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Zombies* Attack! Ilsa Bick’s Tour for Ashes

September 16, 2011

(* Not “zombies” specifically, but called that for simplification purposes!)

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Ilsa Bick’s new young adult novel, Ashes. There has been so much great buzz about this book that I was excited to meet Ilsa on the first day the book went on sale. Changing Hands in Tempe, Arizona hosted the event, and the staff members were such huge fans of the book that they created a really creative event in its honor, full of zombie makeup for attendees and staff, a survival pack giveaway and all sorts of spooky signage on display. Ilsa was charming, funny, and spoke enthusiastically about how her psychiatric and military background led her to create the post-apocalyptic world of Ashes (and gave all of us in attendance a good scare by explaining how this terrible situation could really happen!)

Funny story: the drama club that was supposed to do the zombie makeup couldn’t make it at the last minute, so a fan and self-described “zombie makeup enthusiast” who had come to the event took over! She did an amazing job on the staff members.

Brandi and Stephanie from Changing Hands demonstrate their most realistic “cannibal survivalist” faces!

The teens who attended had many interesting, thought-provoking questions to ask Ilsa. This young man won the raffled survival pack and was quite excited!

Changing Hands staff and Ilsa.

Staff gone wild!

We would love to share this book with you. Please leave a comment on the post and we’ll draw two names next Wednesday to receive a copy (US residents only). And in case you need more convincing to pick up this chilling novel, here is a rave from one of our RHCB friends, Alexandra:

I have not read a bio-thriller since 1999 when I was twelve years old and snuck Richard Preston’s HOT ZONE into my backpack. Not your average middle grade read, Preston’s chilling non-fiction tome recounts the horrifying 1989 outbreak of the Ebola and Marbug filoviruses. Both Bio-Hazard Level Four agents, the origins of these hemorrhagic fever-inducing viral strains, were first discovered in a cave in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Where did it end up? In a small, “planned community” named Reston, VA. Welcome to my hometown. 

Our border town was Langley, VA—home to the CIA—so as one may imagine, the stark realization that I was in the epicenter of an almost Level Four Bio-Hazard Quarantined Zone (living only 1.5 miles from the monkey house where the virus first broke out) was enough, at age twelve, to never read another bio-thriller again. Turns out the strain found in Reston, VA only killed monkeys so they burned it down and built a daycare center in its place (tactful, right?).

Enter:  ASHES, by Ilsa J. Bick. Not quite bio-thriller, not quite post-apocalyptic, and most certainly—against the tide of popular opinion—not a zombie novel. So then why was this book the scariest I’ve read since HOT ZONE? This is because ASHES is somewhat plausible. If Cormac McCarthy and Justin Cronin bore a lovechild (I read The Passage directly following ASHES), Ilsa J. Bick would be their bouncing baby girl. Very few books have caused me to turn pages so quickly with such anticipation as I did while reading ASHES. The effectiveness of Bick’s writing style lies in her ability to focus in on the innate characteristics of fear—loneliness, death, lost love—and intertwine them in a setting where primordial instinct becomes the paramount key for survival. What do I mean by primordial instinct: heightened senses; the instinct to run, and most importantly— the instinct to kill.

The Changed are not zombies: something in them has altered, made them digress from free-willed but moral human beings into the basest form of a wild animal. But they aren’t just killing humans—they are eating them. After all, a meal is a meal, and just like the unchanged, they need to eat too. Bick’s cliffhanger is that the reader has an idea but not a solid answer as to what exactly caused these human’s to turn so animalistic, but we do know that they have one motto: kill or be killed.

Alex’s story as the protagonist is unique, and the subplot of her past serves as credential for her conviction to survive. Bick goes above and beyond the expectations of in-depth descriptive writing technique, like that of McCarthy. There is friendship, love, heartbreak, and bone-chilling action in this post-apocalyptic-not-so-zombie-like-bio-thriller YA novel. That’s right, this book stands alone in a mull of mediocrity—the world of ASHES slowly becomes your world, and there is no turning back. But you’ll have to read it to believe it. And I really mean, believe it.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristy McRae permalink
    September 16, 2011 12:06 pm

    This book looks fabulous! Can’t wait to read it. And it looks like you all had a terrific time being zombified! I wish we could get Ilsa to visit my bookstore–I’d definitely go zombie for the occasion!

  2. September 16, 2011 12:36 pm

    I am really looking forward to reading this book! It looks like a great time from the pictures! Thank for sharing!

  3. Stephanie permalink
    September 16, 2011 9:02 pm

    Love this book! When is Chicago signing?

  4. September 18, 2011 9:41 am

    Oh this book looks awesome! I cannot wait to read it and share with my students!!

  5. Erin permalink
    September 29, 2011 12:42 pm

    Kristy and Stephanie, you’ve won copies of Ashes! Please email us your mailing addresses to randomactsofreading at gmail dot com.

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