In the aftermath of a supervolcano’s eruption, the world is plunged into a cold, post-apocalyptic, nearly uninhabitable environment. Resources are scarce. Human nature is put to the test.
The second in Turtledove’s Supervolcano series (following Eruption, 2011) traces the fates of scattered members of police lieutenant Colin Ferguson’s family. Rob, stranded in Maine, releases his indie band dreams to embrace a rugged lifestyle, finding love with Lindsey, a local high school chemistry teacher. Practically interned at a concentration camp (euphemistically named Camp Constitution), Rob’s sister Vanessa resorts to performing sexual favors to gain at least a modicum of independence and, ironically, dignity. She maneuvers her way onto a salvage team, but are they salvaging or stealing? Back home in California, Louise, Colin’s ex-wife, faces wreckage on not only a natural, but also a personal scale. Abandoned by her lover, she decides to have his baby anyway. Her son Marshall, a not-so-struggling writer, grudgingly agrees to baby-sit the baby so Louise can work, but his resentment over his mother’s adultery lingers. Geologist Kelly, Colin’s second wife, struggles to make sense of her possible role in the supervolcano’s eruption. Yet she, like Rob, embraces life in the aftermath, as she and Colin decide to have a baby, too. Meanwhile, Colin must solve the increasingly gruesome case of the South Bay Strangler, who rapes and murders little old ladies. Turtledove strives for a dry, gritty, nearly noir tone, which does underscore the beleaguered world the Fergusons now inhabit. At times, however, the language instead gives the tale a strangely clichéd feeling. We already know that each challenge facing the Fergusons—from finding gas to solving crimes—will be resolved in favor of what is good and life-affirming.
This disaster tale abounds with plotlines but leaves the reader emotionally detached.