Lair of the Geek

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The Darwin Elevator

Darwin Elevator_cvThe Darwin Elevator is the first part of a new science fiction trilogy written by Jason M. Hough, an author I hadn’t heard anything about before getting my hands on his goods, so to speak. This first part, which surrounds a mysterious elevator which allows relatively easy travel into space, becomes an exciting and fast paced action novel, although the time it takes to get going is likely to put some people off.

The Darwin Elevator is situated in (believe it or not) the Darwin area of Australia, a spot seemingly chosen by the mysterious alien Builders to reach out and make contact with Earth. Details on the Builders are thin on the ground through most of the book, reflecting the overall uncertainty of those living both on Earth and the large facilities that have since been built in orbit. One thing we do know is that SUBS, a disease which spread through Earth some time after the elevator first appeared, has all but destroyed the human race on our own planet, turning those infected into mindless roaming shells of their former selves. I didn’t want to use the word “zombie”, but that’s the closest you can get without reading the book itself. With the area of Darwin surrounding the elevator’s base offering protection from the disease, it’s where mankind’s last stand is taking place. And it’s not going too well. Conditions are poor, and people set out to scavenge whatever they can, be it themselves or by paying others to do it.

That’s where Skyler comes in, the main protagonist throughout the book. He and his scavenging team are all Immunes – people who for an unknown reason are unable to contract SUBS. This makes them ideal candidates to travel round the world looking for certain items, consumables or just picking up anything which can be sold back in Darwin. It through these missions that various other characters are introduced, building up to outline the political aspect of the story, which essentially boils down to a power struggle to control Darwin and the orbital stations. Skyler’s missions seem slow and lacking in direction initially, but it’s all just setting up for more vital missions later, with probably the most important task bringing about some brilliant page-turning action, the kind that makes a quick 10 minute read turn into a full evening of wanting to find out what happens over the page.

The big issue I had with the opening half of the book is that it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere – we don’t get told much about the lift for example, I’d just assumed it was a way for aliens to pop down for a barbeque, and it takes a fair while to realise that’s not the case. The second half action makes up for it, with some fantastic stuff going on both in space and on the ground, both leading up to an exciting finale which leaves you desperate to pick up the next book in the trilogy, but the opening couple of hundred pages could have been condensed to something far less.

There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had though, and the various twists and huge shocks at various points keep things alive as you start to form an idea of the enormity of the situation and figure out how various people are fitting in with how life is progressing. It’s testament to the Darwin Elevator that I’ll definitely see the whole series through to its close, and there’s enough intrigue and excitement for most people to get hooked in the same way. Get past the opening long winded sections and you’ll finish this feeling quite a buzz. Most impressive.

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