Category Archives: Science Fiction

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin ElevatorTitle: The Darwin Elevator
Author: Jason M. Hough
Pages: 484
Buy: Waterstones
Source: Purchased copy
Rating: 4 stars

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.

Advertisements

Final Days by Gary Gibson

Title: Final Days
Author: Gary Gibson
Pages: 372
Buy: Waterstones
Source: Purchased copy
Rating: 3 Stars

It took reading other people’s reviews to put my finger on just why Final Days didn’t quite ‘do it’ for me. After all it had all the elements that make a good science fiction novel such as a good concept, a future world, elements of dystopia and in the end an apocalypse for humanity on Earth, all thrown together with a bit of a mystery.

Having been strongly recommended Gary Gibson by Kate at For Winter Nights I was a bit underwhelmed without being able to know why, until I read what others thought and their views sparked resonance in my head. The plot is a little chaotic and a lot of the time doesn’t make sense, we don’t know why things are happening or what the motives of characters are, we know little to nothing about major organs of the Final Days ‘world’, the ASI , the Sphere worlds/countries, and such like.

The wormholes being used allow a form of time travel that isn’t in my mind well explained and this forms a major part of the plot. Due to this time travelling, from early on in the book and given that it is stated throughout that the future is set and unalterable, we kind of know what is going to happen and this diminishes significantly the urge to see what happens because for the most part we know, we just don’t know what will happen to the characters.

Do I care what happens to them though? The characters, with the exception of Saul Dumont, are barely developed with almost no discernible personality between them and with goals that aren’t really understandable. Characters are introduced merely as a name, take part in some sort of sub-plot or short arc and then disappear, the novel to me reads like something that needs expanding of the world-building, more plot development and explanation, and better fleshed out characters.

When it came to the end, many things were unresolved and I didn’t feel any attachment to the characters who seem merely there for the big set pieces. It reads like an attempt at Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga that failed to match it for breadth and depth.

One thing I noted from reading other people’s reviews was that one of the people who helped Gary write the book and are credited by him, Ian Sales, gave the book 3 stars in his review of the book on Goodreads, something I found amusing.

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Dark EdenTitle: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Pages: 404
Buy: Waterstones; Amazon
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars

There is a quote on the back of my copy of this book from Alison Flood of the Guardian. It perfectly catches my thoughts on the novel and the world that Chris Beckett has built within Dark Eden.

Dark Eden is truly its own world built philosophically, metaphysically, and linguistically into a believable and impressively fascinating world by Beckett. There is an anthropological angle to this and the biological worlds they live on is unique and engaging. The people exist with their own history and with their own customs in a different world longing to return to Earth.

The story is about the descendents of two marooned explorers living on an alien world, an alien world that doesn’t have a sun, but is somehow warm thanks to the planet they live on and the vegetation that grows on the planet extracting warmth from the planet and bringing both heat and light to the surface.

How this would work on a physical level in reality is not something I can answer but it sure makes the world that is Dark Eden both unique and fascinating. The story is written following different individuals living amongst ‘the family’ on a first person basis, switching each chapter between different individuals.

I would say there is largely one main character with a couple of important supporting characters who move the story along. It deals with how humans interact with a world, or not, and how humanity develops in an alien environment with a knowledge and history that encourages longing for the Earth and rescue. It is a novel that combines dystopia, evolution and alien life forms, and does so very well.

In a way the story is a play on Genesis, the first story of the Bible that tells the story of Adam and Eve (replaced  by Tommy and Angela) but from the perspective of an alien world and a science fiction basis in that the reproduction of related individuals has led to a very genetically linked society with birth defects such as claw-feet and ‘bat-faces’. As these descendents of Tommy and Angela are initially small they must have lived out a lonely existence in a strange world, and although family reached over 500 around the time the novel starts, the effect of the initial isolation and challenges has a profound effect on the society that developed on Eden.

In Alison’s words though, it is ‘A world I’m desparate to return to’

View all my reviews

The Cleansing by Sam Kates

The Cleansing by Sam Kates

Title: The Cleansing
Author: Sam Kates
Pages: 312
Buy: Book Depository
Source: First Reads
Rating: 4 Stars

*I received this book for free as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway in exchange for an honest review*

I really liked The Cleansing by Sam Kates. I don’t read much post-apocalyptic fiction and entered the giveaway because this book sounded interesting. A warning though, reviewing this book without giving anything away is difficult, so be warned.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything in a book called the Cleansing by revealing that humanity is (virtually) wiped out (it is in the blurb!). Although I’ve read little apocalyptic literature, the method of wiping out humanity is even something I’ve heard of before as a common method in this type of book. That being said, the way it is done, and why it is done is different and mysterious. You really want to know why this is happening and for what purpose.

This is a novel that is interesting, mysterious, and well written. There is a clear sense of the feelings of the survivors being brought to the fore, and the horror of the actual plague and the effects it has on society are explored well and in detail. During this phase of the book you are introduced to many families and individuals, including children albeit briefly.

The motivations, thoughts, and characters of the perpetrators are revealed slowly and the premise is something I found original. At times, despite the post apocalyptic setting, I felt I wasn’t reading a science fiction novel but a story about surviving in the face of adversity combined with a mystery.

I enjoyed it immensely, even if I do have to wonder about the empathy of an author who can write so easily about wiping out children. (The author explores that very thought and subject here.

In the book, not only is the horror that the survivors are living through skilfully and artfully explored and described but what happens to the world and society at large is littered throughout the story, cars everywhere, power failing, hospitals unable to cope without it being overbearing, it is just something that each character encounters on their arcs.

One of my favourite bits in the book (SPOILER AHEAD) is the President’s speech to the world.

The real shame for me was that the book was over so soon, at 300 pages I easily could have read more, two or three times the length which may have turned it into a brick book, but I like brick books (a la Peter F. Hamilton.)

So, Mr Kates, please write number two and I’d be happy to read it and find out what happens.

SPOILERS BELOW

Some questions I’d like answers to in the next book(s):

– How would the ‘People’ have wiped out humanity pre-20th century?
– Did they have any involvement in the Black Death or Spanish Flu?
– How did they hide their advanced technology for thousands of years?
– If they live underground on their home planet but rejuvenate through the Sun, how does that work?
– I recall Peter stating humanity was more intelligent, yet the ‘People’ could cure cancer and develop the Millennium Bug…

Also, if like me the first page didn’t make sense when you first read it, read it again once you’ve finished this book and it is actually a great big clue slammed in your face that you just missed first time around!

Overall a great book, looking forward to the second in the series.

bookskaterates

"Of reading many books there is no end…"

My Tiny Obsessions

dedicated to small everyday obsessions ... tv shows ... movies ... books ...

Novel Heights

Books, books and more books - what I've read & what I thought.

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

To read on and off the rails

Raanan Bar-Cohen

all about the Partnerships