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The Exodus Towers
Dire Earth Cycle #2
by Jason M. Hough
Del Rey, $9.99, 516pp
Published: August 2013

Second book in the Dire Earth cycle, click here for a review of The Darwin Elevator.  This is not a standalone story, you will need to read the previous book to understand the story.

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.

At the end of the last book, the Builders visit again and send down another gift:  a second space elevator – in Belem, Brazil.  This gift also came with a new tool:  a set of “portable” aura towers that can be pushed/towed anywhere, creating a pocket of protection to non-immunes.

This book picks up with our hero, Skylar, on a scavenging trip in Belem when he encounters a young girl – an immune like him.  She introduces him to her brother and a story of their experiences with a militant immune group led by a fanatic named Gabriel.  Gabriel believes the only true inheritors of the earth are natural immunes; not those who are protected artificially by the aura towers.  Gabriel and his crew attack the elevator in Belem.  Skylar and his new friends also discover Gabriel’s plan to ‘breed’ more natural immunes and it is horrifying.

Meanwhile, Skylar goes looking for a missing road crew and their aura tower.  What he finds shakes him to his core – a huge group of subhumans who seem to be worshipping a fallen alien ship and the fact that the alien ship seems to be turning out armored and almost invincible subhumans.

Skylar’s missing partner, Samantha, is still incarcerated in Nightcliffs version of jail.  She gets a job offer from a local slumlord, Grillo, that’s too good to pass up.  She finds herself doing all sorts of jobs and trying not to think real hard about any of them.  But when she’s sent to obtain an alien artifact no-questions-asked, the questions do start piling up in her mind. 

On the orbital station, Tania is struggling to understand the timeline for the next visit from the Builders, those aliens who gave earth both the space elevators and the subhuman plague.  And she becomes embroiled in impossible negotiations from the threat of Gabriel who has taken over the space elevator in Belem.

Russell Blackfield, the self-appointed leader of Nightcliffs has aspirations of greatness when he petitions to be part of the Orbitals governing group.  But once he succeeds he finds that delegating the power in Nightcliffs may not have been the best idea he ever had.  Under the control of Grillo, the future of the space stations and even all the humans becomes pretty iffy.  Grillo’s plans may also affect the next visit from the Builders, to what end, no one can say.

But when the Builder ship finally arrives, it’s a race to the finish.  Even though no one knows what or where the finish is.  Tania and Skylar deduce that they have to find certain alien artifacts scattered about the earth and take them to the ship – for no better reason than they can.  And the hope that maybe this time the Builder’s visit will provide some understanding of what this was all for.

This was a bit more fun than the last book, his plotting is better.  And the characters are real and believable. I can already anticipate secondary characters coming to the fore before this story ends. ~~  Catherine Book

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