Book Review #27- The Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough

This is the kind of book that would do well enough as a movie is directors had the good sense not to ruin it by giving the role to Tom Cruise (thankfully, he’d be too old for it) or Keanu Reeves (yeesh)…

THE PLOT (snagged from goodreads):

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.
 
Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity

I glanced at the goodreads reviews (for the record: I don’t especially care for goodreads, in general, no offense) some people didn’t like it because the characters weren’t “strong enough” which is fine…

And honestly I can relate. At first I was thinking, “dammit, Skyler, why are you so damn wishy washy?”

Skyler recently became captain, after the former captain of the Melville, Skadz, suddenly abandoned everyone. He’s not particularly good at it. He flew into Darwin with Skadz when humans started going apeshit and eating each other, which is where the rest of the crew got together: Samantha and Angus and Jake. So Skadz leaves and Skyler takes over because the Melville is his. He doesn’t know how to lead, he was a grunt in the Dutch Air Force and was happy not making the tough calls. The people of Darwin have small farms in orbit that supply food and some roof top gardens but they are horribly over populated and depend on scavenger crews ransacking the rest of the earth that is infested with subhumans. The wrong call could get his crew killed or lead to shortages of vital resources… Skyler is caving under the pressure.

“He didn’t want to be special. Or sought after. Truth be told he’d rather be back in the Netherlands, flying mundane patrols for the air force, living a good life. But that was a long time ago, in a different world.”

So, Skyler Luiken hasn’t really gotten over the world ending or his friend freaking out and leaving and doesn’t have the ambition or aptitude for leadership. That’s the point. I know all of you think you would get over your glaring personality flaws and be the Big Damn Hero if it ever came down to it. Reality Check: not everyone is built for it.

Skyler does step up over the course of the book, for the reason straight men do. No, no, not money, not “because it’s the right thing”, not fame, not for adventure, or excitement… for a beautiful woman.

There’s actually a really cute part where he goes to rescue her: not even sure if she’ll remember him, “Hey, it’s Skyler, from Hawaii?”

So if you want to smack him for not being able to make a decision: he will, don’t worry.

In the “women who don’t really need rescuing” category: For the “tough chicks” Kelly Adelaide and Samantha. For the “smart chicks”: Tania Sharma and Natalie.

The story doesn’t follow them around as much (for the record, more time spent with Kelly and Sam would have been optimal)

The world building is good. There’s enough for the general idea of how everything got this way and why every one is going so damn crazy.

Image

Just kidding, no it’s not. The problem is not really the aliens (or the zombies). It’s plain old human greed. Hidden plans, secret plots, power grabs, revenge, monopolies on resources, money, power, respect. Russel and Alex want to control orbit (where the money lives), tired of being dependent on lesser of two evils Neil Platz. Platz, for the record is hiding too many secrets to name, including the Mother Of All Secrets. And he gets mighty rich off his MOAS. Russel and Alex… and, you know, humanity are right to be resentful.

“The aura is everything.”

This book wraps up a major issue, but leaves the fate of some characters (and earth overall) up in the air. I’m very interested in starting book 2 to see what happens to everybody and how their discovery changes their world! There were also some things that never get fully explained that I hope do in the next book. Like why the “zombies” were changing.

And for the record, if this were made into a movie…. I would pick Michael WeatherlyImage

Even though he is both too old and too tall for it.

PS- It actually reminded me of Outlaw Star, and Gene Starwind who wants to go into space but is terrified. He’s a tough guy and a gunslinger and an all around rad dude, but nothing above and beyond. The first time he’s on a spaceship he passes out, he has to drink to keep his cool. But he ends up inheriting a ship and joining an intergalactic treasure hunt.

4 Data Cubes!

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