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Book Review

Book Cover

The Darwin Elevator


Author: Jason M. Hough
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $9.99
ISBN: 978 1 78116 763 2
Publication Date: 26 July 2013

The world changed out of all recognition when the builder ship arrived at Earth. Extending an unbreakable cord it made the city of Darwin, Australia, the centre of man, thrust into space on this massive space elevator. When the plague started Darwin became the only oasis of safety, protected from the plague by an unseen aura surrounding the cord. Not everyone was effected, some like Skyler and his crew were naturally immune, an immunity which allowed them to scavenge supplies from the rest of the planet. While the chosen few lived in great stations attached to the elevator, the remnants of humanity huddles around the elevator's base, but when the Alien ship starts to malfunction, the political and economic stalemate is broken...

The Darwin Elevator (475 Pages) is the first of a three book science fiction series, The Dire Earth Cycle, written by Jason M. Hough.

The story is set in 2283 and Hough certainly knows how to keep a reader hooked. Having presented such an intriguing prospect of an alien race dropping an artefact which creates an elevator from the Earth to the emptiness of space, we are told almost nothing about them.

That they created the artefact is given. That it is presumed that they created the plague which wiped out most of humanity and turned the rest into violent sub-humans is revealed early on, but there is no indication whether this was a deliberate act or a terrible mistake. To have your main antagonist so clearly hidden in the shadows only makes the reader want to know more, hooking you from very early on in the story.

If the builders have set the scene in this post-apocalyptic world, it is the humans who seem to be doing their best to screw up their only chance of survival. The first people we meet are Skyler and his crew of scavengers, typical smuggler types, so much so that you initially think that Hough has just watched Serenity and decided to rip off another crew. This doesn’t last long as we are introduced to the multi layered civilisation which has grown up in humanities last enclave.

On the ground Darwin is controlled by the brutal Blackfield. The city sends desalinised water and air up to the stations attached to the cord, while the agro-stations send down food, but never quite enough and life in Darwin is distinctly unpleasant. The habitats connected to the cord have been built by wealthy industrialist Neil Platz. Platz built the desalinisation plants and was in a position to use his wealth to create the habitats and the enclave.

This was no coincidence and as the plot unfolds we discover that Platz knows more than anyone thinks and fears for humanities future. To help him discover what the future holds he enlists the help of Tania, the scientist daughter of an old friend, but in doing so he unleashes a power struggle both on the ground and in the habitats which risks the chances of survival for them all.

Hough really has a hack and slash approach to his characters, investing time in building their believability only to cut them down when you least expect. This is a wonderful trait in a writer, as it means that anyone can die at any time, creating real edge of the seat excitement. For a character driven story there is only one gripe, Blackfield is a two dimensional character with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, a pantomime villain.

What I really liked about the book was the way in which Hough created layer upon layer of story. When he reveals one layer to the reader he is also in the process of creating the next. Across the book the world fills out as do the characters, creating a real depth to the story.

Overall, it’s a wonderfully powerful first novel and if the other two books in the series can keep up this level of writing we will be looking at a writer with an impressive future.


Charles Packer

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