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Injection Burn
Dire Earth Duology #1 (or book 4)
by Jason M. Hough
Del Rey, $9.99 paperback, 369pp
Published: May 2017

This is a continuation of the story the author began back in 2013 with The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge. Click each title for a review. This is most definitely not a standalone story; I tried to start with this book and discovered that I had to go back and read the first three before this one would make any sense.

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.  Four years ago, the author left both the characters and readers still wondering what all the fuss was about.

This book starts far from earth with a new cast of characters on a mission to an alien planet – the Builders’ home planet.  After an initial setup where we understand that these new characters hail from earth and are attempting a rescue from the alien horde of Scipios who have enslaved the Builders’ planet – the place of their Creators; we finally hook-up with Skylar and his crew who left Earth on the Builders’ ship at the end of the first set of books.  The sentient Builder ship has convinced Skylar and his friends that they were tested and selected as the best candidates to rescue the Creators of the Builder ships.  The Creators have been enslaved by the bad guys for a millennium and the Builders have been looking all this time for a species that might have what it takes to defeat the Scipios.  Apparently, humans have what it takes.

Again the author gifts us with a very tense, thrill-filled action story…with fragile plotlines.  The book is rift with contrived coincidences.  The characters leap to assumptions with bravado and come to conclusions – correct conclusions – on the flimsiest of facts. But it’s a lot of fun as Skylar and the new characters, led by Captain Gloria Tsandi – of Earth more than 1500 years later – engage in their dual missions to destroy the Scipios and rescue the Creators.  Neither they nor the reader know anything about the nature of the Creators although we are given the reason for their enslavement.  But it’s only by a bizarre series of happy circumstances that our heroes stand a chance of success.  I have an idea that the author conceived of this epic plot but had trouble rationalizing motivations and sequences of events.  And it ended, predictably, with a cliff-hanger.  All four books, so far, are really a single story.  Hopefully, it all ends – satisfactorily – with the next book.  Stay tuned…. ~~  Catherine .Book

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