Book Review #28- Exodus Towers by Jason M Hough

The second book in the Dire Earth series picks up where the first left off. Skyler, Tania and other “traitors” are building their colony in Belem, Brazil. Skyler, now enjoying a role as a decisive man of action and Tania is the colony’s leader. As such, she spends a ton of time in orbit away from Skyler and doing important bureaucratic things like debating with Zane and Tim. Skyler and Tania fell in “insta-love” in the first book and now they’re dealing with the aftermath. They really didn’t know each other, and now the distance and differences in opinion drive a wedge between them. It’s very nuanced and well written in that aspect. Skyler, often off scavenging, researching and adventuring, isn’t there for Tania the way Tim and Zane are and the orbitals are egregiously out of touch with what’s happening on the ground. That all come to a head when the camp is taken by a gang/cult/bunch of freaks who are all immunes who refer to orbitals as spacemen and believe that immunes are meant to inherit the Earth. Extremists who believe that they are the chosen-ones.

Speaking of chosen-ones… back in Darwin, my girl Samantha Rinn (who *score* we did get more of in this book) starts off a captive of Blackfield’s. After an attempted escape she is sent on a mission by slumlord/Jacobite leader, Grillo. And then she’s set off on more mission as Grillo has her friend Kelly Adelaide under his thumb. He brings her out into the field when he needs an immune (she is the last known in Darwin) and she runs the scavenger crews, which she hates. The Jacobites believe the Darwin Elevator is Jacob’s Ladder and they start imposing Jacobite laws on the people, no drinking, a holy day, no using the lord’s name in vain… that sort of thing, and like any good religious cult, being armed to the teeth never conflicts with their belief system. Samantha helps Grillo because she gains her freedom and because, frankly she has nothing else to do. But Grillo turns out to have bigger goals than he initially let on.

There are some new characters, one of which is Ana. One of the few problems I had with this book was that I felt like Hough couldn’t decide what age Ana should be, he wanted her to be substantially younger than Skyler and immature/maladapted and she was, but I feel like the age waffled a bit. I read the ARC copy, so perhaps it came together in the final cut, anyway. Ana falls hard for Skyler and he tries to keep her at a distance, but with Tania in orbit and a rift between them… it gets complicated. Ana is impulsive, tough, spoiled and determined. A good teammate but she escapes the overused action-chick cliches.

And throughout love triangles, violent cults and espionage we still have the evolving sub-humans (zombie like survivors of the SUBS virus get tougher in strange ways), upcoming alien events, and beyond weird alien artifacts. My favorites include Sam being trapped in alien brambles and Skyler entering a dome that pays no mind to the rules of space and time.

There’s a ton going on and frankly, it was super awesome. The second book in a trilogy always bugs me. The first is always self contained and then the second ramps up but leaves so much lying around for the third. But I’m in. There’s a good amount of book here, as you can tell. It’s worth it.

The other thing that bugged me a ton: the rift between Skyler and Tania. Tania bartered with Gabriel that she would turn in Skyler (she didn’t mean it), and he heard her, he would have forgiven her but she lied about it because she felt guilty. But she had the nerve to tell him that he started combat with Gabriel, that he should have negotiated. These guys were rapists. Seriously: Skyler needed to kill every last one, no regrets. Period. And he never said “Tania, you don’t even know what is going on down here. Shut up.” 

Last review I cast Michael Weatherly to star as main protag Skyler Luiken, this time Samantha gets a face: 

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Alexa Vega from Machete Kills As much as I would love to throw future Captain Marvel Katee Sackhoff in a time machine and pick her, I’m going with this former Spy Kid to throw punches and throw down one-liners.

and the role of Tania goes to

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Noureen Dewulf from Pulse 2 and Pulse 3 (and frankly, a bunch of movies I haven’t seen) would be great as new leader Tania, the smart scientist, the good friend and stunning love interest.

I’d love to see Demi Lovato get a little wild as our Ana

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And Peruvian model/actress Angie Jibaja should certainly play someone.

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4 Stars for sure.

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.

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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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My face. Current reads: Darwin Elevator by Jason M Hough, Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Bottom photo: Today’s haul from That’s Entertainment. ($9, you believe that?! so much awesome).

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