Ashfall Trilogy Part 3: SUNRISE by Mike Mullin- Interview & Review

Ashfall Trilogy, Book Three
by Mike Mullin
Available Now!
Find it on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, SDCL
The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever—and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.

"...Throughout the novel, every decision has consequences, and characters must constantly decide what they are willing to pay..." --Kirkus 


Mike Mullin enjoys torturing his readers at book signings with cryptic and ominous clues, holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo, and excels in writing hard won scenes full of false senses of security- only to make terrible terrible things happen to characters you love. 

He also ives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Sunrise is his third novel. Ashfall, the first novel of the trilogy, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association. 

IBT interrogates Mike Mullin-

IBT: Do you truly believe that Good would ultimately triumph over Evil in the post-apocalypse? 

MM: In the long run, yes. Look at the fates of evil leaders in recent history. Hitler committed suicide, Mussolini was shot, Stalin was poisoned, Pol Pot driven from Cambodia to die in exile. Fear is not a stable basis for running a political group—whether it’s a gang of flensers or an empire.

IBT: How much did luck have to do with Alex's survival? Example: If he'd never met Darla, if his uncle hadn't been an engineer, if his family hadn't been able to grow the kale, his life would have been vastly different. Or maybe even vastly shorter. Then again they had THE WORST luck ever. I was a ball of frayed nerves because if things were going well- something was just around the corner to make everything into a life-or-death-nail-biting-full-body-sweating situation. How much did luck shape the trajectory of Alex's life?

MM: Luck is a massive influence on everyone’s life. But it’s hard to perceive how much luck has to do with our position in life because we don’t get to experience the alternative. It took all kinds of luck, both good and bad, to get wherever you are in life. But the good luck outweighs the bad in all our lives—those who had really bad luck are dead. So all our stories are, by definition, told by survivors like Alex and Darla.

Luck also influences our position in life in subtler ways. Malcom Gladwell has a great discussion of this in his book Outliers. To take one example, Bill Gates happened to go to a high school that had one of the first mainframe computers at a time when they were vanishingly rare and incredibly expensive. So he had the opportunity to spend thousands of hours learning to program. Yes, lots of hard work was involved, but no amount of hard work will make you a computer expert if you don’t have access to a computer.

I’m an author today in large part due to bad luck. I had terrible childhood asthma, and spent part of my early life in an oxygen tent. Later, I was often forced to rest on the couch due to breathing difficulties. So what did I do? I read. That lifelong habit (I still read 120-170 books a year) forms the foundation on which I built my writing career.

IBT: Learning how to be not just a good leader, but a successful leader, a worthy leader, a survivor was very much a trial by fire for Alex. What qualities did you know Alex would need to be the leader everyone would need?

MM: Empathy. Alex is an incredibly empathetic young man. In ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER this gets him into a lot of trouble. But in SUNRISE it’s essential to his development as a leader. When you lead through fear—like Target, Wolf, or Red—your followers will stab you in the back at the first opportunity. You certainly can’t inspire anyone’s best work through fear. Alex leads through empathy, through love. A leader like that can inspire people to walk through fire—to accomplish miracles, which is exactly what they need to survive the long volcanic winter.

IBT: With a title like SUNRISE, I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say you end everything on a hopeful note. (A gorgeous ending, so beautiful I was crying as I finished reading it.) Was there ever any other ending in your head, and did it all come to a close as you had originally envisioned it? Or had the journey changed things organically.

MM: Aww, thank you! That’s such a huge compliment—I love books that make me cry. I read the last few pages of Gayle Foreman’s If I Stay on an airplane—I think the lady sitting next to me thought I was insane, sobbing into the pages of a book.

Anyway, when I was partway through the first draft of ASHFALL, I realized I had way more story than would fit in one book. So I sat down and wrote a very rough outline for the whole trilogy. I changed a lot of it as I was writing, but the scene that ends the whole trilogy is almost exactly as I wrote it in my outline five years ago.

IBT: Being a good person was a pretty perilous thing to be in the post-volcano apocalypse world. Every decision was a life & death decision- and every one of those decisions had longer lasting ramifications. You can save someone today, and have them steal from you/try to kill you/harm your people anytime thereafter. Darla always wanted to stay on the safer side of minding their own business and not overextending themselves. Now that it's all said and done, I have to wonder, back when Alex fist came into Darla's life, would she have helped him if he'd not been injured and her mother convinced her to help him? What would have been Darla's chances to survive if she'd never met Alex?

MM: Neither Alex nor Darla could have survived on their own. Alex needed Darla’s toughness and practicality. He would have starved to death many times over without her. She also balanced his impulsivity, generous nature, and naiveté. But Darla needed Alex just as much as he needed her. She lost everything that mattered to her in the world—her farm and her mother. People who survive disasters survive in part because they have a reason to live—the motivation to live is every bit as important as the means. Alex became Darla’s motivation. His love and faithfulness carried her through her losses in ASHFALL and her ordeal in ASHEN WINTER. They’re a good team. I’m going to miss writing about them. 

IBT: Thanks Mike, it's been an EPIC ride. You've enriched my imagination, and challenged me to think about the grey areas of survival vs. empathy/keeping your humanity. You can check out what's going on in Mike Mullin's universe at any of the links below.

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My Review/Reactions-

This book is perfect. It's exactly the book I wanted to finish Alex and Darla's story. At times hard to read, I found myself sweating with fear in others, and in tears of joy. It took an extra year to get it into my hands, but the wait was absolutely worth it.

I feel like there is nothing left to say, I've gushed about every book, but this time I am left beyond words. My life is better for having read it. 

Trilogy + Darla's story of events just after the volcano's eruption (pre-Alex).
On a side note, readers should look to the book covers of this series for easter eggs within the story. I thought the cover for SUNRISE was hopeful- and it was- but IT IS SOO MUCH MORE!!!!! 


Savannah Bookswithbite said...

HAH! Love the tweets! Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Micaella Lopez said...

I LOVED SUNRISE! IT'S A GREAT READ! It is a very realistic book, raw, violent and scary at moments about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. And I loved the ending, it felt right and it left me very satisfied on how things end. The Ashfall trilogy is one of the best of this genre that I've read so far, I recommend it to everyone, it's a trilogy that you can't miss!

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