by Harry Turtledove



394pp/$26.95/December 2013

Supervolcano: Things Fall Apart
Cover by Steve Stone

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Throughout the first two volumes of Harry Turtledoveís series Supervolcano, Colin Ferguson has been trying to track down the miscreant responsible for the sexual assault and murders of several old women.  Having successfully, if accidentally, found the culprit in All Fall Down, Ferguson must deal with the aftermath of his revelation in Things Fall Apart, which also continues to follow the lives of Fergusonís extended family ranging from band member Rob stuck in a Maine cut off from the rest of the country by the bad weather, Vanessa, now returned to LA and feeling entitled to a life she doesnít have, Marshall, balancing his burgeoning writers career with his more lucrative work as a baby sitter, and Colinís ex-wife, Louise, who is trying to get her own life on track, perhaps a harbinger of what the future holds for Vanessa.

The climate change which occurred following the eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano in the first volume has become the new norm, with winter settling in for ten months of the year in Maine and other Northern parts of the country.  An extended winter in the Midwest causes problems for transportation and crops, while part of the country remain completely uninhabited.  Los Angeles, where the majority of the novel takes place, now suffers from seasonal weather changes unlike it has seen before.

Turtledove follows the characters as they attempt to continue living their lives in a world in which power outages, weather events, and lack of many modern conveniences are common place, however, with the exception of Rob in Maine, the extent that things are different donít really hit home.  Fergusonís wife, Kelly, is able to fly in and out of LAX for research trips or to scientific conferences.  Initially, there is no disruption shown to her itinerary despite what has been described.  Eventually, the cold does inconvenience her, but it seems like a minor inconvenience, with Turtledove not showing the tribulations she faced getting home to her children. 

Unfortunately, the lack of description of Kellyís difficulties is demonstrative of one of the weaknesses of the series.  Rob, living in frozen Maine, is shown getting acclimatized to his situation, but his transition has been relatively painless.  Vanessaís experiences in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption were unpleasant, but she worked her way back to a relatively normal situation.  In Things Fall Apart, the main area in which people are shown struggling are the displaced people who are being settled in Wayne, Nebraska, where Vanessaís ex-boyfriend Bryce Miller has managed to build a life for himself and his wife, Susan.

In many ways, the Supervolcano series, and Things Fall Apart in particular, are a slice of life story, although the slice of life is in a world in which the social structure is falling apart.  While the characters have story trajectories, most notably Colinís dealing with the aftermath of the arrest of the South Bay Strangler, which takes an unexpected twist, or Vanessaís continuing string of boyfriends, none of the characters have a goal in sight or even in mind, they are all trying to live their lives as normally as possible against the background which does provide visceral differences from our own world. Originally announced as a trilogy, Things Fall Apart leaves many hooks upon which Turtledove can continue his story of the Ferguson clan and the post-eruption world.

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