Top 10 Disaster Books
Well, this is going to be a bit of a random list. Call it the Top Ten Disaster Books Mike Mullin Likes. I chose to exclude most dystopias, which usually have a disaster in the backstory. Otherwise books like The Hunger Games and The Road would appear on my list. Some of the titles are chosen for love alone, others in part because of the influence they had on my disaster novel, ASHFALL. I’m including young adult novels, non-fiction, and adult science fiction because, hey, it’s my list, and I can do what I want. Enjoy!
Earthquake at Dawn by Kristiana Gregory
Real photographer Edith Irvine and her fictional fifteen-year-old maid, Daisy, are caught up in the devastation of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Gregory does a great job depicting the full range of responses to the disaster including: the chaos, cooperation, and governmental corruption. Young adult fiction.
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester
This is easily the finest account of a volcanic disaster yet written. Covers the eruption in exhaustive detail, from its global impacts to the long term local social changes it wrought, sowing the seeds of Indonesian nationalism. Winchester’s prose is clear and accurate but never boring. This work had a major impact on ASHFALL—since no supervolcano has erupted in recorded human history, accounts of large Plinian eruptions like Krakatoa were the best source for many of the details I needed to make my novel realistic. Adult non-fiction.
Catastrophe, the Origins of the Modern World by David Keyes
Describes how a volcanic event in 535 CE changed the world, leading to mass migrations, causing some empires to founder and others to flourish, and sparking the plagues that later ravaged Europe. If you want to get an idea of what Alex and Darla might be up against in the sequels to ASHFALL, this is a good book to read. Adult non-fiction.
The Last Survivors Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
A comet strikes the moon, moving it closer to earth. Catastrophe ensues, as higher lunar gravity wreaks havoc on the earth’s tides, weather, and mantle. The second book in the trilogy is the best—grittier and more realistic than books one or three. Young adult fiction.
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
If you want to be afraid of a disaster, this is the one to fear. Climate change and dwindling oil turn the U.S. into a third-world state. The teenage protagonist, Nailer, struggles to survive by scrounging scrap metal from rusting tankers while the small privileged class flits along the ocean just beyond him in sleek new hydrofoils. Ship Breaker is just as plausible as ASHFALL, but a lot more likely to happen within our lifetime. And this disaster is one we can do something about—there’s no existing or foreseeable technological fix for a supervolcano. Young adult fiction.
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Published in 1951, so it’s got to be hopelessly out of date, right? Not so much. Genetic engineering of plants without adequate research into the long-term impacts? Check, we’re doing that. Mixing the animal and plant genome with genetic engineering? Check. A looming shortage of oil that will incentivize further experimentation with plant sources? Check. All the conditions Wyndham wrote about for the plantpocalypse are just now coming to fruition, sixty years after he wrote the novel. Adult science fiction.
Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and David Pournelle
What happens if the comet in Pfeffer’s books misses the moon and slams into the earth instead? Something like this. This is the classic annihilation by comet novel. A bit slow to get started, but worth the ride. Adult science fiction.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
One of the questions I faced in writing ASHFALL was this—what is it like to live in a society in collapse? Diamond compares about a dozen modern and historical societies, examining why some flourished while others failed. Along the way, we learn that members of collapsing societies suffered terribly, typically struggling with environmental degradation, war, and cannibalism. Many, such as the Easter Islanders, died out completely. Adult non-fiction.
The Postman by David Brin
Another realistic disaster novel—the world succumbs to an accumulation of environmental, military, and political catastrophes. Focuses on rebuilding as a drifter, Gordon Krantz, happens upon an old postal uniform and unwittingly becomes the symbol around which scattered communities across the Pacific Northwest coalesce into a reformed United States. Adult Science Fiction.
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit
Probably the most single influential book in writing ASHFALL. Solnit examines several disasters in exhaustive detail. We see humanity at its sublime best: the communities that fed everyone without regard to race, class, or money after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and at its brutal worst: the mix of police officers and volunteers who lined up to shoot refugees fleeing the Superdome after Katrina. Hopefully I’ve succeeded in portraying both of those extremes accurately in ASHFALL. Adult non-fiction.
Thank you for hosting me on Star Shadow. Today (October 11) is the official launch day for ASHFALL! *Throws confetti*
Below find extras you may use in your blog post or not as you wish, including pictures, cover art, a bio, flap copy, and links.
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.
Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.
Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.
Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.
The first two chapters are available on my website: www.mikemullinauthor.com. You may reprint the first two chapters in whole or in part on your website so long as you do not charge anyone anything to access them.
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