogged through the first painful half and got to…well…the part where it starts to get good (let’s keep this review spoiler-free, shall we?), I experienced one of the most complete transformations I’ve ever read in a book. The setting is different, the secondary characters are different, and Ilsa J. Bick trades in her agonizing over-usage of action/wilderness survival for the story progression I was dying for in the first half, characters I was intrigued by, and a very realistic, psychological take on humanity’s reaction to a zombie apocalypse. Now I know there are a lot of people who hated this sudden change, but I honestly thought it was a HUGE improvement.
I think Ashes would have worked better all around if Bick had cut out a large chunk of the first half, because to say it began to drag would be an understatement. But when I finished, when I reached that terrible cliff-hanger (which is just as bad as these reviews will have you believe), I was surprised to find my fingers itching for more. I have high hopes, too, that Shadows won’t suffer the same problems the first half of Ashes did.
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick – 3.5 Stars