Review: Supervolcano Trilogy, by Harry Turtledove-Read Up, Gals

Time for a book review! (And the title of the post will make sense…)

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of the first book in Harry Turtledove’s near-future Supervolcano disaster trilogy. Since I have now finished all three books, I wanted to revisit it briefly.

ABOUT SUPERVOLCANO-ERUPTION (#1): 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…

ABOUT SUPERVOLCANO-ALL FALL DOWN (#2): In the aftermath of the supervolcano’s eruption in Yellowstone Park, North America is covered in ash. Farmlands cannot produce food. Machinery has been rendered useless. Cities are no longer habitable. And the climate across the globe grows colder every day….Former police officer Colin Ferguson’s family is spread across the United States, separated by the catastrophe, and struggling to survive as the nation attempts to recover and reestablish some measure of civilization…

ABOUT SUPERVOLCANO-THINGS FALL APART (#3): An explosion of incalculable magnitude in Yellowstone Park propelled lava and ash across the landscape and into the atmosphere, forever altering the climate of the entire continent. Nothing grows from the tainted soil. Stalled and stilled machines function only as statuary. …People have been scraping by on the excess food and goods produced before the eruption. But supplies are running low. Natural resources are dwindling. And former police officer Colin Ferguson knows that time is running out for his family—and for humanity…

WHAT I LIKED: I admitted last time to being a disaster-film junkie, and these books have that sort of vibe. They follow the story of police lieutenant Colin Ferguson, who lives in an L.A. suburb going to seed, and his grown kids and ex-wife and new family and extended family. Like classic disaster films, there are domestic and dramatic events going on in the characters’ lives that play out against the eruption of the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park that has rendered a big swath of the country uninhabitable.

In our current political and military climate, it’s easy to substitute “nuclear strike” for “supervolcano” as the people on the fringes of the disaster cope with the ongoing fallout. While the first book dealt with the immediate impact of the supervolcano eruption, the second and third books do a great job of weaving in the ongoing impact. With the U.S. focused on its own survival, the Middle East and Russia don’t play nice with their enemies. The American “bread basket” is a wasteland, so in the second book the country lives off its stores—until, in book three, those stores run out. The climate changes wrought by the supervolcano kill the Gulf Stream, which puts Northern and Western Europe into a deep freeze along with much of the U.S. (Canada? Yikes.)

Having gone through Hurricane Katrina, I felt the impacts as described were believable and not overwrought. Back in 2005, it was shocking to me how quickly things fell apart until I saw mountains of trash grow to the size of a three-story building because I lived in a city that no longer had such niceties as trash pickup…or potable water…or mail service. Only instead of a Katrina, where one city was driven to chaos instantaneously, this trilogy shows a slow trickle of chaos that, by the end of book three, still isn’t at its nadir, ten years after the supervolcano. Which leads to…

WHAT I LIKED LESS: The trilogy feels unfinished in some ways. All the story lines are wrapped up so none of the characters are left hanging….except in the sense that humankind, especially the U.S., is left hanging. I can’t slam the trilogy too much for that, however, because it’s hard to know exactly when, or if, conditions might tilt back in favor of survival. There’s no recorded precedent of an event this size. The characters do prove admirably adaptable, though. And perhaps the title, taken from WB Yeats’ The Apocalypse, tells us what we need to know.

And, okay, I’ll admit this is kind of personal, but the books contain a word that drives me apeshit: gal. As in: He didn’t know a gal who’d dress that way voluntarily. Or Those gals sure were having fun. I mean, seriously? Who the heck uses the word gal anymore (particularly if one cares if one’s readers might include women)? I find the term dismissive and offensive. I don’t know why. I should confess here that I also find “female” offensive in many cases…and “ladies.” (Don’t even get me started on “ladies.”)

At first I thought it was only the middle-age protagonist of the story using the word, and I gave him that—it’s an older guy kind of word. Then his ex-wife used it. Then his college-aged son used it and a college professor…and I was lost. I began highlighting the word whenever it appeared. It appeared quite frequently.

Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight? NO!

CONCLUSION: I stick with my original opinion of the first book and apply it to the series: this is kind of a throw-back series for me, but is a fast, fun read…it’s like disaster crack. I’d give the overall series 3.75 gators. It would have gotten a 4 if so many GALS hadn’t appeared.

So….does “gal” annoy anyone else, or am I just weird?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man's Curse) releases April 2016).

6 thoughts on “Review: Supervolcano Trilogy, by Harry Turtledove-Read Up, Gals

  1. I can appreciate your sentiments about the word gal. My pet peeve is when the server in a restaurant greets my husband and myself as guys. Thanks for the review. I remember going to see the movie, Volcano with my daughter and watching lava balls explode out of the La Brea tar pits.

  2. In the sense you describe I think “gal” would bug me. If it was just one character using the term it would be fine, part of his/her personality. Same thing with “ladies”.

    The books sound interesting so I’ll have to check them out. My Amazon gift card balance just reloaded so there’s money burning a hole in my virtual pocket.

  3. If he had written the books back in the 60’s, I’d be okay with “gals”, but these books aren’t that old. That kind of thing drives me nuts!
    Have you ever read Lucifer’s Hammer, by Niven & Pournelle? A giant comet destroys civilization-as-we-know-it on earth. One of my favorites, I re-read it every few years. My only problem is that the comet is often referred to as a “giant hot fudge sundae”, so guess what I crave!

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