The Dire earth series that started with The Darwin Elevator back at the end of July harkens back to a time in SF when specific sub-genres were not such a big thing and reminds me of some specific shows and books I particularly loved. Jason writes with a with passion and hunger in my opinion, his characters jumped off the page and have taken up residence in my imagination and heart additionally his richly imagined setting to the gamer in me just begs for deeper exploration. I will tell you this fellow readers though this is great adventure fiction and he does give you plenty of closure on some of the struggles if quick answers to mysteries are your thing you may just get frustrated. I will be honest here I made attempts to review The Darwin Elevator before it hit the shelves but had trouble getting beyond saying and I quote Lynne M. Thomas (in reference to the first Morrison Doom Patrol collection) of the Hugo Award winning SF Squeecast here "Yes This, Yes This, and Yes This..." over and over again; so here it is just once with an exclamation point yes this!
So I have read these comments about The Dire Earth books around the Internet and I'll repeat them because they are apt adding some on my own feelings. Skyler Lukien our scavenger Captain, hard luck hero his crew, friends and enemies remind me in many cool ways of the players in Joss Whedon's Firefly and more so to me my late 90s
early 00's Farscape. Jason includes many personal things to his characters, things they love and relate to in that same way the Farscape writers used John's media touchstones to ground the crazy that was that wild setting. I would compare this series to the space opera of Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space for the deep alien artifact mysteries that underlie the story, I could also bring in various cyberpunk writers because of the social tensions between the polarized portions of the remaining society; its also got plenty of claustrophobic tension of contagion stories like 28days later and zombie tales. If any of those things are a draw for you this is most like your thing.
(Again controlling the urge to squee)
In terms of character and setting as with the novels of China Mieville its hard to separate the two. The Dire Earth world has been his with a one two punch; first an alien artifact arrives and plants a space elevator in Darwin Australia triggering a raft economic, scientific and social changes to be followed years later by a horrid disease that kills most of its hosts and the few it does not it changes into mostly violent subhuman shadows of their selves. Only a few are spared the rare immunes and the people who have been able to flee to the area of Darwin where there is a field that haunts the progression of the SUBS disease. Humanity is either huddled at the base of the elevator or living in the habitats that ring the length of the elevator; its symbiotic and in a razors edge.
Into this cauldron of humanity our characters take what existence they can.We get several different kinds of stories through the various viewpoint characters; from Skyler Lukien and his immune scavenger crew we get survival horror, exploration and action, from Tania a scientist on one of the stations we get theories, mysteries and discovery, from the industrialist Neil and the heads of security Adam and Russell we see the social side and power struggles that everyone lives in the shadow of. Along the way Jason gives us excellent secondary characters from fences to fixers from spies to psychopaths. The struggles of the first book lead to a new normal and more mysteries of the second.
With The Exodus Towers he gets to expand the cast showing that different areas of the planet spawned different reactions to the new world. Some of these are heart rending and others are infuriating because they are ways I can definitely see people acting in this place. The survivors are all stripes of humanity from the most caring and altruistic to the most selfish and psychopathic. The second novel expands the moral range through all the zones of gray and darker. The antagonist of book one does not turn over a new leaf but somewhat like the villains of Farscape and Jamie Lannister of Game of Thrones having more perspective on things he become a lighter shade of grey. We also see some of the more human sides of the heroes, choices are made that alters relationships just like in life; people are people what can you say other the I applaud Jason for letting his characters be more real no matter which side they fall on.
Both the books deliver in ways character wise that the constant buildup of the mysteries of the so called Builders is not a worry and I have a feeling that the final reveal on that will be much like many from the new wave of Space Opera from the likes of the aforementioned Alastair Reynolds and the late great Ian Banks. Personally I hope I'm not laying it on too thick; these novels are great fun, very intriguing and to me oddly touching... I'm only glad for Jason that the third is coming out the end of this month because with the season ender like cliff hanger Exodus Towers concludes with he might just have fans tracking him down to wring the next volume out of him if they has to wait a year or five...
Here is a link to Tor.com's excerpt from The Darwin Towers... Both of these are out now and I think any Science Fiction lover will truly enjoy these to the depths of their geek hearts.
The Darwin Elevator was featured on NPR here and hit the extended New York Times Bestseller List as mentioned on Jason's website.
Go here for Jason M Hough' s personal website
Again here since I mentioned it above is a link to the SF Squeecast they have not talked about The Dire Earth books but I link to them because I was pretty much Squeeing about this book series and I love those guys...
And for your viewing pleasure the cover of book three coming the end of this month....