Wednesday, May 22, 2013

REVIEW: The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1) The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: minor spoilers

The only thing that kept me invested in the book was the plot. The one character I rooted for died at the end. The other two characters that I liked were purely supporting characters; combined they contributed to less than 10% of the book. Everyone else was unremarkable and nettling. Let’s just say I was a little surprised and greatly disappointed that a few of those characters were still alive by the end of the book.

+ the world building

Good news first, the science fiction was accessible. It didn’t take but a few chapters for me to understand the world building, and I was only passively reading. Whenever the book introduced a new thing, it immediately and succinctly explained what that thing was.

Now for the bad news: I found part of the world building shaky. To be specific, I found it very hard to believe that the immunes were near the bottom of society hierarchy and not at the top. As the very few, lucky people who were immune against the apocalyptic alien disease, hence the name, they could live, travel, and, most importantly, scavenge outside of the bubble city. The normal people, a.k.a. the non-immunes, needed the immunes way more than the immunes needed them. However, the immunes were greatly and inexplicably more underprivileged than the wealthy and powerful who were non-immunes. It made little sense. The immunes had all the potential to be the wealthy and the powerful, yet they were only a little better off than the masses.

In short, the world building positioned immunes as the underdogs, and I couldn’t accept that bullshit.

+ the characters

I also couldn’t accept Skyler as a protagonist. He was utterly lacking. The book tried to portray him as self-deprecating but it just came off as low self-esteem to me. It vexed me that for someone who was an immune and a natural leader, he was not a person of power and couldn’t be more disinterested. I didn’t like how Blackfield pushed Skylar around when in my belief it should have been the other way around.

Blackfield was a one-note villain, a thug boss whose ambitions greatly surpassed his wits. I don’t know how the dude stayed alive for such a long time. Hell, I was very surprised that he survived at the end because indications led me to believe that the dude would perish by middle of the story or, if he was lucky, by the last quarter of the story. Lo and behold, he turned out to be the main villain, and I was greatly disappointed that our heroes didn’t successfully eliminate the dirtbag.

Neil was my favorite character, the one I rooted for, because he was a person of power and didn’t hesitate to do what needed to be done, even if some of those things were ethically sketchy and for his own interests. There were times when it looked like the old dude was the main villain but I was never convinced that he was because the things that he did sat right with me. He was the only one who realized that the apocalypse was perhaps the beginning and part of something bigger, and goddamn it he would prepare for it, even if he had to start a civil war, though in his defense it was bound to happen anyway because of Blackfield and Russell. I was very surprised that at the end it was Neil, the manipulative mastermind, who died and not Blackfield.

Another thing that surprised me was how Tania remained wholesomely intact and stepped up to fill Neil’s place at the end after he died because for near entirety of the story the woman was a complete damsel in distress. Tania was a beautiful smart scientist and one of the few people that Neil trusted and allowed in the know. However, the woman was head-banging fragile and gullible. It was as if she was walking around with a paper stuck on her back that say “Manipulate me. Victimize me. Make me your pawn!” Oh look, here comes Skyler taking an interest and becoming her white knight in shining armor. Suffice to say, I didn’t like Tania. By the time character growth decided to wave its wand on her like a fairy godmother, it was too late for me to care, that is I couldn’t care less about her fate. If anything, the story would have done me a favor if Tania was done away and Kelly or Samantha would step in as the leading lady of the story.

Kelly was Neil’s right-hand woman, his go-to fixer, while Samantha was Skyler’s. The two ladies were the definition of kickass bitches, and I love them! I was disappointed that they were not given a greater role and not part of the multiple third person POVs the story was told in. No, those POVs, except Neil’s, went to weak ass characters.

+ the plot

The plot was told in multiple 3rd person POVs, limited to less than a handful of characters with Skyler as the predominant POV. While I strongly prefer exclusive 1st person POV, the shifting 3rd person POVs worked to the story’s favor because it minimized my vexation against the characters I didn’t like.

Due the shifting 3rd person POVs, I expected to suffer disjointed plot lines for a chunk of the book but to my pleasure I was wrong. The plot lines from each of the characters started to converge from the get-go. It took me almost no time to discern the relationship between the characters and their relevancy.

The plot was always in motion, and more importantly it ran with a clear goal. I did skim a few pages towards the end but it was only because I ran out of patience with certain characters and not because I was bored. The plot regularly tossed action scenes and in its down time, clandestine scenes were afoot.

In Conclusion

I rate The Darwin Elevator 2-stars for it was okay. I liked the plot but I prefer strong characters over a strong plot, though honestly a good book should have both. The book did excite me enough to read the sequel.

If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic fiction that is heavy on the science fiction part, rather than the survival part, and takes place outside of America, try The Darwin Elevator, which takes place half in Australia and half in space for its main settings.

Goodreads | Amazon

Post a Comment

You can also comment on the Goodreads version of my review. Click on the rating located in the beginning of my review to get to the webpage.