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SuperVolcano 1: Eruption
by Harry Turtledove
Roc, $8.99, 464pp
Publication Date: December 4, 2012
I am a sucker for end-of-the-world scenarios so when my husband mentioned Harry Turtledove, one of his favorite authors, has started an end-of-the-world series I jumped at the chance to read it.

Anyone who has lived in Montana is well aware of the Yellowstone Caldera and the potential disaster if it actually went off again, though as Turtledove’s characters note, no one expects that kind of disaster and it is so big if it happens there really is no way to plan for it anyway.

Turtledove’s characters: We begin with Colin Ferguson, a California police officer of around 50,  who wakes up hung over in Jackson Hole Wyoming Motel 6, having gone on a trip to forget his unexpected divorce from his wife Louise. Louise ran off with an aerobic instructor who is much younger leaving behind Colin and their three adult children without a backwards glance. We next meet Kelly Birnbaum, a geologist studying the Yellowstone Caldera when Colin run into her and strikes up a conversation during an unexpectedly large earthquake in the park. Skipping back to California we meet Colin’s partner and learn of a second plot line that will continue through the end of book two, a serial killer who is raping and murdering elderly women across the Los Angeles metro area with no success in identifying him. Then in rapid succession we meet Rob, Colin’s eldest son who travels across the US with his band, Vanessa, Colin’s daughter who is moving to Denver to follow her lover, and finally Marshall, Colin’s youngest, who is in college and keeps changing majors so he can stay a student longer and avoid facing the real world. There is also Bryce, one of Vanessa’s previous boyfriends who has maintained a friendship with Colin. These are the characters we will follow through the disaster.

The explosion of the Yellowstone Caldera is slow in coming, almost halfway into the book.  And then, to be honest, with the exception of Vanessa and Kelly, the immediate results are somewhat anti-climatic; which is probably a more realistic view of such a disaster than the Hollywood versions where the entire world collapses almost immediately.  Life goes on, to one degree or another, almost normally initially for those in the US furthest from the blast, Colin worries about  Kelly, who was in the park at the time but escaped at the very last minute. Vanessa, who escaped Denver, but is in a refugee camp and Rob, who is in Maine with his band but everyday life goes on - a wedding, the commute to work, paying for Marshall’s college life and everyday crime as well as the serial killer who strikes again. Except for the ash covering everything, things in southern California aren’t too hard, yet.

I had a hard time getting started, this moves incredibly slowly in the first half; granted, it is a more realistic approach but it is slow to hook the interest. And, to be honest, both Louise and Vanessa are so unpleasant I still have a bit of a problem caring what happens to them.  There are a bit more repeated mentions of the eruption of Mount Tambora and the Year Without A Summer than seemed necessary, along with how many cubic feet of matter Yellowstone blew into the atmosphere; but, overall, once I got about halfway through the book I did want to see how Colin and everyone else managed, at least enough that I have read book two, SuperVolcano: All Fall Down (click here for review) and book three, SuperVolcano: Things Fall Apart (click here for review). ~~ Stephanie L Bannon

For other titles in the Supervolcano trilogy click here

For other Harry Turtledove titles click here

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