The Darwin Elevator, Jason M. Hough’s debut novel, features a large cast of characters, page-turning action sequences, alien technology, and a zombie-like plague. When I first heard the novel praised on Twitter, it seemed like something I should check out. Then I was lucky enough to win a signed copy by the author! What did I think?
I’ve seen The Darwin Elevator described as “popcorn science fiction”, and that’s definitely an apt way to put it. But that’s not to say the novel isn’t smart. Hough kept me guessing throughout the approximately 475 pages, and I never could figure out what was going to happen next. Most of the secondary characters, especially Tania Sharma and Samantha Rinn, are engaging and fun to read about. The main protagonist, Skyler Liuken, is adequate, but somewhat bland. I hope that changes in Books 2 and 3. And I wanted to punch the villain, Russell Blackfield, every time he appeared on the page.
This brings me to one thing I wasn’t entirely comfortable with: the rampant objectification of women. It’s not done in a glorifying way by any means, but rather to show how awful conditions in Darwin are, and how awful Blackfield is as a person. It certainly worked, considering how much I hated Blackfield by the end of the book. But some of it was a little over the top and cliche, and made me a bit too uncomfortable.
All that said, The Darwin Elevator kept me engaged throughout and I definitely want to pick up the second and third novels in the trilogy, collectively known as The Dire Earth Cycle. I give it a GO.