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Ashes of the Earth: A Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America Hardcover – April 1, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Having successfully portrayed both modern-day Tibet and Colonial America in two series, Edgar-winner Pattison (Eye of the Raven) launches a third with this brilliant if grim mystery set in the 21st century 25 years after global mega-acts of terror have destroyed all U.S. government entities and almost all infrastructure. Hadrian Boone, one of the cofounders of the struggling colony of Carthage, located near the Great Lakes, is one of those who remembers the former world, as the time before the apocalypse is referred to, but he's on the outs with the community's leaders and on the verge of being exiled. The chance discovery of a body triggers a series of events that reintroduces murder and other crimes to a community reliant on 19th-century technology. Boone's efforts to find the truth and what it implies for Carthage's future put him in harm's way time after time. Pattison blends the bleakness of The Road with a well-crafted whodunit plot for another winner. (Apr.)
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Praise for Ashes of the Earth

"With a vital cast of villains and heroes, a vividly grim setting, and inventive, hair-raising action, ingenious mystery-writer-of-conscience Pattison explores the psychological toll of mass destruction and the need to salvage ideas and values, rather than material riches, so that a just society can rise from the ashes." —Booklist (starred)

"Brilliant . . . Pattison blends the bleakness of The Road with a well-crafted whodunit plot for another winner." —Publishers Weekly (starred)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582436444
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582436449
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,437,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a big science fiction fan and occasionally like detective stories, so this seemed like a natural.

I have read many, many stories set in various types of dystopias, in apocalyptic, and the end of the world as we know it scenarios, and I am not unfamiliar with accounts of Nazi, Japanese, Soviet, and Chinese brutality and concentration camps and seemingly hopeless or actually hopeless situations yet, the small society depicted,--although not so organized or violent as these real examples were and are--was just too bleak for me, and I found myself reluctant to pick up the book again and to continue reading. Moreover, I found the beatings, mutilations, and various other repeated violent assaults against the main character--at this time probably 50, if not older, not eating too well, and likely not in prime condition--and his response, to be pretty unbelievable i.e. I found it harder and harder to believe that he took a licking one day and came back the next day for more, and then more again a couple of days later and, still, he kept on going.

I just couldn't finish it, and back it went to the Library.
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Format: Hardcover
It has been thirty years since global holocaust, and the village of Carthage is struggling to build a new society. Hadrian Boone, one of the original founders, has watched a village founded on the desire for a future descend into corruption, greed, and power struggles. Disillusioned and wracked with grief over the family he lost, Hadrian has become an alcoholic and frequent trouble-maker. It is only when the town's wise man, Jonah, is murdered, that Hadrian is motivated to come out of his drunken haze and try to find the connection between Jonah's murder, a rash of child suicides, and a shipwreck that may or may not have happened.

In many dystopian novels, the dystopia is the story. In this book, the dystopia is only the setting, but don't let that word "only" fool you. The mystery is the story, and it exists in a dystopian future so real that I dreamed about it. The settlers of Carthage have managed to build an existence that goes back to the days before technology, and they supplement by salvaging what they can find in the ruins around them. Some people, like Hadrian and Jonah, want to preserve the past and learn from it, while others are determined to censor the literature from before the holocaust, believing that their only hope is to forget their history and look to the future.

One of the things I love most about dystopian literature is the way books become valued artifacts and reminders of the past, often reminders that some people want to suppress. Lucas Buchanan, the governor of Carthage, is one of those people. He's a dangerous leader - the type who believes that the end justifies the means, that the survival of the village is more important than the rights and treatment of the individual citizen.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This stand-alone mystery translates Pattison's popular Tibetan detective series (Skull Mantra etc.) into a post-apocalyptic setting, with essentially the same formula. Disgraced intellectual Inspector Chinese Shan is replaced by the disgraced intellectual co-founder of a colony of nuclear holocaust survivors; like Shan, he is unofficially tasked with solving a murder mystery by a corrupt government that interferes with his investigation and mistreats outcast mutants and radiation victims for the "greater good" -- much like the corrupt and monolithic Chinese bureaucracy interferes with Shan's investigations and mistreats the Tibetan people. The role of the wise but innocent Tibetan monk is played by a wise but innocent scientist who tries to rebuild civilization while working within the context of a short-sighted and despotic government. Pattison fans will recognize the theme.

Despite the formulaic approach (after all, that's why they call it a genre), this is quite a good book. Not only is it a thought-provoking, believable and evocative picture of a post-apocalyptic world, it reminds us that the true villain is the worst of human nature and not the Chinese/colonial government. And that it is the best in all of us that is the true hero. Pattison fans expect the formula, and they expect to be captivated by the setting, just as we are by Pattison's depiction of Tibet and the Tibetans. Fans will not be disappointed on either score.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a great fan of Pattison's Inspector Shan Tao Yun's novels which take place in modern Tibet. As it has been some time since one has been produced, I thought to take a look at Pattison's other novels.

Bye and large, I am a big fan of apocalyptic fiction. Too often the plots follow a formula, i.e. everything will be fine. Even though the author takes us a different route, i.e. there is a mystery, the outcome is still the same. The book is page turner.

Having said that,I have 2 quibbles with the book. The main characters always seems to be getting into a situtation and they never look over the shoulders to help avoid stepping into it. After 20 pages, I knew who the real power was - and he wasn't invisible. The other problem is the settlement of St. Gabriel - they are just waiting. They are raiders and that is what they will do. They are the predators to Carthage/New Jerusalem grazers. Look over your shoulder!
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