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.
I was kindly invited by Quercus to the book launch for this event and I was pretty much sold of the idea of the book before I'd even read it because it had a real gritty edge to it that I loved in 'Dark Inside' by Jeyn Roberts and similar zombie esque dystopian books I've come across recently. PLus Ilsa was just so lovely and charming to meet in person that I couldn't help but be taken in by her writing because she herself has such an interesting past and career that you really feel it reflected in her work.
Set in the current day we follow the story of Alex as she begins up on a personal mountain retreat after coming to grips with the idea of a brain tumour (the monster as she calls it) may not be leaving her no matter how much medicine and new trials they do and so she's left her Aunt to go and venture out into the woods while she still feels she can do so. Her parents died not long before and so she's in the unusual situation of having to deal with her grief and a massive medical condition within one year of each other and she's still a teenager. If this was not enough of an intriguing start to a book then you'd pleased to read that the plot thickens as Alex is stumbled upon by an older man and his young granddaughter Ellie (another girl with a recently deceased parent) and then all hell descends as a high piercing noise strikes them all down and makes the world turn on itself. Animals go loopy and people are either struck down dead or the Zap has Changed them. They become feral and disturbing being that thrive on death and human flesh.
Alex can't understand how she and Ellie are still themselves and as they try to find help in the woods they find Tom, a military man a few years older than Alex on leave, that helps them in their time of need. The three band together and try to survive in a world gone mad and no idea how wide it spread, how or why it's happened and if it's only a matter of time before they change as well.
This is a real gritty survival story that takes horror to a different realm than most YA. It's dark and delicious. The 'Changed' made me feel scared and sick and the darkness in mankind is just as scary as the zombies. I was surprised at how much I liked and empathised with the main character Alex because though I have no desires to camp in fact I've been camping and NEVER AGAIN, but being in the mind of Alex, an expert and a true survivor in every sense I felt like I could totally put up a tent or maybe even tackle starting a fire with no matches.
I couldn't but if I were Alex I'd be kicking that tents arse.
What I really loved about the book was how it was a real journey. You saw all the characters grow and struggle and face danger so extreme that you fear they won't make it and that's what kept me reading. I have to admit that it took me longer than usual to read Ashes because it is a dense read. It's not light and airy and doesn't skim over details for the sake of dramatic licence. Ilsa Bick knows her stuff in terms of the military, medical and survival skills and she details them clearly and though it's hard to take in sometimes I felt like I learnt stuff while I read the book. Though some stuff could probably be cut out in terms of all the facts and nitty gritty how to fire a gun and not take away from the emotion of the book but it doesn't put me off reading.
It's not just the story but the characters in their range of age, desire for survival and personal demons that were so interesting to read about too. Everyone has their own secrets and yet they come together in their common goal. Survivoring another day. Tom is a survivor like Alex and it's own strengths and weakness that draws them together and creates a bond to protect Ellie and protect each other. I loved Tom and just wanted to cuddle him something rotten.
The only fault of this book is the fact that I'll have to wait so long for the sequel and the epic cliffhanger I'm left waiting on with all my unanswered questions. It's cruel really.