The Plague Forge
Author: Jason M. Hough.
Published: September 2013- Titan Books.
ISBN: 0345537165 (ISBN13: 9780345537164)
Series -Dire Earth Cycle #3
Paperback: 448 pages.
The elevators connected Earth to the stars. The towers suppressed the deadly plague. As the final Builder event approaches, five keys will unlock their secret.
After discovering the first key in the wreckage of a crashed Builder ship, Skyler Luiken and his crew follow the migrating aura towers in search of the four remaining relics. But time is running out: the survivors learn that the next Builder event will be the last, and one of the objects has already fallen into dangerous hands…
As the alien Key Ship looms above Earth, and the surface below is ravaged by corrupt councils, fanatical cults and infected subhumans, the team race to retrieve the missing artefacts.
Will they finally reveal the Builders’ plan?
Well, to start I have to say this is the best book of the trilogy and wraps the story up perfectly. First and foremost, while this book falls firmly within the sci-fi genre, it draws liberally from many others. There are strong mystery and adventure elements here that make the story almost ache with tension. It is not a book that you can put down or skim over sections in. The story is intelligent, layered and filled with the pop culture references we nerds love.
However, what Jason Hough triumphs at are his characters – they are flawed , smart-mouthed, they get beat up, they suffer and they strive. My personal favourites are the heinous villains who do terrible things but have plausible motivations that almost make them, dare I say it, likeable? One of the things I admire most about these novels is the world-building; the settings are superb and the science is very accessible and understandable. In all honesty I am now a lifelong fan and cannot wait to have the chance to read this story all over again from beginning. I hope it will become one of the great sci-fi epics that we’ll be reading for decades to come!
One of my favourite elements of the Plague Forge is the new ‘big bad’, the Jacobites. Initially, I appreciated the way the Jacobites, a cult based on Jacob’s Ladder, were unobtrusively incorporated into the story. Often writers can get ploughed down when looking at religious cults and can allow them to take up a lot of the plot preaching and indoctrinating. However, here they played an important role without the novel being bogged down by their preaching. Their leader, Grillo, is a perfect Foil to Skyler, the main hero, and Grillo is the man you love to hate.
As this was the final book in the trilogy, it meant that we finally get the answer to the question that has hung over the entire story: What do the Builders want? Of course, the heroes would obtain the answer but the complexity and perfection of the answer shocked me. It offers closure, but also opens exciting new doors. Don’t expect any happy endings, but its offer of hope and forgiveness left me in tears.
The ‘Dire Earth Cycle’ is a great trilogy. Action-packed with good, solid characters, an interesting setting and a plot that continues to evolve. I think the publishers made the right decision in releasing each volume only one month apart; this way the story doesn’t lose momentum and the trilogy becomes a solid unit. Finally this book has the best last line ever, read it and you will see what I mean. The line serves as an explanation, a conclusion and a beginning.
The story is far from over, though the ‘Dire Earth Cycle’ is definitely complete.