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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.

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The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

The Garden of Burning Sand

Title: The Garden of Burning Sand
Author: Corban Addison
Pages: 320
Buy: Play; Waterstones
Source: First Reads
Rating: 4 Stars

***I recieved this book for free under the Goodreads First Reads giveaway scheme in exchange for an honest review.***

When I found I’d won my first book under the giveaway scheme after entering dozens I was excited but this was slightly dissipated when I read what book I had won. Then when it arrived a few weeks later and it was a hefty hard-cover I thought, how am I going to lug that in my briefcase to and from work on the train?

I put it off for three maybe four books but I shouldn’t have. I was wrong to be disappointed. It is a very good story that carefully, skilfully, and compassionately explores the issues affecting women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, and how the decisions we make as relatively rich westerners, who have access to healthcare, a relatively corruption free justice system (some police officers aside) and education, affect those who have none of these things and a lot less beside.

The story follows a rich young American female, the archetypical ‘sploilt brat with a trust fund’ trying to do good in the world and help those less fortunate than herself. Except that she doesn’t come across as spoilt, or a brat.

The exposition of the justice system in Zambia, the difficulty to achieve convictions, the superstitions that surround medical science as practiced in the west, and the horrors that AIDS and HIV has on societies in Africa are eye-opening, evocative, and effective.

The main character is developed well, others not so much, it is a first person book written in the third. I enjoyed it, it was interesting and informative. The story was good with a great deal of suspense, mystery, and twists that did mean the ending was not a foregone conclusion.

I heartily recommend it and will probably be purchasing have just received Mr Addison’s first novel, A Walk Across the Sun to see if it is just as good, or better.

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.

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