The Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough
The Dire-Earth cycle series by Jason M Hough is touted to be the best thing to have happened to the almost dying genre of Science Fiction today. I would agree to a certain extent, but with a degree of caution.
Best thing? Questionable. A good thing? Most emphatically yes. It’s pumped the interest back in to Science Fiction stories but it is nowhere enough to trump the amount of foaming-at-the-mouth raving attention that Fantasy has generated ( thanks to HBO Original Series of Game of Thrones??)
But we’re digressing here. Let’s get back to the series and the book in general. What is attractive about the book is the SF-nal premise of the whole book with alien contact and it’s very accessible nature. Instead of being hard-ass high-flying sci-fi (which trust me, turns off a lot of people wanting to wade into the SF territory), Jason keeps this book easy enough to be liked. Big guns, alien technology, futuristic earth with a touch of dystopian horror. Check.
Jason skims the surface of the topics that might get a little boring – the source of the plague virus, the alien technology itself. Instead he weaves these elements into a tight little story of a group of survivors who would go to any extent to keep the human race alive. It’s intentionally small-scale. To keep the pace on and to keep the story accessible and interesting enough. Mix that up with a vast cast of characters, a lot of heart-thumping action and an almost stunning climax. It forms the perfect little escapist SF adventure that we have all been yearning for.
And yet, none of this truly elevates this book to the level of what a SF Classic should be. It is what it claims to be. An easy entertainer that promises a good time and Jason sticks to that job, pretty much entirely. The book never really takes off from the runway as Jason spends a lot of time idling the plane and introducing us to the main POVs. Skyler, the inept captain of a crew of scavengers, Tania Sharma the stunningly beautiful intelligent scientist, Neil Platz the visionary who aims to keep the humanity alive, Russell Blackfield, the ambitious commander of the earth-based station who covets the seat on the ultimate governing council up in Space. I never really got hooked onto any of these guys to be interested enough to follow the proceedings. The characterization was paper-thin and you could argue it’s been deliberately kept so to keep the pace up. Sadly found lacking as well.
Anyways, it’s in the old-style tradition of science fictional stories where the time-bomb is ticking and all things rush towards that big-bang ending. A lot of nifty ideas and tons of world-building left to the reader’s imagination (now, is that a good thing or not?) leaves ample scope for the story to continue. And Del Ray is doing jus that, coming up with a back-to-back publishing schedule for all three books of the Dire Earth Cycle. A good read but that don’t make me a fan of SF yet. If you prefer to keep your SF and Zombies separate, then try the swashbuckling space-opera adventure by James A Corey starting with Leviathan Wakes and for Zombies, stick to the excellent Passage/The Twelve by Justin Cronin.