|Publication date||December 6, 2011|
|Followed by||All Fall Down|
The trilogy is set in the near-future. In his afterword, Turtledove states that whenever a person happens to read Eruption, "it opens the following Memorial Day weekend." Thus, for a person reading it between December 6, 2011 and Memorial Day, 2012, the book opens in 2012. For a person reading after Memorial Day, 2012, the book opens in 2013, and so on. (Whether this vague approach will continue to be tenable as the trilogy progresses remains to be seen.) Roughly a year after the book begins, the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupts, effectively destroying the state of Wyoming along with other areas within a radius under 300 miles. However, the entire midwest is soon covered in ash and debris, effectively killing the breadbasket of America. Metropolitan areas such as Denver and Salt Lake City, while not destroyed in the blast, are also soon covered in ash, and those people who didn't immediately flee are subject to disease and starvation.
As is typical with Turtledove's work, the story focuses on a group of conventional "everymen", with the bulk of the POVs made up of members of the Ferguson Family. Colin Ferguson is a detective in the (fictional) town San Atanasio California. At the beginning of the book, he is recovering from his divorce from his wife, Louise, who has left him for another man. Their eldest son, Rob plays bass in a modestly successful band called Squirt Frog and the Evolving Tadpoles. Their middle daughter, Vanessa, earns a living as a technical writer and editor. About the same time her parents were divorcing, she was breaking up with her boyfriend, Bryce Miller. Oddly, Miller maintains a friendship with Vanessa's father. The youngest Ferguson child, Marshall, is a perpetual college student. Kelly Birnbaum is a geologist studying the volcano before and after its eruption. By chance, she meets Colin Ferguson nearly two years before the actual eruption. In short order, they fall in love.
When the eruption does happen, how characters conduct themselves depends entirely on where they are in the country. Colin, Louise, and Marshall are in California, and the impact on them is negligble at first. Vanessa is forced to evacuate Denver, only to wind up in a series of refugee camps in Kansas. Kelly is trapped in Montana, Bryce in Nebraska, and Rob on the East Coast. When the temperatures cool down considerably, leading to early winter blizzard conditions, Rob and his bandmates are stranded in rural Maine.
The book ends with several characters still trapped in precarious living conditions, while others manage to prosper or fail without much impact from the eruption. However, Turtledove makes it clear that the status quo will not return for the foreseeable future, and hard times are on the horizon for all of humanity.
- Eruption: Annotated for a list of annotations of minor references in the novel, by hardcover page number and by subject.
- Eruption, pg. 419.