Book Review: 'The Darwin Elevator'

Alan Cheuse could not put down a new sci-fi thriller by former gamer Jason Hough. Cheuse reviews the book, The Darwin Elevator.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. It's the late 23rd century. A plague has swept across the globe and the only people who are safe are in Australia near something called "The Darwin Elevator." That's the name of a new sci-fi novel, the first in the trilogy called "The Dire Earth Cycle." It's by first-time novelist Jason Hough and our reviewer Alan Cheuse says he couldn't put it down.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Uh-uh, I just couldn't put it down, this first novel by an unknown writer. Even the format was exciting, as a fiendish science fiction reader friend of mine blurted out in pleasure - it's just like the old days, he said, a science fiction paperback original. Hough goes back to the old days for some of his motifs, such as the space elevator, an idea that's been around since the end of the 19th century and featured in some novels from the 1970s, notably Arthur C. Clarke's "The Fountains of Paradise."

And the old visit from the aliens who have a shadowy plan for reshaping life on earth, that's here too in Hough's novel. The extraterrestrials arrive to build the space elevator in Darwin, in the north territory of Australia and then they depart, leaving their invention to send out a powerful signal in an area surrounding the elevator in the town, which is good because a dozen years later, a terrible plague spreads around the world turning people into what Hough's surviving characters dub as subhuman or subs, zombie-like creatures who rip and tear and kill and maim any normal human being who gets in their way.

Only those who live in the vicinity of the space elevator are inoculated against the plague and those few who otherwise appear to be immune, such as supply ship pilot Skyler Lukan(ph) and his crew who scour the world for supplies for the plague-encircled Darwinites. The story sound good? Just add the news that the aliens are returning with another elevator and you've got a great good mix of old and new and the great prospect of two more volumes coming in quick succession in this dynamic new series.

BLOCK: That's reviewer Alan Cheuse, talking about the new sci-fi novel "The Darwin Elevator" by Jason Hough.

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