the Little Red Reviewer

The Exodus Towers, by Jason M. Hough

Posted on: March 15, 2014

exodus towersThe Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough (Dire Earth, book 2)

published in 2013

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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This is the second book in Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, and due to some very important plot points revealed at the end of the first book in the series, The Darwin Elevator, there will be unavoidable spoilers in this review for the first book.

 

The Darwin Elevator was fun, but it certainly wasn’t my favorite book. Friends of mine kept telling me to give The Exodus Towers a try, that the series got better.  And they were right.  This second novel is far and away better than the first. The pacing is tighter, the characterization is better, the alien technologies are described better, the stakes are higher, the tension is built in a more effective way, it’s just a much better written book all the way around.

 

At the end of the first book, a second elevator plunged to earth, landing in Belem, Brazil.  The stations and levels that escaped the Darwin elevator were able to attach to this new elevator, and since then, Tania Sharma and Skyler Luiken have been slowly but surely building a new colony.  Hampered by a low population but helped by  mobile towers that protect from the Subs virus, it’s slow going.  Skyler spends most of his time on the ground scouting, and Tania is up in the elevator.  She takes comfort in group decisions, being cautious with their limited resources, and not taking action until a sure course is decided on. Skyler on the other hand, is comfortable making snap decisions with incomplete information.

 

Tania has lived the protected life of an orbital scientist, where if it takes two weeks to come to a decision it won’t really matter, whereas Skyler is more used to running from Subs and needing to grab scavenged cargo as fast as possible.  I enjoyed watching the two of them play off of each other, and I appreciated the time Hough took to really develop their personality differences.  So many times, they are both right, or both wrong, and sometimes they even see it.  There is some obvious chemistry between the two of them, but Hough keeps their relationship complicated instead of taking the easy route of allowing them an easy or simple romantic relationship.  

Skyler runs into Ana and Davi, and brother and sister who live in the abandoned slums of Belem. They are also immune to the Subs disease, and they share harrowing tales of traveling with a man named Gabriel, who seems to be building his own colony of immunes. This Gabriel guy? He is one messed up sick motherfucker who has some disgustingly twisted ideas on how humanity can and should  be surviving.  He got exactly what was coming to him, but he was such an effective villain that I wish he’d stuck around a little longer.  It was refreshing to run into someone like Gabriel, as I still find Blackfield to be a caricature of an over the top villain.

 

Meanwhile, back in Darwin, Skyler’s old crewmate Samantha is surviving, mostly.  Blackfield has ceded control of most of Nightcliff to a gangster named Grillo, and they both use Samantha to keep the scavenging crews under control and working. It sounds terrible to say that everyone is using Samantha, because she’s using them right back.  She wants something too, and she’ll do what it takes to stay alive and get what she wants.

 

We don’t know much about the alien elevators, the mobile towers in Belem (and why they sped off, or where they went), the shell ships that fell to Earth, or the freakish armored Subs creatures found near the shell ships, but we do know that the alien events happen on a measurable and predictable time scale.  Tania and her team know when the next one is going to happen, and the one after that.  But what do the aliens want? That’s the big question.  The last few chapters give us plenty of hints (and one really, hella cool bubble thing that does some really cool wibbly wobbly stuff with umm… I shouldn’t say anymore!), but I won’t even attempt a guess at what those hints mean.

 

What helped this book jump from good to really good for me was all the infighting between the humans. None of it felt overly political or quarreling just for the sake of fighting.  Everyone has what they think is the right thing to do, and damnit, they are going to do it. If you’ve read any political news lately (or ever), this really is how people respond to being in survival mode. But it’s not as gritty as the survival mode of say, The Walking Dead, or a grimdark fantasy.  We’ve got the Tania/Skyler type people, scientists who want to survive through teamwork;  we’ve got the Gabriel type people who are sociopathic and obsessed and will kill anyone who gets in their way; and we’ve got Grillo and his religious cult, the Jacobites, who really, really want you to join their religion. Everyone thinks they have the right idea.  And watching them try to prove to themselves and everyone else was fascinating for me.

 

If Hough can keep up the characterization, the tension, and the build up of the alien tech, I’ll keep reading in the series.  I wasn’t much impressed with The Darwin Elevator, so it’s a good thing friends kept pushing me to continue with The Exodus Towers.  Far from suffering the sophomore slump or middle-book-itis, Hough has jammed this book full of meatiness.  As buried as I’ve been in fantasy, reading books like this that showcase confusing alien tech, first contact, and quarreling humans is a return to my first love – adventure science fiction.

 

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5 Responses to "The Exodus Towers, by Jason M. Hough"

I liked The Exodus Towers more than I liked The Darwin Elevator as well, though I thought the first book was great too. The second one was way more action packed though, I blew through it. Still need to pick up the third book and I hope I can read that soon :)

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I thought this cover looked familiar and went to my shelf. I won the first one from Goodreads and then recently fogot about it. I thought it was one of the many titles I had borrowed from the library and returned unread. Perhaps someday.

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[…] Addison (I plan to start reading this soon myself. I'm looking forward to it). -Little Red Review: The Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough -The Ranting Dragon: The Curse of Chalion by Luis McMaster […]

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I thought the Darwin Elevator series was entertaining. Quick reads.

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they are quick reads. “brain candy”, as a few of my friends have called them.

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