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Escape Velocity
Dire Earth Duology #2 (or book 5)
by Jason M. Hough
Del Rey, $9.99 paperback, 385pp
Published: June 2017

This is, I think, the final book of the story the author began back in 2013 with The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, The Plague Forge and then continued in 2017 with Injection BurnClick each title for a review. This is most definitely not a standalone story and I do think I can recommend this whole series for a satisfying read.

In the late 23rd century, the Earth was visited by aliens called The Builders.  These Builders “gifted” us with a functional space elevator – a cord anchored above the earth enabling us to send vehicles up the cord and place stations in orbit.  But the gift came with a nasty side effect:  a world-wide plague that either killed people immediately or changed them into primitive murderous subhumans.  A very few lucky ones were immune to the disease.  But the elevator emitted an “aura” extending through much of the city of Darwin, Australia that was a safe zone; keeping the disease in stasis for those who managed to get to Darwin.  The rest of the world was lost.

The Builders continued to visit the Earth leaving another space elevator and dropping/crashing several small ships carrying exotic artifacts.  Then a huge Builder ship arrived, and our ensemble cast of characters determined that the Builders intended the humans to find each artifact and bring it to the ship in orbit.  The humans have no idea why this action is necessary nor what will happen when they do.  The previous book finally explained the whole setup with this last book being the payoff.  At the end of the previous book, the AI of the Builder ship (which, of course, was not merely an AI) sacrificed herself and launched our intrepid band of humans towards her home planet in the hopes that they might be able to do what the Builders and Creators could not do for themselves – free their planet from enslavement and rape by a race called the Scipio.

The story opens with the humans scattered across the planet with no way to communicate with each other except through just one of them, Tim, – a man with a personal agenda.  I thought Tim was an odd choice and the author did not give me a satisfactory explanation of such a bonehead decision.  I felt the author created an artificial crisis by making Tim lovelorn and betraying the group’s mission.

They have no intel on the enemy, no plan and no idea what they should do…except find each other first.  They do, however, have a language translator build into their environmental suits, courtesy of Eve, the AI. They spend this entire book fighting their way up and down the elevator, on the planet and on a moon; before they all come together.  In the end, while their efforts do provide a resolution it isn’t even of their making which sort of invalidates the entire setup of the first three books.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind how it ended; it just wasn’t what was implied throughout most of this story.  There were a couple key points that were never fully explained but while it didn’t answer all the questions, I’m quite fine with the story ending here. ~~  Catherine Book

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