Supervolcano: Eruption (Supervolcano Series #1)

Supervolcano: Eruption (Supervolcano Series #1)

3.3 38
by Harry Turtledove

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Yellowstone National Park sits on a hotspot: a plume of molten rock coming up from deep inside the earth capable of volcanic eruptions far greater than any that have occurred in times past. It has been silent for many years, providing false security for a nation unprepared for the full force and fury of nature unleashed.


It begins with explosions


Yellowstone National Park sits on a hotspot: a plume of molten rock coming up from deep inside the earth capable of volcanic eruptions far greater than any that have occurred in times past. It has been silent for many years, providing false security for a nation unprepared for the full force and fury of nature unleashed.


It begins with explosions that send lava and mud flowing far beyond Yellowstone towards populated areas. Clouds of ash drift across the country, nearly blanketing the land from coast to coast. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves facing the dawn of a new ice age as temperatures plummet worldwide.


Colin Ferguson is a police lieutenant in a suburb of Los Angeles, where snow is falling for the first time in decades. He fears for his family who are spread across America, refugees caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe where humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world…

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Better known for his leisurely, lengthy alternate history series (Days of Infamy; The War That Came Early), Turtledove tries his hand at disaster carnography, but a promising premise is disappointingly squandered on a male-centric revenge fantasy with a soap-opera plot. A chance encounter in Yellowstone Park brings divorced cop Colin Ferguson a second chance at love and also the knowledge that the Yellowstone caldera, one of Earth’s few supervolcanoes, may be about to erupt. When the inevitable Plinian paroxysm comes, Colin’s friends and family are scattered across the U.S., ideally placed for a story of treks and tragedies. Inexplicably, the plot loses momentum at this point. The deaths of millions take place offstage, the foregrounded economic effects are more inconveniences than apocalypses, and Turtledove pays more attention to developing humiliating fates for Colin’s promiscuous daughter and faithless ex-wife than to putting a human face on the epic, world-altering disaster. Agent: Russell Galen. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
“Turtledove creates a whole intricate biosphere with a somehow breathable atmosphere.”—The New Yorker

“Well written and enjoyable…Fans of post-apocalyptic stories should enjoy this one.”—SF Revu

“Entertaining…Turtledove writes a fabulous near future survival tale.”—Genre Go Round Reviews

“A terrifying future of the United States that seems within the realm of possibility.”—Winnipeg Free Press

Library Journal
The supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park has lain dormant for over 600,000 years, the many geysers—including Old Faithful—and hot springs the only evidence of its continued activity. When Los Angeles police lieutenant Colin Ferguson, vacationing after a recent divorce, meets geologist Kelly Birnbaum during an unexpected quake in the park, their mutual attraction takes second place to their growing suspicion that the Yellowstone volcano is preparing for an eruption that could spell disaster not only for the United States but also for the planet's fragile environment. VERDICT The premiere voice of alternate history, Turtledove (Guns of the South) depicts an all-too-real potential future in this page-turner that combines powerful storytelling with convincing characters. A good choice for fans of disaster fiction.
Kirkus Reviews
Turtledove offers a realistic but not terribly gripping depiction of the desperate slog life would become if a beloved national landmark became the epicenter of a devastating natural disaster. During a solo vacation to Yellowstone, recently divorced California police lieutenant Colin Ferguson encounters seismologist Kelly Birnbaum, who conveniently informs him just how bad it would be if the park's caldera were to blow. Given the book's title, this clumsy bit of exposition hardly counts as foreshadowing. Turtledove's sparse descriptive powers are just not up to infusing the actual moment of the eruption with the thrills that today's action-movie fans have come to expect. Of course, that is not his purpose; rather, it is to rather glumly lay out the effects of said eruption over the next couple of years. Clouds of ash lower temperatures, bury the nation's breadbasket and prevent travel and delivery of desperately needed supplies. Colin's older son, a guitarist in a small-time indie band, becomes stranded in snow-choked Maine; his bitchy daughter Vanessa complains her way through various emergency shelters; and life continues just fine for the youngest, perennial Santa Barbara undergraduate Marshall. Meanwhile, Colin looks for (and doesn't find) a serial killer, while Kelly's academic specialty becomes terribly, terribly relevant. As Colin and Kelly fall in love, Colin's ex-wife Louise faces karmic justice that has nothing to do with the catastrophe. None of it hangs together terribly well or inspires much emotional commitment from the reader. The novel doesn't so much conclude as vaguely trail off at a convenient stopping point; that and Turtledove's penchant for series suggest sequels are in the offing.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Supervolcano Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Between two and three million people came to Yellowstone every year. In July and August, they all seemed to be there at once. Cars and RVs and tour buses clogged the roads till they made California freeways at rush hour look wide open by comparison.

Kelly Birnbaum knew how to beat the crowds. Go a quarter of a mile off the asphalt and you shed way more than nine–tenths of the visitors. Go a couple of miles from the highways and you were pretty much on your own. That was bad news as well as good. Cell–phone reception in the vast park was spotty at best. If you got into trouble, you might not be able to let anybody else know.

The idea, then, was not to get into trouble. Kelly was a city girl. She didn’t hike the wilderness because she particularly loved hiking the wilderness. She went out there because that was what you did if you were a geologist working in the field.

What did the gravedigger in Hamlet say? Something about familiarity lending a quality of easiness. That was as much as she remembered. Considering that she hadn’t needed to worry about Hamlet since her undergrad days, she was moderately pleased to come up with even so much.

One of the basic lessons was never to hike alone. Since she was part of a team of researchers trudging out to Coffee Pot Springs, that wasn’t an issue. Ruth Marquez came from the University of Utah. Daniel Olson, who was younger than she was, had just landed a tenure–track job at Montana State, in Missoula. Kelly didn’t know whether to be jealous or to remember it was Missoula. And the calm, unhurried fellow who needed to buy a vowel was Larry Skrtel. He’d been with the U.S. Geological Survey the past twenty years, and headed up the team.

He enjoyed hiking. “The critters are less likely to bite you or run over you than the damn tourists are,” he declared.

“Except for the bison, maybe,” Daniel said. “They’re as dumb as the morons who bought Hummers when gas was cheap.” He was at least six–three, but Kelly had seen his car: a fire–engine red Honda the size of a roller skate.

“Keep your distance and they won’t bother you,” Larry said. “Well, usually.”

“Famous last words,” Daniel said. The other hikers laughed, as if he didn’t mean it. Bison knew they were the biggest critters in the neighborhood, and expected everything else to get out of their way. Some of the males weighed as much as Daniel Olson’s little car. They were dumb as rocks, and lots of those males had testosterone poisoning. Not a good combination.

The geologists had set out from Indian Pond. One of their colleagues took the car that brought them that far back to Lake Village. A train led towards Astringent Creek, which guided them most of the way north. Indian Pond was a good place to start. It lay near the northernmost edge of Yellowstone Lake. It was about a quarter of a mile across, and round as Charlie Brown’s head. A hydrothermal explosion had gouged it out of the ground about 3,000 years before—that was what the radiocarbon dates said, anyhow.

A bigger hydrothermal explosion had formed Mary Bay, the nearby part of the lake. Down below Mary Bay, the temperature got up over 250 degrees. The hot spot under Yellowstone might still sleep, but it was a long way from dead. Kelly shivered, though it was a nice day.

She was slathered in Deet. Mosquitoes buzzed around her just the same. Repellent or no repellent, she knew she would pick up bites. She’d even been bitten through thick socks. Now she sprayed her ankles, too. But all you had to do was miss a couple of square inches anywhere, and the mosquitoes would find them.

Larry Skrtel pointed to half a dozen lodgepole pines that lay tumbled like jackstraws. When his hand went up, a woodpecker that had been drumming on one of the trunks flew away. “Those trees weren’t down two years ago,” Larry said in a voice that brooked no argument. “Five gets you ten one of the quakes knocked them over.”

No one did argue with him. Kelly wouldn’t have dreamt of it. Arguing with somebody who was obviously right was a loser’s game.

Up the eastern side of Astringent Creek they went. They were near the eastern edge of the caldera. Kelly shook her head. Of the last caldera, she corrected herself. This one stretched most of the way across the park. The eastern edge of the one from two million years ago was also somewhere around here. That one’s western edge, though, lay well over into Idaho.

Quakes . . . Was that a brief rumble underfoot? Kelly had almost convinced herself she was imagining things when Ruth Marquez laughed self–consciously and said, “Did the earth move for you, too?”

Everybody groaned. But Daniel said, “Yeah, I think so. That was only a little one—maybe a 3.3.” Larry nodded.

Kelly smiled, remembering Colin guessing the magnitude of the stronger quake the year before. They might never have got together if he hadn’t. Life could be seriously strange sometimes.

“Harder to be sure when you’re outdoors,” she said. “Not as much stuff to rattle and shake. When you’re indoors somewhere, there’s less room for doubt.”

Larry paused thoughtfully. “I’m not sure I’ve ever been indoors for an earthquake,” he said. Daniel and Ruth both nodded.

“Only proves you guys aren’t from California,” Kelly said. As far as the other geologists were concerned, that made them lucky. They teased her. She sassed them back.

As the crow flies, Coffee Pot Springs was between twelve and fifteen miles north of Yellowstone Lake. There were more ravens than crows in Yellowstone, and the land route was longer than the aerial one would have been. They hadn’t got an early start. They weren’t hurrying, either. They were fit enough, but none of them except possibly Daniel was really fit. Kelly guessed they wouldn’t get there before nightfall, and she turned out to be right.

Along with the Deet, she smelled of her own sweat and the sunscreen she’d also used liberally. Up around 8,000 feet, sunburn came easy. She also smelled the chemical odor rising from Astringent Creek. Yellowstone was full of such hellish reeks. Fire and brimstone had shaped this land, and were a long way from gone even now.

Freeze–dried food could have been worse. That was as much as she could say about it. But a million stars blazed in the night sky, and the Milky Way glowed bright and ghostly. You never saw—you never imagined—the heavens like this in L.A. or Berkeley. Too much air (too dirty, too), too many lights. Too many people, was what it boiled down to.

Kelly would have enjoyed the view more if she’d stayed up longer. But she soon sought her sleeping bag, and she wasn’t the only one. Her last conscious thought was I hope the bears stay away.

They must have. She woke up undisturbed just before sunrise. Almost undisturbed: an itchy bump on the inside of her left wrist said at least one mosquito had found a place to eat.

Larry had real coffee, and was willing to share. Kelly and Ruth were glad to partake of his bounty; they’d only brought instant. Daniel declined. “I don’t drink it,” he said.

“My God!” Kelly exclaimed. “How did you get through grad school?”

“Crank,” he answered calmly. She didn’t know him well enough to tell if he was kidding.

They buried their trash, doused the fire, and went on. “I want to put in for a new set of legs,” Ruth said as she worked out the kinks.

“Oh, good. I’m not the only one,” Kelly said. Neither Daniel nor Larry complained. Maybe they weren’t feeling it the same way. Then again, they were guys, so maybe they were just being macho. Testosterone didn’t addle male bison alone.

Here and there, hot springs fumed and mud pots bubbled. A lot of them didn’t even have names. There were more features like that in Yellowstone than in the whole rest of the world. A couple of dozen hot spots burned through the earth’s crust. One of them raised the Hawaiian Islands, another the Galapagos chain.

But most of them lay under the oceans. The lava that came from those was smooth–flowing basalt. The Yellowstone hot spot alone sat under continental crust. Rhyolite was like granite, only with bigger crystals. When it melted, it didn’t spread out easily, the way basalt did. It was too viscous. It just sat where it was till the pressure got too great. Then . . . Then the supervolcano went off.

They tramped along Shallow Creek, getting close to the springs. A coyote eyed them from the edge of the pines, then drew back. Larry said, “If it was along the road, half a dozen cars’d stop so the jerks inside could photograph a wolf to wow Aunt Martha back home.”

He was right once more. Kelly had seen it happen. She knew the difference between the two. Most people these days, though, grew up—and stayed—so isolated from nature that any wild animal seemed exotic to them.

That was one of the things that made Yellowstone so precious. Here was a great big, not too badly disturbed chunk of what North America had been like before Europeans arrived. You couldn’t find anything like this elsewhere, and not just on account of the wildlife.

And if the hot spot sitting under it discharged, then what? Then you’d gone and dropped thousands of square miles of unspoiled wilderness into what was literally the world’s biggest barbecue. You’d never see your bison or your wolves or your grizzlies again.

The really bad news was, that would be the least of your worries.

Steam rose ahead. A small swell of ground kept the geologists from seeing the springs themselves for a little while. Kelly remembered them from the last time she’d come this way, not long before she met Colin. They’d been, well, hot springs. If they’d been anywhere close to a road, people would have stopped and snapped pictures of them and queued up to use a couple of odorous outhouses. They weren’t so showy as the ones in Black Sand Basin or Biscuit Basin, northwest up the highway from Old Faithful, but they weren’t half bad.

They lay within a rough circle of sinter: the grayish white silica that precipitated out of mineral–laden water as it cooled. All things considered, they reminded Kelly of zits on the face of the earth. On a larger scale, that was what the Yellowstone supervolcano was. She wished she knew where she could get her hands on a dab of cosmic Clearasil.

“Remember, folks—watch where you put your feet. No boardwalks here,” Larry said. Fair enough: he had more field experience than the rest of them put together. “Stay off the sinter crust. You can break through. You won’t like it if you do—trust me. Don’t count on animal tracks, either. I’ve seen more parboiled critters than I like to think about. Most places, I’d say the grass was pretty safe. Here, with everything that’s been going on, I’m not sure how good a guide it is.”

“That doesn’t leave much,” Daniel observed as they climbed the low rise. “Maybe we should walk three feet off the ground.”

“Don’t let me stop you,” Larry said. Daniel gave him a sour smile.

Going uphill made Kelly’s thighs and calves ache. Walking gave you great legs. (Better legs, anyhow; Kelly feared hers would never be great.) But you paid a price. Everything you did came with a price. The older she got, the more sure of that she became.

As if defying time (no, not as if—if only!), she pushed the pace the rest of the way. The others didn’t mind letting her forge ahead. They’d all come to Coffee Pot Springs before. It wasn’t as if she were stout Cortez (well, Balboa, if you wanted to be picky—Keats would have got a C– in Western Civ) on that peak in Darien, staring at the new–found Pacific.

Except she was. Coffee Pot Springs had gone nuts. A brand new geyser threw water at least a hundred feet in the air. Some of the other springs weren’t just pools any more. They boiled and raged, blorping water eight or ten feet high, trying to find their inner geysers, too. Several of them, she was convinced, blorped from places that hadn’t boasted springs before.

Ruth and Daniel and Larry came up beside her. As she had done, they stopped and stood there gaping. “Holy shit,” Ruth said. Larry nodded. Recovering faster than the rest of them, Daniel pulled a camera from a pocket of his windbreaker and started snapping away.

Kelly started to reach for her own little Canon. She knew earthquakes messed with the plumbing systems under Yellowstone. After the Hebgen Lake quake in 1959, Sapphire Pool at the Biscuit Basin went batshit. It erupted so ferociously, it wrecked whatever subterranean channels that supplied it with water. Then it went back to being a pool.

Knowing about such things was all very well. Seeing Coffee Pot Springs totally transformed . . . that was something else again. And, as Kelly’s fingers closed on the digital camera, yet another sharp but mercifully short quake rattled the ground under her feet.

A voice said, “I’m scared.” Kelly needed a second or two to recognize it as her own.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Turtledove creates a whole intricate biosphere with a somehow breathable atmosphere.”—The New Yorker “Well written and enjoyable…Fans of post-apocalyptic stories should enjoy this one.”—SF Revu “Entertaining…Turtledove writes a fabulous near future survival tale.”—Genre Go Round Reviews “A terrifying future of the United States that seems within the realm of possibility.”—Winnipeg Free Press

Meet the Author

Harry Turtledove, the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, has a PhD in Byzantine history. Nominated for the Nebula Award, he has won the Hugo, Sidewise, and John Esthen Cook Awards.

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Supervolcano: Eruption 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harry Turtledove tackles the idea of "The end of the world as we know it" in a different and quirky way that recent reviewers here don't seem to grasp. Raised on Jason's ski mask and teenagers being hacked to pieces at lakefront resorts, they are obviously starting this book in hopes of reading about characters that last for 2 pages before they are decapitated with their livestock as the barn roof caves in on them, or eaten by their pets after they discover the front door won't open because there is 12 feet of volcanic ash blocking it. That's not where Turtledove seems to be going here. Do refugees flee with makeshift masks to block the ash that is cutting their lungs to shreds to the point that they are coughing up blood? Yes, but the 90%+ fatality rate in Denver, while implied, is quietly passed over. The Political and Geopolitical implications of the catastrophe are background noise (nuclear war in the Middle East, martial law in inundated areas), although the FEMA camps are vividly drawn. The food and energy shortages and climate impacts are just beginning on both coasts by the end of this first volume. So if it's not rock `em sock `em gore and fast paced Washington maneuvering, what is Turtledove writing about? Modern people! The same kind who review the book negatively because they are so thoroughly modern and spoiled - just like the characters Turtledove is drawing. A lot of stuff in here about anguish over cell phone reception - bingo! An older law enforcement straight arrow whose world is rocked when his wife runs off with her decades younger Latino fitness instructor, his stoner brat who schemes to spend the rest of his life in college, thanks to Dad `s money and student loans, his "b" witch daughter who sexually devours men as a career, her former nerdy boyfriend who has become a part of the family, his oldest son pursuing the adolescent dream of rock stardom in 4th rate venues hand to mouth. These are people you know, all too well. Almost a delight to anticipate what will happen to them.... Do planes fail in mid flight because of the airborne ash? Sure, but one of the characters is on that flight. Is Denver annihilated and are the FEMA camps as creepy as anything in New Orleans Katrina? Yes, but we only know that because on of the characters is stuck there. Does transport break down and do people become trapped by the snow that begins in New England and doesn't stop? We wouldn't know it if it didn't happen to one of the characters. Do the police scramble to seize fuel supplies in advance of civil bans on gasoline purchases? If it didn't happen in the very office of the policeman, we would have to infer it. In short, Turtledove is showing us how modern people will respond to catastrophic events, first hand and up close. I don't think it's going to turn out too well for most of them, but Harry is keeping me guessing. Which is just as it should be. The horrors to come are drawing closer and closer to his characters - and it will be difficult to wait for the next volume. But I do look forward to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazingly well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well there is a supervolcano in the story, but it's not the main subject. The story to me centers around a father, his children and misc. others; a bit to do with the volcano, but most of it about some coming of age, life woes, jobs, money, etc. Not in the same league with better written disaster books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was another well told story by Turtledove. For folks new to the author, his schtick is character development. You get to know the people in the first book of a new series, then the later books build up the story in detail. Im sorry if they dont make that clear anywhere. If you dont enjoy books that flesh out characters, I can see why this didnt thrill you. Personally, I love this author and buy most of his stuff. I cant wait for the next one in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book basically introduces the family Fergison and lets you feel out thier personalities and each ones geographic location when the valcano blows its top. It carries on a little after and sets up thier position for the next book. I read this not knowing that it was to become a series and was upset about my purchase. Now, with the knowledge that the story will continue, my opinion of this book has changed. I now look forward to following the characters and thier stories and will purchase the next book.
My-Gen More than 1 year ago
Not, perhaps, Turtledove's best, e.g. Invasion Earth, it could use a bit more plot development. Never the less, it does pass the time enjoyably.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fairly engaging appraisal of the lead-up and effects of a supervolcano eruption, from the standpoint of a family mostly remote from the region, with the exception of an almost obligatory volcanologist and (given the author's background) an academic historian. Those looking for a seat-of-the-pants thriller may be disappointed, as the author's story focuses on emerging consequences of a super-volcanic eruption, slowly building throughout the book. Nevertheless, Turtledove exercises his unique abilities to make a large-scale story come to life through a few well-developed characters, who will (of course) reappear in the sequels to this book. I have some modest quibbles with a few of the author's assumptions about the resilience (or lack thereof) of certain systems or economic sectors, but otherwise the story holds together fairly well. The ending clearly presages continuation of the story in subsequent volumes. I'd recommend this book for anyone with interest in the climate debates, historical cataclysms, or the human aspects of survival in difficult times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harry Turtledove has written a lot of awfully good books. This is NOT one of them. I spent some 400 pages waiting for something of interest to happen and it never did. Yeah, Yellowstone blew up. It was anticlimactic and boring. Yeah, there was a love story. It was really boring. Yeah, the hero had a bunch of worthless, ungrateful kids. They were boring. I swear, the only reason I can figure for this story was to make a few bucks off his name. All, I can really say is that this book goes on forever and goes absolutely nowhere. Save your money. I wish I had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little boring. I expected more but the story intrigued me somewhat.
ljparker2983 More than 1 year ago
I can't believe that people would be as calm as this book would like us to believe. None of the panic, or people taking taking advantage of others. Can't recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been reading books by Turtledove for the last decade. And so far this series of his books do not disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Best book i have read in awile. Worth the money.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Mr. Turtledove's writing style. I was not disappointed with Supervolcano Eruption. It didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, but kept me guessing what would happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For such a sensational title and cover art, you would expect more action and excitement. This series delivers neither, choosing to focus on the lives of a few people with more day-to-day drama than direct action related to the eruption. Luckily they are quick reads.
brucearmstrong1 More than 1 year ago
Possibly the worst fiction I've ever read - certainly the worst Harry Turtledove book I've ever read. Shallow characters, disorganized and poorly-paced plot. The supervolcano is almost an afterthought to the universally self-centered characters. If I hadn't already bought the sequel, I wouldn't. If the rule holds true that sequels are always worse than the original, well, I'll have to convince Barnes & Noble to let me give a 0 star rating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mike101 More than 1 year ago
This was a good read but the plot was somewhat predictable. Still glad I bought it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not an avid reader of Mr. Turtledove's works because he rarely writes on subjects that interest me. I love geology and naturally am fascinated by Yellowstone, so of course this book caught my eye! Done well: descriptions of the supervolcano eruption itself, and its immediate aftereffects, from various individual characters' points of view. Done not so well: actually differentiated characters who have developed convincingly in the time frame he set. Also, the ending kind of peters out; this might be a deliberate narrative choice as the characters all settle in to life after the eruption. Overall, I enjoyed reading it, but wouldn't necessarily recommend it generally as a "good read".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harry deviated from his normal writing style here. It was not the usual action-packed novel that I have read previously. But, it was very well written. I eagerly await the next volume.