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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2013
I decided to see if this one was any better than the first one, so a full cup of coffee and a comfy chair at Barnes and Noble were in order.

It wasn't.

I found myself flipping through the pages, skipping entire scenes, because this just couldn't grab me. It really felt like a poorly written soap opera that happened to have a 'disaster' setting - except that the setting wasn't the only thing that was a disaster.

A perfect example is the dichotomy in government. Apparently somewhere there's a U.S. government struggling to get along, and California still apparently has a functioning state government of some kind. So when you have a load of oil coming in, it's going to a couple of town police forces - and the LAPD is going to attempt to hijack it, so the other police forces come out with greater firepower. So where exactly was the California National Guard? Or for that matter, the U.S. Military?

If it's perfectly okay for them to act in this manner, why exactly do you have another of the characters out scavenging in parts of the disaster area, with government troops ready to take out civilians who simply want to protect what they've acquired? And while she's not willing to suck up her pride and call home for help (amazing how cell phone towers are still up and working), she's willing to suck ... other things.

In my review of the first novel, I briefly touched upon some of the geological issues that were missed or ignored. How about some of the human ones? Do you live in the Dakotas? Kansas, Nebraska, any of the four corners states? Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, northern Texas? Those are all areas that have in the past been covered by significant ashfall from PREVIOUS real-world Yellowstone supervolcanic eruptions. As in, holy crap, the ground is covered, ALL of the crops in those states are now dead, and if you can't get out, you will be as well. 75 million people in this country alone - and oh, yeah - think about if Maine is covered in snow, how deep will it be in Britain? When Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, the ash cloud affected most of northern Europe and Asia - throw 200 cubic miles (!) of ash from Yellowstone into the atmosphere and bad things happen around the world.

So all of these people are going to have to evacuate - somewhere. And be fed - somehow. This literally would be a post-apocalyptic world - can you imagine the chaos in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, or Detroit if the food trucks don't roll in like they do every day now? Yet this completely dysfunctional family is wandering around like, oh, this bad thing happened suddenly and there's really no other aftereffects nationally or globally.

I could go on but ... no point, really. Based upon the quality of the other books he's written, this entire series should simply be shelved or thrown into the back corner. It's poor soap opera at best, and the science truly is fictional here. The only thing that has fallen down is the standing of the author with me. (And I'm a reader - I have most of his novels and works, and normally I love what he writes. I liked 'The Man with the Iron Heart' immensely. I have no idea what happened with this series.)
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
So apparently once the Yellowstone supervolcano goes off, the worst most of the west coast will have to worry about is a little snow, higher gas prices and Denny's serving pork burgers with barley buns. That, at least, is the impression I get from the latest novel by master writer Harry Turtledove; a novel that is, sadly, a rare misfire.

This story picks up right where part one left off. Colin Ferguson and his family are dealing with the literal and metaphorical fallout of a volcanic eruption that killed about 2 to 3 million people, ejected something like 600 cubic miles of debris into the air and buried a huge part of America's agricultural belt under several feet of ash. It's a global crisis presented on a local scale and that's really just part of the problem.

See, at no point do I get a real sense of desperation. Life is basically going on as normal for almost everyone in the book. Ferguson is being a cop and tracking down a serial killer (whose identity I got almost correct), his new wide wants to have a baby, his ex-wife is raising a new baby, their youngest son is helping when he isn't acting like a jerk, their older son is stuck in rural Maine dealing with ten months of winter a year, and their daughter is stuck at a refugee camp where she does unpleasant things to make her life slightly better.

Now you'd think that, for example, the son in Maine would be living in desperate times indeed. This does not appear to be the case. We follow him through his second and third winter there (because he's decided not to leave, even though he could at almost any point), and he makes mention, from time to time, about how the moose herds and second-growth forest are thinning out. But despite that, no one seems to be starving or freezing yet. It's a specter that might come later, but isn't here at this point. This removes some of the tension.

There's a similar problem with the daughter at the camp. She could, at any point, leave. All she needs to do is contact her father and have him send her money so that she can go home. But, no, her pride won't let her do that. Ok, I suppose I can kind of understand that, but apparently her pride doesn't stop her from performing certain services for various men in order to make her own way along in the world. That the only men she ever meets are apparently the sort who would abuse their power in this way is a given, though I'm not clear why, since I think most men are better than that.

Mind you, the problems these two characters face are real, but they aren't that big, and they can escape from them whenever they chose and go back to Southern California where the rest of the family are. Things aren't perfect there, with gas shortages and frequent brown-outs, but they're not that bad. People ride bikes in weather that now resembles Seattle, but that's really it for the problems they have to deal with. We're told, however, that more problems are on the horizon.

That's the real problem with this book. We never actually see any really, major, huge problems. Life is basically just going on like normal, and we're told all the time that problems will be coming along down the line, but they never do, or if they do, they don't in such a way as to cause real disruptions for the main characters.

It's worth noting that this book suffers from some other problems, too. First off, Turtledove's strength as an author has always centered on him being able to come up with interesting worlds and/or interesting stories and go from there. His strength has never been in his characters. Here has what is basically the real world with a lot more ash, and the result is that his characters problems show through big time. Vanessa and Marshall are characters we spend a lot of time with, and neither are particularly interesting and are also not very likeable. Everyone else are basically just archetypes in search of characterization, and none of them are especially compelling.

Second, Turtledove continues his habit of telling us the same thing over and over again. This was excusable when there'd be a year between books and he'd remind us, once, of something he told us in the previous one. That's awkward when you read them one right after another, but not a problem when there's a break. Here, however, we're given certain bits of information repeatedly, throughout the same book, often using the same phrases. That's annoying, distracting and unnecessary.

The third minor problem is minor indeed, and that's that Turtledove's personal politics seem to be showing. It's implied that this happens around our current time, and that would imply in turn that the president and vice-president are the current ones. The former we hear nothing from and the latter is presented as rather feckless and foolish. We also hear almost every single character complain at least once about how the government isn't doing anything to help them, which gets annoying, and the only politician we actually see is a noble, hard-working New England Republican. Turtledove also takes every chance to bash on the media, including presenting a CNN reporter as being a vapid idiot. Now I watch CNN daily, and while I have many complaints about the way they cover the news, I don't ever feel that the various reporters are morons.

I didn't hate this book. I just felt that not enough happened. We basically end with everyone in slightly different places geographically and the world turning along like it was at the end of the last book. Nothing major happened. Nothing major changed. The volcano is an annoyance, but little more. I sincerely hope that the next book in the series changes all those things, but right now, I'm not hopeful.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2012
I am a Harry Turtledove fan and will read pretty much anything he writes. If you are like me, "All Fall Down" is worth picking up. However, it is not one of Turtledove's stronger efforts. The theme-- insofar as there is one-- seems to be that in case of a national and world disaster, even due to a vast natural catastrophe, the result might be not so much sudden and total chaos and horror, but a slow but steady reduction in the "quality of life" for most people. This book follows various characters established in the first book in the series; primarily a police detective in a Southern California town and his scattered family. In the wake of the volcano eruption that has devastated part of the U.S. and disrupted the climate and economy of the rest, these people go on living their lives as best they can; most do not experience intense suffering or stress, except for one character who has a grueling and degrading stay in a refugee camp. Some of the characters are not very likable, which may be realistic but makes it harder to sympathize with their troubles.
One flaw in the plotting is that the climax (such as it is-- this series is obviously intended to continue) is based on a plotline that has nothing directly to do with the volcano and could have come out of a standard mystery/police procedural novel. Another problem is that though we get occasional comments by the characters about how the Federal government in Washington, DC is failing to cope with the crisis, we get little idea of what is really happening in Washington and what government leaders are doing and thinking. Perhaps placing one viewpoint character in Washington would have helped. (Another of Turtledove's currently ongoing series, "The War That Came Early," has a similar problem. It's somewhat hard to follow the progress of his alternate World War II starting in 1938, because the story is strictly a "grunt's eye view," with little indication of what high leaders such as Hitler or Roosevelt are doing.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 5, 2013
This is the sequel to SUPERVOLCANO: ERUPTION. The story picks up about a year after the events of the first book. Yellowstone has erupted leaving behind a wide swath of destruction, Wyoming and parts of Idaho and Montana are gone, part of the new caldera. The rest of the Mountain states and much of the Midwest are covered with ash, only inhabitable on the outer edges. The survivors from these areas are for the most part in refugee camps where conditions are grim. The United States economy is shattered with the rest of the world not far behind. The ash cloud has caused the earth's temperature to drop, adding to the overall misery and crop failures.

The story is focuses on the family of Colin Ferguson, a cop in an LA suburb. The various experiences of Colin, his ex-wife, his current wife, his two sons, daughter and her former boyfriend all provide slightly different points of view about the event - standard disaster epic fare. And therein lies part of the problem. This is a great premise, one that could well become a truly memorable story but unfortunately it is instead only a very typical disaster epic of the made for TV quality.

Turtledove has not taken his usual pains with this novel, the scientific research on this one is slipshod at best, resulting in some frustrating holes in the plot. For example, we are told that the ash cloud had obliterated much of the crop lands but it was not made clear just how far the devastation went. We are told that there food shortages (understandably enough) but then it seems as though masses of healthy people are trapped in refuge camps or unable to find work when food is in such short supply. No one is moving excess unused labor to areas were crops could be grown? Much is made about how much cooler and wetter the climate is, and how much crop land is taken out of production but nothing is said about the changes in the areas that had been too hot and/or too dry to be arable before. Food shortages are occurring and are predicted to continue and worsen in the foreseeable future but no one is planting crops in these newly available areas? The government is keeping people trapped in camps that necessitate moving food and supplies in to them rather than moving people out to areas where they could work or at least be closer to food supplies? Electricity is supposedly sporadic but internet providers and cell phone services continue? Credit cards are continuing to be honored but one character lost all her assets because her bank failed, so banking continues but FDIC insurance doesn't?

We are also told the same bits of information repeatedly, many times by different characters and concerning things that are really not very important. The story seems to have been padded, drawn out to fill up space. It is too bad because there is an excellent story to be told here, one that could easily fill out multiple volumes if the research had been done and the story focus had remained on the eruption and the aftermath rather than wasting pages on changing diapers. As it is if both volumes of this series had been combined into one at four hundred pages or less it would have been a better story.

It is an interesting read for the premise alone. The characters have their merits, and could possibly have something interesting to say. It is too bad that there was not enough background work done to let them do it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2013
I bet at least 20% of the words used in this novel are repeated over and over. It also ended very abruptly and really did not have much to add past the original novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2012
I wish I liked the characters better. Colin seems to have attitudes more like a generation or two before him, which could be from him being a cop, but I know cops his supposed age that aren't nearly as ossified as he is. There seems to be no popular culture, though the internet experience is well integrated for the younger characters (but no smartphones and no Twitter? Really? And if Vanessa's credit cards are no good, then how is her cell phone still working, with no contract? Plus, even if she cut her card up, if she still has an account at Wells Fargo, she could find it somehow by working with customer assistance, once she reached an Actual Human). Colin and Vanessa once again fail to recognize how much they resemble each other in characters, and I wanted to smack Marshall for hating on his mother the way he does--yeah, yeah, Daddy paid all the bills all those years, while apparently doing squat for his daughter, and it's all so sad that Mommy didn't stick around to wait on him, but Marshall is a special case, always getting subsidized all his life. Gee, kid, grow up some day!). Why Louise is not tracking Teo down with an axe and filing for child support, I do not know; in fact, I'm very surprised the state of California did not require her to do so when she filed for unemployment. I am also a little surprised that beef was running short--California is a huge cattle grazing state, as anyone who has ever passed the feedlot south of Stockton while traveling on I-5 can testify. With more water, the Imperial and Central Valley would be planting fence-post to fence-post, and the hills up on the side would be mobbed with grazing cattle, since the grass would stay green past June.

I am also surprised that Hollywood hasn't made a disaster movie about the eruption and hired Kelly as a consultant--it's been a couple of years, at least, and some studio is going to think of it.

And I would also like to see what the people at the top are doing; we saw that to good effect in the Lizardwar books.

Yes, I'll buy the next ones because I do want to see what comes out; but if there was ever a total disaster in the LA area, I'd count on Colin and Vanessa to survive it (though Vanessa is going to have to stop dating scary men, she's one Mr. Goodbar away from ending up strangled, I think).

Oh, yes, the guy with the doctorate in Ancient Greek; he'll probably end up looking up Vanessa again, he can't stop thinking about her all the time. Not a good sign.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Remember the nuclear winter scenario from the 1980s? This postulated that nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union would trigger a years long devastating gloom of dust in the atmosphere. This series by Turtledove explores a peaceful enactment of that scenario. So no catastrophic nuclear explosions. The gradual unravelling of a complex global society is depicted in more detail in the current book, compared to its predecessor.

Other reviewers have already mentioned the involuntary gearing down of the US. What I found lacking was more mention of how other countries were faring. Perhaps this is unfair to Turtledove as he has his hands full just covering the American experience. Yet I hark back to his seminal World War series In the Balance: An Alternate History of the Second World War (Worldwar, Volume 1), where he indeed did just that.

Alas the current series does plod at times. Actually at most times. But the science behind this is solid and the extrapolations made do unfold quite logically. So the book is not gripping. Still a worthy read. But I did find that the interactions between the characters, especially in the main family, shows some effort went into it. The travails of the stranded indie rock band in Maine were amusing. Yet the question raised by other reviewers remains: Why did these blokes and the daughter who stayed in the work camp in the midwest not hoff it right back to Los Angeles during the summer? While travel was much harder than pre-eruption, the book does not seem to mention any outright blockages that would have prevented this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2013
I have been an avid Turtledove fan for 30 years. This is a rare misfire. The author's usual strong characterizations seem lackluster and half-hearted at best. I was truly looking forward to this book after the set up of Supervolcano:Eruption.

The entire novel is a steady state existence of life after disaster. What should have been a major resolution of the solution of the serial murder case running through both books is abrupt and actually one of the low points of the story. The ongoing lives of the six focus characters is a story of existence rather than triumph over adversity. Only the story of the eldest son who is forced to endure the effects of a climate change winter in Maine comes close to this standard.

The only redemption for this book lies in the next novel. This story must serve as a foil to its sequel which must embrace that there is more to life than mere existence. I look forward to vindication in both horror and some anticipation.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2013
Against my better judgement I read the second book after the boring Super Volcano: Eruption. Live goes on but it is neither interesting or challenging. Mostly folks complain about rising gas prices, food substitutions, and unemployment. I gave the book two stars since it seemed a little better than the first...but that may have been lowered expectations.

As to the South Bay strangler...who cares?

To me this series smells like fulfilling a contractual obligation with the publisher. Or maybe he needed a new car.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
Is there anybody at Turtledove's publishers who dares tell him to go back and rewrite? In the Supervolcano series he has an excellent premise, which is then ruined by horrible, horrible postulations. Forget how unappealing the main characters are, after all nothing says major characters have to be likable. What bothers me about this and the previous book is how it asks too much of my willing suspension of disbelief. It's just stupid to write of a supervolcano exploding and then have lives carry on almost unchanged. For the first week after, maybe; in some areas of the world, could be. Australia, maybe. But in America? In the country where the supervolcano exploded? Not possible.
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