Review: “The Darwin Elevator” by Jason M. Hough


The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough. 480 pages. Del Rey Books.

This book is pretty impressive for a debut novel. It’s polished and is very detailed. It’s also a unique idea. The concept of a space elevator or a skyhook, a stationary orbiting station that is hooked to earth and allows materials to be cheaply raised and lowered to space and back, has been touched on by multiple authors over the years but not really elaborated on. Add to that the concept of an alien-based virus, and you have a decent world to build a series around.

Here’s the Amazon description:

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.

This book is at its best when it focuses on the primary concept: a team of immunes that act as scavengers and travel Han Solo-style across the mutant-infested globe looking for choice items that only they can get. For it’s only at the immediate location around the space elevator, located in Darwin, Australia, that people can live disease-free. And there’s about a million people there at the time of the telling.

I really like Skyler, the main protagonist of the story. Like I said before, he’s much like Han Solo, a scoundrel in it to survive and with a collection of rowdy allies and flaws that make him interesting to follow. Where the story falls down is when it deviates from this part of the story, and gets into the politics of what’s happening at the multiple space stations that are developed along the elevator line. It gets tedious, in fact.

This is the first book in a series. And I probably won’t move on to the other books, even though I thought it was a decent book. I just felt like it took too much to get to the good parts of the story to make it worth my while.

I give it four stars out of five.

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