Ash Arising is the sequel to Mandy Hager’s acclaimed novel The Nature of Ash. This political thriller opens with Ash McCarthy thinking he has done everything he can to expose the corruption of the New Zealand government by broadcasting his story to the world. He hides out in the back blocks of the country waiting for the international community to answer his call for action. But instead, he finds himself, and those close to him, in even more danger.
Ash is a reluctant hero in an alternative New Zealand overrun by dark forces, with corrupt Prime Minister Chandler determined to hang onto power at all costs. Ash’s parents have been killed, and he is now solely responsible for looking after younger brother Mikey, who has Down Syndrome. While his friends and lawyer stand by him, it would seem the rest of New Zealand is struggling with unrest, terrorism and political instability.
The action moves from Whanganui to Wellington, and Mandy Hager has created a scenario that is plausible and thought-provoking. As violence breaks out, Ash and his friends are forced to make a stand for change and ending the corruption, by again telling his story to media and inspiring other young people to rise up and create a ‘Soul Force’ movement of peaceful protest, with ideas for a new government based on decisions of love for the good of everyone. Idealistic? Definitely. But people with ideals are the ones who can change the world.
Ash Arising is a book that celebrates good people who make a stand, despite the danger of doing so, and in this case, it is Ash, who is just a teenager, who is put in a position of trying to make a positive change despite the obvious danger. Things are made more complicated with many diverse groups and factions, and Ash doesn’t know who to trust.
The relationship Ash has with his brother Mikey is a highlight of the book, and it counterpoints the violence and mayhem going on around them, as Ash tries to keep one step ahead of the forces that want to bring him down.
Oh, by the way, this novel is technically ‘young adult’ and is the perfect read for any teenager, but adult readers will enjoy this just as much. It’s a cracker read, with big themes and meaty issues, a political thriller that is fast-paced and intelligent.
Penguin Random House, RRP $17.99