Review: Supervolcano: Eruption, by Harry Turtledove
First, a quick note that there’s a new review up for ILLUMINATION scheduled today at Butterfly-o-Meter Books. Check it out if you get a chance, and enter to win the tour giveaways!
Now…time for a book review of my own!
I bought a copy of ERUPTION, the first book in Harry Turtledove’s Supervolcano trilogy, several years ago and although it survived The Great Purge, when I donated the bulk of my print TBR mountain to a book event, I had never gotten around to reading it. Then a news flash last month reminded me of it. In June, geologists confirmed that more than 450 earthquakes of a smallish nature had hit the notorious “supervolcano” that lies below Yellowstone National Park in a span of a couple of weeks. If and when that volcano blows again, it will cause devastation on a global scale—possibly a winter as long as that on Game of Thrones.
Anyway, that reminded me of this book and being a longtime disaster-movie junkie (seriously, I have seen them ALL), I thought I’d give ERUPTION a shot. Harry Turtledove is the master of alternative history, which I don’t have a lot of interest in, but this promised to be more apocalyptic than military what-ifs.
ABOUT SUPERVOLCANO-ERUPTION: A supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world…
WHAT I LIKED: Well, as a disaster-film junkie, I like that it follows “the formula.” The micro plots and subplots revolve around a police lieutenant from Southern California, his ex-wife, new lover, grown kids, and a serial killer. Playing behind all the micro drama is the Big One—the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Conveniently, the characters are spread out, with the new girlfriend being a geologist and Lt. Colin Ferguson’s grown kids scattered around the country. So we get to see the immediate fallout in Denver (about as close to Ground Zero as one could be and survive…for a little while), in Maine, on the eastern side of the Midwest, and California. Turtledove manages to keep the language spare but friendly—no overwrought descriptions, but plenty of food for thought. He referenced Hurricane Katrina a few times (which I’ll admit did sour me on disaster flicks for a few years), so I appreciated his realistic approach to even such small details as evacuating people being forced to part with their pets–or stay behind and die with them.
WHAT I LIKED LESS: The book has a bit of a dated feel because it does follow that classic disaster-film formula. It would have been interesting to see the volcano eruption from someone’s point of view closer to the halls of power—in government, in the military, in FEMA. Heck, in the USDA! But this is the first book in a trilogy, so there were plenty of threads left dangling to pick up in the next book, and those things might come into play. I could easily see Kelly, the geologist girlfriend of the cop, getting pulled into higher-level discussions on how to deal with the ramifications.
CONCLUSION: This is kind of a throwback series for me, but is a fast, fun read…especially if you don’t think too hard about what if the supervolcano DOES go off in our lifetimes (it’s kind of overdue)…or the New Madrid fault splits the country in half…or San Andreas…well, you know. I’d give Eruption 3.5 gators.
Do we have any other disaster-flick fans out there? Do you have a favorite? Are you watching the new quasi-disaster TV show “Salvation” on CBS? Of course, I am.