Monday, 29 February 2016

Review #33 - Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Title: Ashes
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Published: 2011
Publisher: Egmont


A brief synopsis; (Via Goodreads)
No, she thought. No, please, God, I'm not seeing this

Seventeen-year-old Alex is hiking through the wilderness when it happens: an earth-shattering electromagnetic pulse that destroys almost everything.

Survivors are divided between those who have developed a superhuman sense and those who have acquired a taste for human flesh. These flesh-hunters stalk the land: hungry, ruthless and increasingly clever...

Alex meets Tom, a young army veteran, and Ellie, a lost girl. They will fight together and be torn apart, but Alex must face the most difficult question of all: 
In such a vastly changed world, who can you trust?

A story of high-wire tension, gut-wrenching twist, and burgeoning love, Ashes will leave you breathless.

Among other things, I was an English major in college and so I know that I’m supposed to write things like,”Ilsa J. Bick is<fill in the blank>.” Except I hate writing about myself like I’m not in the room.

So, let’s just say that I’m a child psychiatrist (yeah, you read that right), although I started out in surgery . . . it’s a long story.  I’m also a film scholar, former Air Force major, and an award-winning author of dozens of short stories and novels.  (Believe me, no one is more surprised about that than I . . . and my mother.)

In case you were wondering?  Yes, I used to write Star Trek.  And Mechwarrior.  And Battletech.  And the occasional ShadowRun.  I loved every minute of it, too.

At the moment, I am a cheesehead in exile, living on a mountain in Alabama with the husband and several furry creatures.  On occasion, I even feed them.

The above information is sourced from Ilsa's website. You can also find her on Twitter.

 What I liked about 'Ashes' was the alternative occurrence of the apocalypse; I was familiar with the use of EMP's to try and end a zombie invasion, but not one that would start an apocalypse. For those that aren't familiar, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a short burst of electromagnetic energy, which can occur naturally or be man made, and is usually damaging to electronic interfaces within the vicinity. Powerful strikes can even hit physical objects such as buildings or aeroplanes, as lightening.

As a fan of shows like The Walking Dead and iZombie, (despite them giving me awful dreams), Ashes was right up my alley - the version I have has an 'As good as The Hunger Games Or Your Money Back' badge on the cover; I definitely did not need (or want) my money back, and nor did the other members of the book club.

The protagonist, Alex, is phenomenal. I don't mean it in a 'bad-ass, female teen heroin' kind of way that is stereotypically associated with dystopian fiction; I mean it in the way that she was fundamentally real. I'm not saying I could connect and/or relate to her, but she wasn't an exaggerated person, and it was lovely to read.

Bick's characterisation (of those left unchanged, of course) as a whole, though, was brilliant. I found that if there was a character I disliked, it wasn't because I was being picky; Bick had deliberately made them appear untrustworthy.

Kind of want to talk about the zombies, kind of want to leave you all in suspense. There are lots of variations of zombies, and the variant presented in Ashes was not one I had experienced before. At first I thought it to be a little- dumb, shall we say? but as the novel progressed, I realised that really wasn't the case. This variant species kept pace with the action in the book, and it was pretty kickin'.

It was a lovely puzzle as to who changed and who didn't and why; I won't spoil that, but I will tell you it's not your typical virus infection routine. Further on that point, there are also some quite sensitive issues breached in the novel, which add to the atmosphere and the reception of the text.

The ending, though, was a little bit of a let down - but I think that's because I wasn't expecting a trilogy when I read the book. I'm not upset about that, and I'm not knocking the book for it - I can't wait to read the two sequels. (Also subconsciously hating Ilsa for the cliffhanger, but it's not malicious, I promise).

 "When people are scared, they get angry. They'll do things they never thought they would. They'll bargain and compromise in order to survive; they'll chase after miracle cures and believe just about anything so long as it gives them hope. When hope fails, then watch out. Some people get brutal. They'll turn on each other; they'll become their own worst enemies."

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