Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough has style and substance. The characters are vivid and compelling and the plot features more than just another zombie apocalypse. I was hooked by the end of the first page.
It’s the twenty-third century and Darwin is the last viable city on Earth. Thirty years before, aliens known only as The Builders visited the planet and installed a space elevator on the remote peninsula of northern Australia. As scientists and opportunists flocked to the southern continent, the city grew. Then came the plague: SUBS. Those who did not die a quick and painful death devolved, became sub-human with one key emotion heightened, most usually aggression.
The elevator offers protection from the plague, an aura nine miles in circumference, which is not a lot of room for the remnant population. Darwin is overcrowded, food is a commodity. The population is split into two distinct classes; the refugees penned in by the aura and the Orbitals, residents of a series of stations anchored to the space elevator. The Orbitals rely on Darwin for water and air and Darwin relies on the food from the agricultural platforms. Both rely on scavengers: the few, the brave, the foolhardy. Scavengers venture outside the aura in search of parts, batteries, ammunition and, occasionally, the fate of a loved one.