The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
The Darwin Elevator is broad in scope combining post-apocalypse, first contact, mystery, science fiction, and thriller into one full length novel. To get a sense of the story, you need to know the backstory which won’t spoil the book as I’ll avoid anything too revealing as it is the first of a series (The Dire Earth Cycle).
Chronologically the story begins with the appearance of an alien craft in Earth orbit, a craft which quickly manufactures and connects a space elevator from orbit to Darwin, Australia. Hence, the Darwin Elevator (and here I was thinking before I started reading it had something to do with Charles Darwin and evolution!).
Five years later, no aliens have appeared, but people begin to die in large numbers. A few are left as violent sub-humans, a statistically minisculue amount of people have an immunity to the virus. The only refuge from the virus (nicknamed ‘subs’) is around the elevator, in Darwin. This is due to the elevator broadcasting an ‘aura’ that puts the disease in stasis, or if you remain within the aura, prevents it from occurring. Darwin therefore became a refuge for people fleeing the virus.
After a slow start the narrative becomes intriguing and gathers pace. It combines a survival story with the politics of two separate enclosed societies that rely on one another, the continuing search for just what happened to the human race, and just what the motives of the aliens are.
The story does feel a little rushed and few characters are developed to be broad and encompassing. Skyler, Tania, Russell and Platz perhaps the exceptions, though in truth only Skyler is fully developed. There was an opportunity I feel in the plot where he is away from the centre of events and makes his way back that could have been used to develop him further.
The motivations and full story behind Platz are something that I do hope is revealed in books two and three, as well as the full story behind the aliens. The first book itself is however a ride that evolves into a mystery and thriller set in a science fiction world. You want to know what is happening and why, who is behind this, and what the aliens’ motivations are.
I do however have a couple of problems with the science:
1) The Space Elevator is located in Darwin, Australia. 1,378 km from the equator, where all Space Elevator concepts state that an elevator needs to be situated.
2) The counter-weight for the elevator appears to be at or near geo-stationary orbit, when it should be well beyond that point in space in order to give sufficient tensile strength to stay in place and not rely on compression (which would require a large base gradually thinning as it climbs into the sky).
Still, an enjoyable read and I will be continuing with the rest of the series when I get them.