The Ash: Dan Soule
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Over the last few years, I connected with Dan Soule and read and enjoyed his first two releases Neolithica and Witchopper. Both were fun and showed Soule’s ability to write dark fiction while also tapping into creating and engaging experience for the reader.
‘The Ash‘ is Soule but even better.
This is ‘War of the Worlds‘ meets ‘Falling Skies.’ Two similar but different Sci-Fi standout shows. But don’t let the Sci-Fi bent turn you away. This is an emotion-filled horror story at its core.
What I liked: ‘The Ash‘ begins as most apocalyptic/invasion books do: a normal day in a normal world. Except today is a normal day for Police Officer James Castle. He has received the divorce papers and his now ex-wife is expecting her first child with the new love of her life. Castle now drinks too much while trying to stay present for his son, Simon.
Up to this point, Soule has crafted a story filled with humanity and depth.
A car zips by, lights and sirens are activated and Castle takes off after the car that attempts to speed away. And as the chase grows nerve-wracking something in the sky explodes and life forever changes.
It is at this point that Soule goes from standard straight forward cop story, to survive at all cost. The cop has to trust the criminals and they need to work together to survive whatever the heck the creatures are that slink and attack under the ever-deepening ash.
I loved how Soule gave each character depth and story while all the time keeping them unsure of each other and wondering if they have each other’s backs.
During the story, there are a few moments of bliss that penetrate the darkness. A dog named Charles becomes a welcomed companion and at a seemingly abandoned house, a woman becomes an integral character. Even the story arc of Castle comes with redemption. Of seeing his mistakes and how he needs to find Simon and his ex-wife and new significant other and work together to live in the new world.
This was Soule finding a new and exciting level of writing and I was captivated from page one until the spot on, picture-perfect finale.
What I didn’t like: It was 100% absolutely necessary for the realistic story angle of how things would most likely go, if the earth was in-fact invaded, but I found the military involvement segment a bit of a left turn. It’s a personal thing, but I just don’t particularly enjoy reading or watching most military stuff. Saying that, it does advance the story and worked wonders to get Castle and one of the criminals to connect even more.
Why you should buy this: The stunning cover and the fantastic synopsis should be enough, truthfully. But if you haven’t bit the bullet yet, Castle absolutely delivers one of the best reads of the year for me. So much so, I had to ponder if it needed to bump one of the ten books I’d already sent to Gavin. At this moment I’m not going to tinker with the list, but if it was a top 11, it would easily be sitting there. This is a high watermark for Soule in every aspect and one that I hope will get more readers on his work.
You know the drill: mushroom clouds, end of the world, only the clichés survive. This isn’t that…
Even on the day of his divorce, Constable Jim Castle just wants to get back to his family, but no one can risk going outside. Not anymore. Worse still, when the fallout starts, Jim is hostage to a gang of armed thieves in a rundown farmhouse. Their plan is simple: wait it out as the radioactive ash piles higher and try not to kill each other. But they don’t have to worry about any of that. Because all their assumptions about what caused the end of the world are about to be snatched away – like a body into the ash.
A blend of The Road meets Alien in the English countryside, The Ash is a breakneck horror ride. Another of the Dan Soule’s Fright Night tales, where even if one man can face his demons, it still might not be enough. So turn the page and get pulled screaming into… The Ash.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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