Written by Jason M. Hough the sci-fi novel, The Darwin Elevator, was initially released in July of 2013. It is the first chapter in a trilogy of books dubbed The Dire Earth Cycle, with the two following books in the series, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge, released later in 2013. The three books cover a future post-apocalyptic Earth beginning in the 23rd century. The Darwin Elevator ostensibly begins when an empty space vessel from a race of unknown aliens dubbed as The Builders arrives into Earth orbit with a dire prediction of additional arrivals. This much is learned by a forward-thinking industrialist named Neil Platz who — having discovered the initial vessel in orbit — works out the future landfall location of the elevator in Darwin, Australia, and then goes on to establish Platz Industries to exploit it. Platz then begins buying all the land around where the elevator will anchor, eventually building the NightCliff elevator base and climber infrastructure in Darwin and eventually establishing orbital colonies along the elevator cord. For a time Darwin thrives as it becomes the center of space technology innovation.
Eventually orbital colonies along the elevator cord become established. However, the arrival of the space elevator comes with a heafty price, — the other-worldy architects of this technological marvel bring with it an accompanying world-wide apocalypse, as the elevator also emits a world-wide plague that turns most of the population of the Earth into crazed, plague-ridden sub-humans, fortunately the base of the elevator in Darwin also emits a plague-suppressing aura that protects anyone within its reach.
Skyler Luiken is one a few dozen or so humans who somehow has a rare immunity to the plague. Now, accompanied by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he heads out into the plague-zone leading missions into the dangerous wasteland far beyond the aura’s edge in order to recover the necessary resources that the people of Darwin (and the space station beyond) need to stave off collapse. However, when the Elevator begins to malfunction, Skyler — along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma — is tapped by Platz to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.
The book (and its two sequels) immediately shot to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list, and have garnered rave reviews by numerous critics, and while we did find the book engrossing, and densely-packed with intrigue and human drama, by the time we reached the book’s conclusion (some 470+ pages later) we couldn’t help feel a bit cheated in as much as there was no real resolution to the issues raised in the book, only more questions, and with two more (presumably equal-lengthed books) to get to the conclusion. Needless to say, this book felt more like the first chapter in a longer story than a complete-in-one novel experience, and thus left us feeling like we were played for Patsies. We haven’t read either of the following books, and — given how this one left us feeling empty — we probably won’t go on to pick them up.
Needless to say if anyone out there believes us to have been overlyh critical in this assessment, we can only point to Frank Herbert’s Dune series, all the movels of which were complete and unto themselves while simultaneously building on and enhancing the previous novel. At no point while reading that series (even though by the time we had gotten to it, several of the books had already been published), did we ever feel slighted in the storytelling aspects of each novel. Perhaps there has been something of storytelling that has been lost to modern-day storytellers (or their audiences) if this is what is considered to be a MY Times “bestseller.”
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.