Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review of The Darwin Elevator by Jason Hough

Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough begins with an interesting mystery
about the appearance of a mysterious space elevator delivered by a
ship in high earth orbit above Darwin, Australia. What looks like
a boon for humanity is soon overshadowed by a plague that wipes out
almost all humans, except for some who basically become vicious
subhuman monsters. Close proximity to the elevator provides immunity,
so Darwin has become the last city on earth. Unfortunately, the aura
of immunity around the elevator seems to be disappearing.

The main characters are fairly likable: Skyler Luiken, a
rough-and-tumble Dutch pilot who runs a crew of immune scavengers, and
Tania Sharma, a scientist working for the richest man on earth, as they
try to unravel the connection between the elevator and humanity's
ultimate fate.

About a third of the way in, the preponderance of action became a
"Walking Dead" episode, and most of the crew had been killed in
various battles. Zombie's not my favorite genre, unless it's the
subtle kind, like "Les Revenants," so I lost interest every time the
story turned away from the basic mystery, flipping through pages until
the plot resumed. The novel does build momentum, however, with the
action increasing in intensity toward the ending and a new discovery
encouraging us to come back and read the sequel.

"Darwin Elevator" does everything right, but it seems to lack what I
look for in a story: real human emotion (other than fear or
adrenaline-revved survival instinct). Despite the fact that a plague
has turned most of humanity into animalistic zombies, it doesn't
really tell us what we can learn from the story of Darwin, or what it
means to be one of the last original humans. Not surprising,
since this is probably just the first installment in a series.

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