Saturday, July 27, 2013

THE DARWIN ELEVATOR; A review by Dermot Kennedy

Pages: 475
Date: 26/07/2013
Grade: 4+
Details: no. 1 The Dire Earth Cycle
            Received from Titan Book
            Through Nudge

The builders came to Earth and constructed an elevator from Darwin, Australia into space. No one knows why, or if they will return”

Following the arrival of the cable, humankind has built space stations at various altitudes along the space cable. Living in the space stations are scientist, agriculturalists and other, privileged people. Several years later a plague envelopes the planet turning humans into feral animals. The only ones protected are the rare “immunes” and the people who live within a 9 mile radius of the space elevator which exudes an Aura of protection. Of course those living in the space stations are also protected, due to their isolation from earth.

Skyler Luiken is one of a group of scavengers who roam the planet in mothballed ex air force aircraft, searching for anything useful which can be sold to the elites who live in orbit. What’s unusual about Luiken’s team is that they are all “immunes” meaning that they don’t have to use cumbersome haz-mat suits while out plying their trade.

The political balance of Darwin sits on a knife edge with Neil Platz in control of the orbital habitats and Russell Blackfield controlling the ground station of Nightcliff, the anchor point for the space elevator. The orbitals control food production, owned by Platz, who has his own dark secrets, and the ground-station controls the supply of Air and Water to the orbitals.  

This is the setting for this debut novel from Hough. First thoughts are that I liked this first book in the “Dire Earth Cycle”. There have been a plethora of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels released in recent years and it is reassuring to finally find one that doesn’t make me want to “slash my wrists” after reading it. The main characters are well developed and, unusually for such a novel, actually have a sense of humour, something severely lacking in a lot of other books of this particular genre such as Hugh Howeys “Wool” series. Skyler Luiken is a reluctant hero, who more or less by accident finds himself drawn into the political battle for the ultimate control of mankind’s destiny. He has to pit his wits against Blackfield who is a “baddie” in the true classical sense of the word.

And still, the power struggle may only be the start of humankind’s problems; for the builders are returning…

The gulf in the quality of life between the “Orbitals” and the Darwinians is huge. The orbitals live in relative luxury, completely removed from the daily and constant struggle for survival which is the lot of most of the earthbound population, all of whom are dreaming of one day ascending to space to a life without fear of starvation or premature death.

This was a fast-paced and thrilling read. And while it is clear that there is more story left to tell I am grateful that the author didn’t leave me stranded on one of those heart-stopping cliff-hangers that seem to be all the rage these days.

I was very pleasantly surprised with this first offering from Hough, who managed to instil a sense of hope and optimism, and not a little humour into a subject which too often is portrayed in a truly grim manner, and I look forward to the next two instalments in the series, “The Exodus Towers” and “The Plague Forge”.

No comments: