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The Darwin Elevator
Jason M. Hough
Del Rey, 473 pages

The Darwin Elevator
Jason M. Hough
Jason M. Hough was born in Illinois but grew up on the mean streets of suburban San Diego, California. In 1978, at age six, his parents took him to see Star Wars, and so began a lifelong love of sci-fi and all things geek. He later worked for a decade in the videogame industry as both a 3D artist and a game designer. Today he lives in San Diego with his family.

Jason M. Hough Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

The Darwin Elevator is not a book that defies description, such as the last inhabited human city, hanging on in the face of both mysterious aliens and menacing hordes. Think Rendezvous With Rama meets the zombie apocalypse and you have a pretty good idea of the narrative terrain. But reducing the story to a one sentence concept invites the implication of cliché and obscures what is best about The Darwin Elevator; it's a run-away freight train of a story that barely slows down enough for the characters to notice that there's a bunch of strange things going on around here, and something should be done about it.

The backstory begins with the appearance of a an alien craft in Earth orbit, a craft which quickly manufactures and connects a space elevator to Darwin, Australia. Five years later, no aliens have appeared, but people begin to die in large numbers. A few are left as violent sub-humans, fewer still have an immunity to the virus. The only refuge is around Darwin, where the elevator broadcasts a field that inhibits the disease, and protects the refugees.

The story combines survival, the politics of an enclosed society, the motives of the aliens and the continuing search for just what happened to the human race into what can only be described as a non-stop adventure. Characters range from a crew of scavengers made up of immunes, to the multi-billionaire who may know more about what's going on than he lets on. It's in the telling of the story that Jason Hough excels, Plans and plots that appear to be major story lines are ruined by sudden turns of events and characters, major and minor, are killed off with a frequency that begs for the inclusion of a scorecard.

That's also the book's weakness, of course. There's not a lot of time for self-reflection and analysis here on the part of the characters. Everyone is too caught up in surviving and figuring out what's going on. The characters have enough development to establish them as individuals, but they also carry with them a few generalizations, the tough crew captain and the idealistic young scientist being two examples.

Still, there's plenty of story here for more than one book, and the rest of the series, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge, have already been published. Jump on The Darwin Elevator and enjoy a wild ride with a wide cast of characters, and don't worry about spending a lot of time thinking about it all afterwards.

Copyright © 2013 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson is not quite sure that meeting the mysterious aliens is enough to make up for losing 99 percent of the human race. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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