Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
Paperback 465 pages
Published September 29th 2011 by Quercus UK (first published September 6th 2011)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads summary: 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 aquired 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 srtory of high-wire tension, gut-wrenching twist, and burgeoning love, Ashes will leave you breathless.
What?! No! NO! You can't leave me hanging like this!!!! Someone give me Shadows before I pull my hair out!
Okay, back to the beginning. If there's a thing that post-apocalyptic novels have taught me is that I don't want to be around people when it happens. Beside the fact that some of them might turn into zombies and chew your face off, there are those who remain "normal", and wouldn't have any qualms shooting you over a pound of flour. Cormac McCarthy would agree. I think he'd also approve of Ilsa J. Bick's vision of the apocalypse, and even more important, the idea that it's not (just) the zombies you should fear.
Ashes throws one punch after the other and is filled with action, gore and romance. Alex has not only a bunch of human-munching zombies to fight off. When the disaster strikes, she is on a hiking trip with a mission, and despite the fact that she's well-prepared, she loses all her equipment and has to survive with what little she has left. Alex is a great character, capable, brave and smart, but half-broken and confused by what's happening around her and inside her head.
If you're queasy, you might find the descriptions too graphic and detailed. There's also a scene of brutal animal torture that shocked me more than the humans being chewed on.
The quasi-society that we're introduced to closer to the end poses some important questions about how far people are willing to go to ensure survival in a world that's gone to bust. While we're rooting for Alex to take matters into her own hands, it's also impossible not to start seeing things from another perspective and embrace some things as necessities, no matter how morally dubious they may seem. (This was very vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers here.) Alex is torn between two options as well. While I wasn't completely happy about the love triangle, being able to follow Alex's line of thought made it bearable and added to the suspension.
The book pretty much ends with a blast. It's completely unpredictable and I can't wait to get my hands on Shadows. Ashes left me with lots of unanswered questions, not just relating to the cliffhanger ending, but throughout he story as well. While I expect them to be answered in the sequel, those questions distracted me from getting completely lost in Ashes and that's the only reason why I'm not giving it five stars.