The Exodus Towers is the second book in Jason M. Hough’s The Dire Earth Cycle. The first book, The Darwin Elevator, was a good one and I could see why people found some similarities to Firefly.
The Dire Earth Cycle isn’t a space western but it’s a science fiction, set in the near future, after a mysterious alien invention effectively triggered an apocalypse on Earth. The survivors huddle around a space elevator in Darwin, Australia, while zombie-like remnants of humanity roam everywhere else.
The Darwin Elevator was always going to be a tough book to follow. The Exodus Towers benefits from the clever plot twist that links into it to an extent but suffers nearly as much. Why? We don’t have the world set up to discover and enjoy as it has been set up already. It might be the case that The Exodus Towers reset or reconfigure the rules of the game but if they do Hough only hints at it. Besides, by the end of this book, it hardly seems to matter.
I enjoyed the Exodus Towers. I’m looking forward to digging into The Plague Forge, the next in the series, but there’s no doubt this book suffers from mid-series syndrome. The fact that there’s a ticking clock which readers know will not hit zero in this book, no matter how large it is (545 pages), only emphasizes the point.
The big success in The Exodus Towers is character development. There are some twists and turns on this front. You may revise your opinions of certain characters; some will go up, some will go down. Importantly, the relationships remain fresh.
There was the risk that some of the tension in the relationships would have naturally settled before the end of the series and that can often harm the series. This is a trap that Hough’s avoided with style and grace. That said; I don’t get the same Firefly character vibe from this book that I caught whispers of from the first.
The small success in the book is that we get to see a lot more of the world. As a gamer, I always flick into mythos mode when a sci-fi or post-apocalypse begins to interest me (and The Dire Earth Cycle is both). Once I’m in mythos mode I try and work out whether the setting would be a good one for an RPG and how it might work.
I wasn’t sure after The Darwin Elevator but The Exodus Towers have convinced me that this would make a good RPG setting. Your PCs would have to be immune to the virus that haunts humanity but with that in place, they’d have a globe to explore, with plenty of dungeon crawl style encounters if that suits you and yet would be able to circle back to Darwin, any other interesting location or meetings with other immunes for the necessary plot development.
In fact, the behaviour of The Exodus Towers themselves makes it easier for such a game to happen.
If you enjoyed the first book then grab the sequel.
My copy of The Exodus Towers was provided for review. The Dire Earth Cycle is by Jason M. Hough, via Titan Books.
Start up a conversation in the comments below.