The back story for Jason M Hough’s The Darwin Elevator sounds like the background for a tempting sci-fi roleplaying game. That, of course, is a huge complement from this reviewer.
Humanity discovered the alien presence only when they built the space elevator. The colossal construct connects Earth from Darwin in Australia to an abandoned spaceship in orbit above the planet. No one’s seen the aliens. After making the space needle – they left. They’re known as The Builders.
Mankind’s next world altering event is the disease. People begin to change; devolving, succumbing to just one base emotion like rage, fear or hatred.
There is no cure but there is sanctuary – the aura around The Darwin Elevator. The Builder’s strange construction becomes an oasis that supports the last surviving humans on planet Earth.
The city at the base of the elevator, Darwin, is crowded and dirty. The rich live with roof top gardens where they can grow their own food. The elevator itself has been used by mankind – space pods, farms and other stations added. The richest of the survivors live in space.
Only a few are immune to the disease.
The Darwin Elevator picks up at a critical moment. There’s a team of scavengers who are all immune to the disease, trying to make a living by risking the intense dangers of the wild sub-humans to bring back scavenge that the rich in space might pay for. Their return to Darwin is marked by something that’s never happened before – the power in the space elevator flickers.
Outside the protective aura the behaviour of the sub-humans (subs) is changing. These newsubs are more aggressive but also more likely to band together in large numbers.
There is worse… there are reports of people living inside the so-called sanctuary of the elevator’s aura coming down with the disease.
I loved the set up but that meant I quickly got impatient with the action. I wanted to discover what happened next – immediately. One of the wobbles at the start of the action is that the captain of the scavengers is a little unsure in himself. Whereas this gives us room for character development it rather deprives us of a strong leading figure.
Over time, though, there are some important character developments. There’s a great baddie. Good guys start to die. There’s nothing like killing off the heroes when it comes to make readers pay attention.
The result is that The Darwin Elevator is like a Chocolate Orange. It’s full of promise but hard to get in to until you’ve given it a bashing and delicious slices of action open up to you.
I’m now looking forward to reading the sequel, The Exodus Towers, especially since the first book ended with a cliff hanger.