It could happen tomorrow....
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.
©2011 Ilsa J. Bick (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"For fans of postapocalyptic and horror fiction, Bick has created a story of equal parts intrigue and gore…Katherine Kellgren narrates the tension-filled action at a lightning pace…The author’s frenetic characterization of Alex is tempered by Kellgren’s ability to draw the listener into each scene." (Audiofile)
2012 Audie Award Nominee, Female Solo Narration
I am a blind lawyer and aspiring writer, trying to read a little bit of everything but partial to sci-fi and military fiction.
As has been said before, One Second After this is not. That doesn't have to be a bad thing. Unfortunately, much of the promise of this adventure story is hampered, in my humble opinion, by its characters.
Alex is definitely not one of my favorite protagonists. Like many central players in young adult epics, her decision-making process seems consistently limited by the presence of a male character for whom she may or may not have feelings. Obviously, such entanglements are often involved in choosing one course of action or another, but much of this narrative seems driven solely by how Alex feels about a boy. This is a real shame since, as other reviewers have pointed out, Alex puts herself forward early on as a motivated, clever young woman capable of surviving on her own.
Having just come off Pure, where the bombs that ended the world as we knew it fused people to whatever or whoever they were in contact with at the time of the blast, Ashes's premise of selective effects from exposure to EMP doesn't seem quite as out there. If you liked One Second After, Alas Babylon, The Postman or the like and are expecting a modern YA equivalent though, I'd advise you to pack a few extra doses of suspension of disbelief.
Katherine Kellgren's performance seems to be a rather divisive point among reviews. I can understand why, as she engages in what one hires Katherine Kellgren to do, putting distinctive, colorful voices to each character and playing up the action. This means an eight year old girl sounding annoying, will sound annoying. Events that happen quickly, will be read quickly. This style can be jarring if you're not used to it, but she's developed a fair bit of critical praise for good reason I think. In short, I found nothing wrong with it and found it a reason to keep going on more than one occasion when I'd begun to have second thoughts about the book.
And the thing of it is, I actually got into the story. I wanted to know what happened to the characters, even though I didn't necessarily like any of them very much. And of course, the cliffhanger ending was such a surprise that I really have no choice but to continue; any criticisms aside, the author deserves a heap of praise for the last ten minutes.
So are there better stories out there? Sure! But there are certainly many I'd call worse. If you're into the setting, I'd say go for it.
Cons first: this is a YA novel (strike one) about zombies (strike two) with a female protagonist who goes mushy over not one but two hot boys (strike three).
If I'd known all these things beforehand (especially #3), I probably would not have selected this audiobook, so it's a good thing sometimes I get pleasantly surprised.
(Incidentally, I do not hate either YA or zombie novels — quite the contrary — it's just that so much of it is awful and derivative that my expectations tend to be low going in.)
Ashes isn't as good as Mira Grant's "Newsflesh" trilogy, but it's still a pretty good zombie tale with a teenage girl protagonist who is, yes (sigh) what you might inevitably call "feisty," but she actually earns the moniker, being pretty smart and having some good survival skills and common sense.
I just wish she spent more time thinking survival and less time thinking "Does he or doesn't he?"
Alex is in the mountains thinking about killing herself when a massive series of EMPs takes out civilization. She's thinking about killing herself because she has an incurable brain tumor. So this is one of those books where having normally fatal medical conditions turns out to be an advantage when a giant EMP fries everyone else's brain but gives Alex super-smelling. Actually, it fries the brains of teenagers, turning them into the Changed — yup, zombies. Yes, this is one of those books where zombies represent something else (if ya wanna get all lit-crit on a YA zombie novel), in this case, fear of kids on your lawn. Who want to eat you. It's mostly old people left after the pulse, shooting those darn kids.
Alex is one of the rare teens who doesn't Change. She meets up with a young soldier on leave named Tom, who also hasn't Changed, and a little girl named Ellie. The three of them set off on a trek across the wilds, and of course run into both zombies and the usual assortment of human survivors who turn out to be as bad as zombies. Alex is separated from Tom and Ellie, and winds up in a town called Rule full of nice pleasant folks who are kind of like Mormons/Amish but not. Yes, one of those towns. Creepy vibes right from the start, even before Alex begins unraveling the truths behind Rule. Besides Hot Boy #2 there are several Big Reveals, the last of which is left until the last page because of course this is the first book in a trilogy.
Notwithstanding the predictable tropes and several eye-rolling moments, this was a pretty good listen with a few somewhat novel twists. Ilsa Blick's writing was decent, and I enjoyed the story (and found the loose ends aggravating) enough to want to read book two.
3.5 stars, which I will round up because I'm feeling generous and because I actually intend to continue the series, which is becoming less common for me nowadays.
A lot of reviewers have commented on Katherine Kellgren's narration. She seems to be quite polarizing. So yes, she reads the action scenes in a rapid, almost breathless tone of voice, she screams when the characters scream, and since unfortunately one of the characters for the first half of the book is an incredibly bratty nine-year-old, that means you get a lot of whiiiiiining and YELLING and carrying on, because Kellgren reads Ellie's parts just like how a bratty, terrified, angry nine-year-old would sound.
Once I got used to it, it did not bother me. If you are used to audiobooks where the narrators tend to keep a fairly even tone of voice even while reading the loud action sequences and don't pitch their voices to match those of panicky, emotional character, then Kellgren's reading may seem overly dramatic, but she is never unclear and her voice fits the parts she's reading. While I'm not sure I'd choose Katherine Kellgren to read a Jane Austen novel, she seems just fine for a zombie apocalypse.
A better, less annoying story and less annoying characters.
The flow of the story.
Less screeching and screaming.
Life is too short for bad fiction. In fairness, I will admit that I did not finish this book, but I can just tell that this book is going in a direction that I don't want to follow. After reading some of the reviews (Goodreads and Audible) more in depth, I think it's because people like part of the book but then hated other parts of it so they kind of gave it a "pity" rating. Most dismaying of all, readers seemed to like the first part of the book better than the second part on average. This is a HUGE reason why I stopped reading. I found little to nothing redeeming about the first part and if it only gets worse from here, then god help me.
Audiobook rating: I lay most of the fault with the experience to the story, but this woman's voice was also very grating. Her depiction of Ellie made me want to gouge out my eardrums with a sharp instrument. Especially in the beginning when all Ellie did was scream and whine. Ellie's hysterics eventually leveled out, but not soon enough.
I am only two hours into this book, and I almost can't listen anymore. There is a fine line between drama and melodrama, and Katherine Kellgren crosses it at absolutely every opportunity. I'm astonished she has been nominated for so many Audies. Her shrieking affects me like fingernails on a chalk board, which is a shame because I am particularly intrigued by postapocalyptic fiction. If Kellgren narrates the sequel, I'll have to remember to just get the book from my library.
Would recommend book but not audio version.
This is my first review, I'm not writing so much to review the book because the book is actually good. This particular narrator is just generally not enjoyable to listen too. She makes the characters sound whiny and stupid. This is the first audiobook I've ever purchased that I have had to buy the paper version instead. So If you haven't listened to it do not waste your credit. Just get it on your kindle or nook, or buy the book outright. I am looking forward to the author's next book, but I will not get it from here.
Alex had a brain tumor (which she called ‘the monster’) and knew she didn’t have a lot of time left, so she headed up to a special place in the mountains to say goodbye to her parents and dispose of their ashes. While there, she ran into a young girl and the girl’s grandfather. After an unexplained “attack” left Alex able to smell (something the tumor had taken away) and Ellie’s grandfather dead, they struck out on their own to find out what happened.
I really liked Alex. She was a strong protagonist, not your basic clichéd damsel-in-distress. She didn’t need, or want, anyone to take care of her, she’d been doing just fine on her own ever since her parents died. Good grief, Ellie was annoying. She was a child, yes, but her complaining and whining seemed far too young for someone her age. Tom, whom the two ended up running into and sticking with, was another strong character. He had some secrets and wasn’t upfront about his reasons for being on the mountain, but immediately was willing to do whatever he could to protect Alex and Ellie. If I were ever in a zombie apocalypse, I would want him on my side. (As an aside, if the zombie apocalypse were to actually take place, I would hightail it over to Ashley’s house first.)
We met more characters as the trio journeyed to seek answers and some of those characters were more developed than others, though I found one or two to be on the clichéd side. Especially at the end, some were downright regressive in their thinking and they pissed me off.
There was an element of mystery in Ashes, not only in what exactly the attack was and how it happened, but why did it bring back Alex’s olfactory sense, and why did it give her the ability to smell other things, like lies and personalities?
I didn’t like the second half of the novel, as the world learned to move on and survive, as much as I did the first, but it was still enjoyable. There was a change in the novel’s setting and I missed Tom (and yes, even the ultra-annoying Ellie) and thought the story was better when the three of them were together.
The audio was a trainwreck. I don’t know if that’s how Katherine Kellgran narrates all of her books, but I will be avoiding anything narrated by her at all costs in the future. In the beginning, she made Ellie into a LOUD whiny brat. I don’t think she would have been that annoying as a character without Katherine’s narration. She screamed the exciting parts and I ended up turning my volume down several times.
The cover is creepy, and gives a hint at what the book may be about (electromagnetic waves?). Though I don’t like it as a general book cover, it fits the novel perfectly.
Taut and exciting. Avoid the audio version at all costs.
Here is the honest truth on this book.
1) the first 2 or 3 hours are kind of painfull as the performance by the reader is too much. She squeeks & screams the lines. This improves greatly after that & she does a good job. But you have to get through the first section.
2) the story really isn't that well written - I mean - its not a good story - The last 30 minutes were good - but when she was captured by the cult of "we are not mormons" who make her attend school.... come on - that just sucks. The title has nothing to do with the story & it seems that ashes are a side note & not related to anything that is happening.
3) This might be a good book for a younger person looking for something a little scary - maybe an early teenager. Us older folks expect more.
The author is a genius with her use of imagery and setting. I found the storyline very fresh, the characters believable, and the ending a heart-stopper! Ms. Kellgren caught the character's personalities perfectly...especially the eight year-old girl. Does an eight year-old whine and throw temper tantrums? Any parent will tell you that yes she does. Ms. Kellgren got it spot on. I love this book so much I purchased it for my NOOK and have ordered the hard back. Can't wait for the next installment!
Say something about yourself!
Awful--shockingly, embarrassingly, discouragingly devoid of creativity and talent, and the narrator's histrionic reading was akin to listening to nails scraping across a chalkboard. Disgusted with the rote and threadbare story, and protecting my ears from the whining and screeching of the narrator, I was compelled to keep my finger on the skip-ahead button most of the time. Seeing that a publisher actually saw potential enough to committ to a trilogy, I concluded there must be something here, it would be safe to take a chance...it would be safer to run blindfolded through a zombie infested graveyard at night. Ashes is absolutely one of the worst books I've ever read (or almost read) and THE worst audio I have ever listened to. Miss Kellgren--some heartfelt advice: do not use this for an audition tape.
I love to read and listen to books. I teach and share my love with my teenager and I'd like to share that love with you.
I've been dying to finally get around to reading this book since it came out. Yep, 3 years ago. I'd heard it was creepy. The buzz word "zombies" came up too. Even after finishing it, I still don't know what to think. I guess I'll have to read on.
Alex was great to follow. She is strong and confident. She heads out into the woods by herself, living with an expiration date because of brain cancer, and freaking stays calm and collected as an EMP goes off and changes everything. It causes a somewhat defined segment of society "Changed." Though they can't quite puzzle out what changes some and not others, their threat is very real. She along with Ellie, an orphan, and Tom, a soldier suffering from PTSD, find each other and head out of the woods looking for a more stable place to hold up. I found myself shouting, "go back into the woods."
If life with the Changed isn't bad enough, all kinds of crazy hell is being perpetuated by the not changed. Trying to escape an evil band of bandits, the trio is forcibly separated. Alex stumbles into a crazy sect held up in Rule. Nothing like an apocalypse to bring out the crazy religious fundamentals.
I think I can sum of the book with Questions. I have lots of Questions.
How does this EMP seemingly cure Alex's brain? and give her extra sensory powers?
What causes the Changed to change? Why that segment? Why is it delayed in some?
What's with the Changed being associated with Zombies? These things hunt and organize. They fight too, not just lumbering biting.
Tom or Chris? Urgh! I don't want to like them both. Tom with his kind, calm protectiveness and something to live for. Chris with his bringing books back to the town and doing things that are bigger than his own wants and needs.
Needless to say, I'm going to have to take a walk into the SHADOWS and more answers lie there.
KATHERINE KELLGREN portrayed an appropriate aged Alex that was calm and collected, but with a hint of angst for the justifiable situation. Tom and Chris both had a strong, but vulnerable manliness. She painted the bad guys with a sinister or unease that made you know or not want to know how bad they were. I will make a declaration that I am not a fan of audios with whiny children. KELLGREN spares no annoyance in portraying a scared and bratty Ellie. It actually took me a little longer to warm up to the book, because I found myself wanting to duck tape Ellie's mouth shut. When KELLGREN's pace of action sped up, you felt the anxiety and the real threat of death.
"Review: "Ashes" by Ilsa J Bick"
When I first picked up this book I did so because I'd seen a few good reviews of it around and about and I was enjoying the fab little trend of dystopian fiction that is still running its course in YA at the moment. However, my hopes weren't huge because I'm one of those despicable human beings who judges books by their covers. This cover was just a bit...is “80s” the right term?...for me.
Well give me a sturdy slap on the wrist, I must learn to obey old clichés as this was a book that I should not have judged by its cover. And I should not have expected it to fit into the sometimes (though not always) sanguine niche that YA can be. Don't bite, I said it can be!
For me, Ashes was a book that provided plenty of the darkness and grit that its title suggested. When an EMP causes all electronics to faulter and also interferes with the teeny tiny electrical pulses in the brains of humans, a whole heap of...poop...hits the fan! Only the very young and very old survive intact...save for a few exceptions such as Alex, the protagonist. Others survive, but as maddened inhumane creatures, similar to the "sickos" in Charlie Higson's The Enemy series, or the raging "infected" in 28 Days Later.
The idea of the masses succumbing to a force that leaves them insane and blood thirsty is not new. The dystopian premise of technology falling down around our ears is not new either. So what about this book made me love it as much as I did? It was a combination of things really. I loved Alex as the protagonist. She goes to the mountains to bury her past and to admit that, due to a brain tumor, she has no future. Instead it is her tumor and the treatments she's had for it that saves her from the EMP and allows her to begin her story. These are things you find out in the first pages so I don't think I'm spoiling anything for you.
I'm thoroughly looking forward to the sequel to this (already on my Goodreads Wishlist) and finding out how Bick tortures her protagonist further.
"Good story spoilt by narrator"
The semi-hysterical, high-pitched tones of the narrator at any moment in the book where the action picks up makes this an uncomfortable listen.
yes, great story, great characters and had me wanting more.expertly read by katherine.
the twelve trilogy by justin cronin, ilsa's books come close second. same kind of theme
yes, but sadly i had to work....but couldnt wait to hear more at the first oppertunity
this book was read superbly, i cant wait for the next one. i need to know what happens to the characters as they are amazing
"Interesting start but..."
I'm not sure I would try a different book. This one seemed to start well, but somewhere around the middle I had completely lost the plot. There is only so many times i want to rewind a story before I give up.
Depends on the narrator.
The performance was frantic to say the least. Someone needs to calm the lady down!
Disappointment considering all the good reviews.
The are plenty of much better end of the world / zombie teen stories.
"Fast paced action that is quite gory"
Havent read the print version
Alex a feisty female seemed to lead the way and the story followed her actions and thoughts.
I don't often read this type of genre but was interested in the thoughts and ideas she put forward. Never certain about why the zombie concept is created. However the scenario around why the end of the world as we know it evolved through discussion between Alex and Tom was well managed
There were some great relationship developing moments between the main characters
Not a book for the faint hearted. It is very gory in places. however I like the pace and I kept listening
"Beware. Something like this could really happen"
Very possible plot
Next book added to my wish list
Very imaginative description
Why would there be anything wrong.
This is described as young adults. I would say that any adult who likes fantasy would like this.
"You Never Know... This Might Just Happen !!"
Yes, I really enjoyed listening to this book, it has a good sense of reality throughout the book.
When they found the rangers cabin, and what went on there... (don't want to give too much away)
No, This is the first book I have listened to by Katherine Kellgren
Electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device in the world
Have added "Shadows", the second book in the Ashes Trilogy: where no one is safe and humans may be the worst of the monsters. to my wish list..
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