Thursday, January 31, 2013
Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin
If you like: survival * cannibalism * family
Ashen Winter is the sequel to Ashfall. (See my review here.) Alex and Darla leave the safety of his uncle’s farm and attempt to find Alex’s parents. As time passes, the world becomes increasingly dangerous. Food is even more scarce, and those that have survived have resorted to extreme measures. Places that were safe a few weeks ago are now the targets of bandits. The employees of Black Lake continue to be a threat as they hunt for “refugees” in order to get a bigger government payday.
Ashen Winter continues to question what it means to be an adult. In such a perilous world, one would assume that anyone that is willing to go their own way should be able to, but the heads of the new social groups often see things differently. How much harm can misguided nostalgia cause? All too often, Alex is rebuked for being a child. In the new normal, a sixteen-year-old should be trusted with adult responsibilities. Instead, he has to waste time and energy fighting with the adults to have his voice heard. In order to move forward with any success, people must realize that all the children have had to grow up far too quickly, and their new maturity should be utilized instead of marginalized.
In Ashen Winter, the sliding scale of humanity continues to expand. In the early days after the eruption, people questioned whether or not to trust one another. As the weeks have passed, there is no longer a question: strangers cannot be trusted. Alex refuses to embrace this idea. He continues to look for the best in people and attempts to help everyone he meets. This works to his advantage and against it. He is willing to share far more than most, which encourages those he meets to help and support him more than they would have. At the same time, it puts him in constant increased danger. Rather than fending for himself, he still takes the safety of others into account. This is what humanity needs to survive, but the realities of day-to-day life are likely to put it into extinction. As those around him realize he has a lot to offer, Alex’s attitudes may inspire other survivors to come together. Already he has changed both Worthington and Warren with his unabashed hope for the future and for survival. Once his attitude catches on it will enable these communities to be stronger, and help the kindhearted people survive against all those who have traded in their morals for a sliver of survival. This will be tested with increasing frequency as scarcity endures, and more and more people run out of options. Though kindness and humanity are the only way that people will be able to overcome these problems, a strong sense of self-preservation will make them harder to embrace.
If you think age is irrelevant to adulthood, read Ashen Winter.
Mullin, Mike. Ashen Winter. Tanglewood, 2012. Kindle edition.