The cat has taken the route of resignation. Today, it seems that 95% of the YA dystopia novels will not tie up in one single volume, but we will get it in threes. Some of these trilogies are incredibly fantastic (e.g. Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy) and are actually believable as a trilogy where each volume adds another layer to the story, while others should just have quit sometime in the midst of their second volume (e.g. Hunger Games) because they’re just rehashing their first volume and nothing is really added to the complexity of the story or the character development. Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick, is the first part of a post-apocalyptic trilogy. In what particular category it belongs is not yet clear, though, but I am willing to postpone my final judgment until the next volume.
Alex is 17 and has a brain tumor. She lives with her aunt since her parents’ death. She decides that she does not want to have any more cancer treatments, and sets off for a hike in the Waucamaw Wilderness, to deal with her decision. While hiking she encounters 2 people, 8-year-old Ellie and her grandfather Jack, and their dog Mina. Suddenly a surge of something hits the wilderness, causing Jack to die, Alex to be miraculously rid of the constant pressure in her brain, and Ellie still very bratty and hating everything especially Alex. Alex, though, has developed a new kind of ‘power’: she can super-smell, which is odd for a girl who didn’t have any sense of taste after the many cancer treatments she had. Also, her memories about her parents are coming back, something which had gone along with the sense of taste. When Alex and Ellie meet up with a young soldier, Tom, the 3 of them not only figure out that the surge must have been some kind of EMP, disabling everything (and everyone who runs on ‘electricity’), but at the same time causing for some seriously disturbing phenomena as well: kids who’ve changed dramatically, brain-zapped, and are now somehow weird cannibalistic zombies… So far so good, literally… because the introduction of Alex, Ellie and Tom, their interaction, their need for explanation, all that is very cleverly done and more than exciting to read. Enter the second part of the novel, after Alex, Ellie and Tom are separated once again. We enter a strange new world, in the settlement of Rule, we get a completely new set of characters, very cult-ish, and absolutely out of tune with the parts that preceded it. To say that the Rule-part of the book (and adding another potential love interest) feels contrived is being very kind.
Ashes starts off like a blend of 28 Days Later mixed with The Stand and a dash of The Road to flavor it all. If continued like that, this would have made for one killer of a zombie apocalypse thriller. Unfortunately, Ilsa J. Bick gave us 2 halves that don’t make a whole with almost completely different settings, 2 completely different sets of characters, and 2 completely different stories. And while the first setting/set of characters/ story is exciting and captivating, the second is an uninspired add-on that is both slow-paced and frustrating, so much so that I kind of have to wonder whether they were written by the same author?
P.S. Also, I do want to add that there’s one other thing that I found a bit upsetting, for lack of a better word…Alex is 17 and is the proud owner of a …Glock… seriously?