Jason M. Hough's pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon's Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.
In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet's refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator - created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders - emits a plague-suppressing aura.
Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow "immunes", he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura's edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped - along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma - to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.
©2013 Jason M. Hough (P)2013 Random House Audio
"Jason M. Hough does a great job with this huge story. The world of Darwin and the Elevator is deliciously complex and satisfying. Skyler, Tania, and all the other characters are delightfully drawn and fun to spend time with…. The story unfolds with just the right balance of high adventure, espionage, humor and emotional truth…. As soon as you finish, you’ll want more." (Analog)
"Newcomer Hough displays a talent for imaginative plotting and realistic dialogue, and the brisk pacing and cliffhanger ending will keep readers enthralled and eagerly awaiting the next installment." (Publishers Weekly)
Author Jason Hough has produced a rather unique perspective on alien contact. In this case, an automated alien vessel has entered Earth's orbit and constructed a space elevator centered over Darwin, Australia. A few years later, the rest of the planet becomes uninhabitable due to an unknown "disease" that changes people into "subhumans," all except for a patch of ground centered around Darwin. Under the influence, humans revert to more primitive behavior that is mostly violent. A few humans remain immune to the effect. Subsequently, the elevator has become a lifeline, supplying space grown food in exchange for air and water from below.
The story revolves around two young individuals caught up in the power struggles between and within the orbitals (spaced based habitats) and the people on the ground. In the meantime, another alien vessel is arriving. The sci-fi elements are standard fare with little beyond the alien artifacts which remain mysterious throughout. The action is non-stop with good pacing and nicely integrated infodumps that avoid bogging down the plot. Unfortunately there is little resolution of any major or minor conflicts as this is part of a longer story arc. The ending merely inserts some suggestive possibilities and leaves much hanging in the balance.
The narration is respectable, but unremarkable,
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I did not enjoy this very much. Although the story moved along, the premise was weak and characters seems very one dimensional. I particularly don’t like it when key characters with a strong first person point of view know the key mystery of the story which is not shared with the reader (until the end). When key characters die, I just did not care. The action was mostly fist fights and shooting with 2Oth century weapons which seemed a bit odd for sci-fi. The narration was OK but did not add much and did not save the rather weak writing.
" I have my mind... & a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." -T.L.
This first book of the trilogy ends up being groundwork for the next novels that the author thankfully decided to write & release all very quickly in literary terms. If I had to wait a year for the next book of this series I might have easily forgotten or procrastinated after that much time passed.
That statement might make this Sci-Fi book sub-par by most standards but I believe the author might have known readers would be confused at the ending of this book & require answers relatively quickly or else just chalk this series up to one that only teases u to buy more of the books, therefore, he ensured the releases of the entire trilogy quickly & I am currently half-way thru the next book (So? I'm still not sure lol, but the books are entertaining reading for a sci-fi enthusiast). The book starts off as many futuristic style books do setting a backdrop of a strange extra-terrestrial event occurring & shortly after a virus of some sort kills off the majority of the worlds population and leaves the ones still alive that are infected with an extremely violently insane quality to them... Don't think zombies think crazy people acting more like gorillas than homo sapiens. There is a small percentage (prob about 1%) of the world population immune to the disease & the area around the alien event which manifests itself as an elevator into space, virus free or those who are infected the virus goes dormant crossing within the boundaries quick enough because a large city like area around the 'elevator' is virus free (although many times shoot first ask questions later is the usual policy). Located in Darwin, Australia it gives a quick scratch to the head regarding the title (duh, not even a cheesy metaphor or one liner?) but that's not the only reason for the title because the disease itself effects every human diff. but usually ending in either a 'flight or fight' response, in essence the reptilian nature of humans are amplified. Those that are infected (sub-humans) all revert to a primal nature where usually the strong or more violent survive. As time progresses the city around this uninfected alien piece of machinery starts to prosper to those who held property rights therefore bringing power to certain landowners & the need for intelligent scientists to figure out why & what this 'elevator' was dropped down ? & coincidentally right before an epidemic? so far seems a quagmire. As u get to know the main characters u learn not so much their past but what their future wants & current survival needs are. Although u do learn in depth about the original person whose land the 'elevator' landed on & how he used it to build an empire using its qualities. U are also introduced to a few more ambitious characters grasping for the usual need to have power & control over the surviving people that are left both on the earth & a growing space station attached to the other end of this 'elevator'. There is a semi-symbiotic relationship between those in space needing water & supplies from those dirt-side versus those in orbit that need the food grown in hydroponic like farms in space due to small real-estate humans that are not immune to the disease can live.
This whole background is introduced in obv. much more detail with protagonists & even antagonists that are worse than the sub-humans the disease has turned. Suffice it to say things slowly start to go wrong & there are signs that whoever built this 'elevator' did it for a purpose & is coming back to continue what they started. I liked the books originality & the questions it proposes in a situation the author depicts but there is a lack of proper character development that I am seeing being made up as the book starts to end & now thru the 2nd book. Although the characters, i.e one of the major antagonists is shown to be no more than a brute & bully but lacking in much intelligence while the one of the protagonists is an ex-soldier that is now a scavenger trying to conquer his own insecurities replacing a past leader in the group (a bit flimsy in my opinion). The story itself is enough to pull me along for the ride to at least the next book because the main event is finding out who, why, & what the alien architecture is really about?
For those who like Sci-Fi I believe this will be a new look at another brutal future an author plans for us humans (it seems all authors these days are real pessimistic of human nature, empathy, & future status in the universe lol). Those not into the genre might not get too far into this book before putting it down because it just 'not they're cup of tea.' We shall see after I finish with 'The Exodus Tower, Book 2, Dire Earth Cycle', & like I said it is good to see the 3rd book of the trilogy is due out 9/24/13 on audio & print release if the story stays at its current trajectory for me. If u are into the genre I recommend giving it a try.
I've listened to over 200 books on Audible and I would rank this in the top 10%. Having my favorite narrator Simon Vance doesn't hurt.
This book is a tad hard to follow at first. It's a post apocalyptic story, but some of the facts that all the characters in the book know do not get explained to the reader/listener right way. However, after the first hour I had a hard time taking a break from it. This book really doesn't have any slow sections. It draws you in and just takes off. Eagerly awaiting a sequel.
I found the plotting and characters very weak. Halfway through I just realized that it wasn't getting any better and got off the elevator. The world building left too much unexplained: what are the politics in this world? who comprises the government? why does the richest, most powerful man in the world have to run around and do everything himself? who elected all these creepy people to office? and so on...
The reason why I hanged in there for so long before eventually giving up is because of the reader,Simon Vance, who always manages to bring to life everything he does.
There is nothing as great as discovering a new book, a new voice. and I always enbark on the journey full of hope. this time the elevator doors closed on my head and crushed it.
Skip this book.
This book is a particularly well-done blending of "zombie apocalypse" and hard-core old-school SF. The characters and story are interesting and complex. Simon Vance does his usual excellent job of narration. The subtle accents are especially well done, from Skyler's Dutch to Tania's Indian to Platz' Australian. I look forward to listening to the other books in the series.
"A compelling start"
The book is a compelling start. Fun and even though you could drive a bus through the science, it's a ride that's worth taking. A smarter than your average blockbuster movie script - set in australia!
Yes. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series
"Reasonable story let down by iffy characters"
I'd try the second one in the series probably - there's a lot of potential there, if Jason Hough works out how to characterise villains properly, the second book might be excelent.
Improved the villains motivation, made the book quite a lot shorter, removed the contrived elements.
I've listened to a couple by Simon Vance now - he's pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.
The Darwin Elevator has a lovely idea behind it, and some pretty sharp writing in places. The world has a good feel to it, the sub humans who are the main threat in this universe are well thought through and avoid being just another set of zombie creatures.
The problem arises in the motivation of some of the characters - particularly the main villain, whose only motivation is he's EVIL! EVIIIIIL! I think it might have gotten away with it if we hadn't been given insight into why he was taking these actions - he's so completely evil and without any redeeming features he comes across as just a characature - a 2d device who is there to give the other characters something to fight against, he doesn't feel like a character in his own right.
There are a couple of other problems - the book is a bit long and pads sections out in places by having things conveniently go wrong (often in rather contrived ways) so the book can continue for another few chapters. It's also not narrated particularly well. Simon Vance is perfectly fine but his soft spoken drawl isn't well suited for this type of sci fi.
Having said all that, I did finish the book and I'm thinking of getting the second in the series when it comes out so there's definitely something to be said for it. The concept is such a strong one that even a terrible antagonist can't ruin it and there are a few central mysteries that kept me coming back to the book, even when I was getting frustrated with its other aspects.
TL:DR give it a go but don't expect a classic. Maybe book 2 will be better.
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