First in the Dire Earth trilogy
By Jason M. Hough
Available now from Del Rey (Penguin Random House)
Read a free prequel, "Wave of Infection"
Del Rey is so excited about this debut sci-fi trilogy that they're publishing all three books back to back, July-August-September. That makes me happy, because I am not one for waiting. Also, the end of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR left me wanting more. Jason M. Hough already knows how to end a novel with a bit of intrigue.
I was attracted by the premise of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, which is basically space SF meets zombies. A mysterious alien race, called Builders, sent an elevator to Earth that extends from Darwin, Australia into space. It exudes an Aura and is the only place where humans are safe from a strange plague that was also sent by the aliens. Then there's Skyler Lukien and his crew of scavengers, all immunes. Their ability to explore might be the only way to save the humans if the aliens return. Well, their abilities and scientist Tania Sharma's brain.
There's liberal use of villain POV, which made me grit my teeth. So many greedy, self-satisfied, leering thoughts. And he's not a particularly interesting villain. There are people who look like they may be the villain of the piece, but who turn out more ambiguous. But no, the main villain is a standard no-plan-beyond-power-for-himself, wants-to-rape-the-heroine villain. It was a real bum note in an exciting, fun novel and THE DARWIN ELEVATOR just kept going back to him.
When it comes to power struggles, actually, the book itself tended to struggle. So much of the book could be solved if people talked to each other instead of keeping secrets for no particular. I preferred when people were actually doing things. Tania and her assistant sciencing, Skylar trying desperately to be a leader, scavenging and fighting off hordes of subhumans. My two favorite characters, Kelly and Sam, did not get near enough screen-time. Now there's two women who get things done.
THE DARWIN ELEVATOR is a fun dystopian zombie novel with nifty ideas and a number of interesting characters. It's got aliens, saboteurs, and approximately one big secret per character. I think I would've absolutely loved this one if the villain didn't grate on my nerves so much. But after all, I'm not supposed to like him.
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