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The Darwin Elevator
The Dire Earth Cyle
by Jason M. Hough
Del Rey, $9.99, 472pp
Published: July 2013

In the late 23rd century, the earth was visited by aliens called The Builders.  These Builders “gifted” us with a functional space elevator – a cord anchored above the earth enabling us to send vehicles up the cord and place stations in orbit.  This was an amazing boon to the Platz family that owned the land in Darwin, Australia where the space elevator was placed.  But the gift seemed to have a side effect:  a world-wide plague that either killed people immediately or changed them into primitive murderous subhumans.  A very few lucky ones were immune to the disease.  But the elevator emitted an “aura” extending through much of the city of Darwin that was a safe zone; keeping the disease in stasis for those who managed to get to Darwin.  The rest of the world was lost.

Skyler and five other immunes were scavengers who traveled throughout the world to find supplies to keep both the city of Darwin and the people who lived in orbit, Orbitals, living and working.  When Skyler was approached secretly to do a special recovery job for Neil Platz himself – the defacto leader of the Orbitals – he saw a golden future for him and his crew.  But Neil’s counterpart, the leader of Darwin, now called Nightcliff, is a man named Blackfield and he does not have his people’s best interests in mind…unless they coincide with Blackfield’s personal interests.  So when Blackfield sees an opportunity to confiscate whatever was commissioned by Platz, he takes it.  Unfortunately, he also took the Orbital scientist that Skyler took on the trip, Tania Sharma – a woman to whom Skyler was attracted.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  In Skyler’s attempt to escape Blackfield he lost his ship, his crew and nearly his life.

The possible loss of Tania Sharma would severely impact Neil’s plans as Tania is the one who knows when the Builders are coming back.  But the scientists on the orbital platforms are embroiled in fierce discussions over just what will happen the next time the Builders come to Earth and Blackfield neither knows nor would he care about those repercussions.  So when Blackfield invades the orbital stations, he doesn’t realize he’s putting all of humanity at risk.

This was a debut book for Hough, who, by the way, got better.  But this is a pretty good read.  Some of the story structure felt a little clumsy and unclear but I enjoyed the plot.  The characters were done adequately but sometimes their thoughts and motivations felt a bit forced.  Watch for more reviews of this series.~~  Catherine Book

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