My book club met last weekend to discuss our August pick, Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick (my review, which contains a non-spoiler plot summary), selected from among my husband’s nominations. I’m going to recap our discussion here, and if you’ve read the book, please feel free to weigh in. If you haven’t read the book, beware of spoilers!!
I think the club was all over the place in terms of our feelings about this book. My husband and daughter really enjoyed it, a few of us (including myself) thought it was pretty good, and the remaining members weren’t crazy about it and don’t care to read the second book. One member said she liked the book for what it was, an escapist action-packed horror story, but she doesn’t want to read the rest of the trilogy because she’s afraid the author will save people who need to die just so she can have a happy ending.
A few of us commented on how every chapter ended so dramatically, with a cliffhanger of sorts despite no major revelations. We discussed how the book seemed to be divided into two, the beginning when they are just trying to survive and the latter half when the heroine, Alex, finds herself in a religious community where it’s obvious that the people are hiding something. One member said Alex seemed to be two different people, tough in the scenes with Ellie and Tom and weak when she takes up residence in Rule and finds herself drawn to the mysterious Chris. We thought she should have tried to escape, and when it seems like she might recover some of her spunk, escape is handed to her on a silver platter. While one member pointed out that she settled into the routine of life in Rule because she was finally safe and well fed, others said the place was too suspicious for someone like Alex to ever feel comfortable. We also questioned why Alex seemed more concerned about Rule’s mating rituals than she was about what happens to the people who have been banned and why the zombie-cannibals leave the village alone.
There were some comments about how the author needs to grow a little bit, though her writing is good and can only get better. Some members thought she didn’t know how to make certain scenes work and skipped ahead to avoid having to explain things, such as when Alex, Tom, and Ellie are ambushed and Tom lunges for the bad guy’s gun…then the next chapter begins some time later, and it’s unclear right away what has happened. They also noted that Bick spends a lot of time on details about the contents of a pantry and corpses that have been eaten by the zombie-cannibals, yet she provides almost no details about the electromagnetic pulse that caused all the mayhem.
However, most of us found the observations about the EMP shocking some people out of the latter stages of Alzheimer’s or giving them super senses to be interesting. Some liked the cliffhanger ending, have their own ideas as to what happened next, and don’t need to read further, while others (including myself and my family) are curious enough to want to know where Bick takes these characters next.
I’m looking forward to our September pick — The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield — and hope you all will stop by next month for my next book club wrap-up post.
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