This third book in "the Dire Earth cycle" continues the search by Skyler Luiken and the Belem community for the last three Builder artefacts. Even though the community leaders are in the dark as to what will happen once all five artefacts have been returned to the Builder ship in orbit above Earth, the general consensus is that the task must be completed before the final Builder event is due to take place, and if it is not the consequences for the whole of humanity could be dire. Meanwhile in Darwin, Grillo, and his Jacobites, continues to tighten his stranglehold on the city and orbitals with his extreme fundamentalism. Unfortunately for Skyler, Grillo also has possession of one of the artefacts. Without it he will be unable to finally unlock the Builders secret and uncover the real reason for all that has befallen mankind.
I really enjoyed the first two books in this series and Hough has written a fitting climax to this excellent trilogy. The pace never lets up and indeed increases with the story now happening on three distinct fronts. Tayla Sharma takes a team to North America to recover one of the Builder artefacts. Skyler follows the trail left by the Builder towers exodus to Africa, only to discover the source of the deadly SUBS virus. And in Darwin, Prumble and Samantha undertake a dangerous mission to retrieve the artefact which is being kept in a high security vault by Grillo.
Hough's writing is assured and his character development memorable with some of the characters showing some surprising and unanticipated traits. I especially liked the characters of Vanessa, who has developed into an "Amazonian" type warrior, and Prumble who, notwithstanding his obvious un-athletic physique, proves himself to be a very accomplished insurgent against Grillo's religious inquisition. Again Hough keeps the overall feel of the story upbeat, notwithstanding the fact that this all takes place in a dystopian world. Without giving away any spoilers, the climax was not what I had expected and I was pleasantly surprised how this unfolded. I also appreciated how Hough calls in to question our automatic assumption to apply human morals to non-human entities. All in all I could not put this book down (even though I really didn't have the time to allocate to reading this in two or three sittings) and found myself pulling an all-nighter just to get to the end of the story. Something I haven't done in a long time.
Although the various story lines are all nicely concluded in this book, Hough has left enough openings to continue other aspects of the story in future releases. I, for one, will be waiting with bated breath for any further adventures from this author and will gladly recommend him to any lovers of the sci-fi genre or indeed anyone who enjoys a rollicking good yarn.
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