Friday, September 9, 2011

Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison

Title: Ashes of the Earth: A Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America
Author: Eliot Pattison

Genre: Fiction (Mystery / Post-Apocalypse / Dystopia / Future)
Publisher/Publication Date: Counterpoint (4/1/2011)
Source: The publisher.

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, pretty quickly.
One-sentence summary: Twenty-five years after an apocalypse wiped out most of the Earth, a series of murders threatens the stability of a community of survivors.

Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about it, but it features key elements from the book so that makes me happy!

I'm reminded of...: Octavia Butler, Robert Heinlein

First line: The faces of the many child suicides Hadrian Boone had cut from nooses or retrieved below cliffs never left him, filled his restless sleep, and encroached in so many waking nightmares that now, as the blond girl with the hanging rope skipped along the ridge above, he hesitated, uncertain whether she was another of the phantoms that haunted him.

Did... I love the first line?: YES -- I mean, how can you not flinch and sit up at that?

Why did I get this book?: I'm a sucker for a dystopia!

Review: About twenty-five years have passed since a nuclear apocalypse nearly obliterated life on Earth. Hadrian Boone was a survivor, one of the founders of the Carthage, but after being a community leader early on, he's now a disgraced criminal. What was an agrarian attempt at rebuilding has turned into a repressive totalitarian stronghold with a leader who exiles anyone he dislikes or fears. Children kill themselves in hopes of crossing to a world like the one they've seen in contraband magazines and books.

This is the bleak, grim setting for a conspiracy-laden murder mystery, as Boone tries to untangle the connection between the secret murders happening in the community. The world-building was interesting and vivid without being overwhelming (I get glazed-eyed at too much technical explanation) and we're fed details about the apocalypse and the community's history as the story goes on (usually when Boone is meditating on something). The events that led to this dystopic world are still remembered by the survivors, and the first children born after the apocalypse are now in their early twenties. I was particular intrigued by this setting because there's the mix of those who remember, who want to forget, the tension of commemorating versus moving on, and the myth-making that inevitably happens.

I especially think fans of YA dystopias will enjoy this -- the middle-aged protagonist certainly doesn't get into the kind of drama that YA hero/ines do, but the ambiance and repressive feel is articulated with fascinating world building and a tangled conspiracy. I even think those who like political thrillers might dig this -- secrets and cover-ups from a different kind of government!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Ashes of the Earth to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this short form. Open to US/CA readers, closes 9/23.


  1. Wow, this sounds great! I love dystopias also - am now in fact reading Divergent. Interesting this one reminds you of Heinlein. Now there's an interesting guy. Time Enough For Love was one of my favorite books even though it was also one of the most sexist books I ever read. He's got something for everyone! LOL

  2. @rhapsody: I was really reminded of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress because of the insurrection-y/conspiracy kind of feel and the v vibrant world building. Pattison was very good at letting women be more than brood mares (even though one of the characters wanted it that way!) and I really appreciated that. The story felt nuanced in that way -- nothing super trite whether it was gender, religion, or industry. I bet you'd enjoy this!

  3. I like the fact that this is a dystopian murder mystery. I am definitely interested!

  4. Lots of the things you mention in this review intrigue me, and the worldbuilding is just one of them. It sounds like there is an awful lot of interesting things going on in this book, and that even the characters are easy to relate to. I also like that it's the sort of book that would appeal to those who like political thrillers as well. Great review on this one. Glad to hear that it met with success!

  5. Freaky, I like it ;)
    I did not know what to make of it from the look of that cover. But then I read what it was about

  6. @Blodeuedd: Yeah, the cover doesn't capture the feel for me and something about the font especially feels off. But the book is solid and I think you'd dig it!

  7. I've wanted to read more dystopian and this sounds very good. I actually like the cover.

  8. I've got Skull Mantra by Pattison on my RIP list. This one sounds intriguing though. I love dystopias!

  9. Oh very cool. It looks like a really interesting read. And hey, Dystopian adventure sans teen melodrama? Yes, please! I have to say I'm not at all sold on the cover but that's what they say "don't judge a book by it's cover for", right? ;O)

  10. Sounds like another dystopia to suck me in. Great review...thanks.

  11. I've never read a dystopian mystery so you've certainly made me curious!

  12. I love these post-apocalyptic novels! Thanks for the giveaway!

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com