Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Look Into My Eyyyyeees
Frankly I can take or leave this cover, it’s a fuzzy grey face like shape. There’s not a whole lot more I say about it. Except it’s maybe the first cover that wasn’t detrimentally affected by being viewed on my kindle. There you go, a positive!

It's The End Of The World As We Know It
Alex has decided to check out of the everyday grind, taking her beat up car, camping gear and a few prized possessions she leaves her Aunt without a word and heads for the wilderness for what maybe the last time. Having made the decision to forgo any further treatment, Alex is vividly aware that the tumour in her brain can take her away at any moment, just like it did her sense of smell. And before that happens she plans to do one last thing for her deceased parents. However her plans are drastically derailed when a wave of excruciating pressure and madness suddenly hits Alex and every living thing around her. Then just as suddenly, it lifts, leaving Alex in a world where technology has died, where the moon is a hazy green and where nearly everybody else is dead. And most of those that survived are suddenly craving meat of a different kind, the two legged variety. Now Alex along with Ellie, an eight year old orphan, and Tom, a solider on leave, are trying to find out what happened, but first they'll need to survive it.

Funk To Funky
It seems you can’t swing an undead cat these days without hitting a book, movie, game or comic featuring zombies in some way. Most are obviously pretty shoddy cash ins on the never ending popularity of these shuffling monsters, but there are a golden few that really take the mythos and the terror of the zombie and use it so effectively that you forget the old slow-moving-brain-eating-infected-bitey-faced rules and just fall into the story with relish. Ashes is one such story.

I was completely sucked in from the first page and I just know it's going to be a great book when that happens. It opens with Alex, on the phone to her Aunt, trying to explain why she just up and left with out a word and how she's secretly still trying to decide if she's coming back at all. Alex broke my heart within just the first few pages but I never pitied her. She quickly establishes herself as a girl who's already tried everything, thought it all through a hundred times over and she's finally come to her decision to stop the treatments and get on with the things she needs to do before she can't anymore.
"A chronic headache muttered in her temples, but like Barrett said, no one ever died from pain. True, but some days you didn't much enjoy living either. Eventually, the smell of smoke went away- but so did the smell of everything else, because the monster didn't shrivel up but continued silently growing and munching. 
What no one warned her about was that when you had no sense of smell at all, a lot of memories fizzled. Like the way the smell of a pine tree conjured a quick brain-snapshot of tinsel and Christmas lights and a glittery angel, or the spice of nutmeg and buttery cinnamon made you flash to a bright kitchen and your mother humming as she pressed pie crust into a glass dish. With no sense of smell, your memories dropped like pennies out of a ripped pocket, until the past was ashes and your parents were blanks, nothing more then the holes in Swiss cheese."
She carries this grim determination throughout the book, admirably applying her survival skills and knowledge to the er.. less then usual situations. And what of the situation? Well considering Alex has purposely taken herself well off the map when the mysterious pulse happens we're obviously not going to be treated to a nice explanation of what it was and what immediate effects it has. Besides the crazy animal behavior, the way it effects Alex, little Ellie and her Grandfather who were just passing by, we're as in the dark as Alex is, and I loved that! All those glimpses of the aftermath, the little teasing tidbits which our heroes start to piece together in to theories along with the total failure of any communication technology, really invoked the feelings of total isolation from the outside world.

And of course, there's the wild man-eating kids. Oh yes here be zombies, or not as the case may be, these monsters may have a taste for the long pig but there the similarities end. I don't want to go into too much detail with the nasties as their appearances are few (although the threat of them hangs heavily) but I can say that they are terrifyingly good monsters, I'm not afraid to admit that I may have been late back from lunch a few times because I really needed to make sure everyone was going to be alright, especially the mysterious and swoony Tom, who seems to have his own reasons for escaping into the wilderness before the pulse struck. 

All in all Ashes is a compelling and excellently written book that will drag you back in whenever your not reading it. The characters are a joy to follow and Ms Bick totally tricks you into caring deeply about them so every dangerous moment is tensely felt. I loved it and the second book is a must buy for me as I absolutely have to find out what happens next.

Review is based on an advanced reader copy which was kindly supplied by NetGalley and Egmont USA. My review is a honest account and absolutely no payment was received for it.