The Plague Forge

The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough, Dire Earth Cycle #3

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?


OK so first off YES the conclusion to the Dire Earth Cycle! Ever since picking up The Darwin Elevator this has been a series that I have been looking forward to read. Its action packed, has great characters and what is up with the Builders! What do they want from Earth!?

But let me skip back a few paces. So far the story has been well established in the first two book with a lot of twists and turns. The first book, The Darwin Elevator, introduced us to the concept of Jason M. Hough and the main protagonist of the series, Skyler Luiken. The Darwin Elevator left the series on an cliffhanger and produced a direct take off point for the second book in the series The Exodus Towers. In here you found that a second elevator was placed on Earth. But what more came to show is that Jason M. Hough explored the new Earth in much more depth and used everything that was told in the first book in his advantage. Introducing new characters and further developing the others. Similarly like The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers was left on quite the same premise, but one more important thing, the new Builder events introduced a Key Ship! What the.. ok so this does not nearly come to sum up all that has been show in the first books, but show the big lines. 

The Plague Forge picks up after The Exodus Towers and the focus is again on Skyler. I actually assumed that the story would have been picked up in the Key Ship after all the events that happened in the second book, but instead you are placed in Belem, Brazil. I was thinking what has happened to Tania now that Skyler is back on Earth. Soon you do find out what actually transpired in the Key Ship, and that Tania must count herself quite lucky that she is still alive. The story itself is now much more contained with a single goal in mind: Finding out what the Builder are up to. With one last event, will this be the a doom scene? There were some important revealings made in the second book and Jason M. Hough doesn't spare you one moment by following them up. Skyler and Tania set out to find key that could possibly tell more about what the Builder have in store. There were still two locations to discover. The way that the story is divided is similar to that of The Exodus Towers, with one story focusing on Belem, Brazil (with Skyler and Co.) and the other on Darwin, Australia (with Samantha and Grillo). Finding these Keys might sound simple, and they are actually quite easy to locate, but actually getting them to safety proved to be quite the hardest part of it.

In The Exodus Towers, Jason M. Hough introduced quite a few new characters, or at least put their perspectives into a brighter daylight. First you had Samantha and in this last book she really takes the reins into her own hands and guide the story and all that happens surrounding Darwin, Australia in her own hands. Her parts of the story were cool to read especially when you look back on the first book when she was first introduced. Jason M. Hough made a correct call in adding her as a new perspective. However in Darwin a new leader stepped up to the plate, Grillo, who leads the Jacobites and has other things planned with the elevator. Now Grillo is just this nasty piece of work, even though he is a man of the book, this guys is just vicious and relentless. He is one of those bad guys that is just down right bad, and at least I had it when things happened to him that I was shout "ha in your face, you deserved that!". "Abandoning" Russel as the bad guy of the story and taking on Grillo was again a solid decision. And this does bring me to Russel, well, it is hard to say, but you will quite remember this character for a time. Russel is changing and seeing that all that he probably has done in Darwin were all bad decisions. Though he still holds a grudge against Skyler, what he does is something that will change your view of his characters as well. Other character that really pull through are a lot of secondary characters like: Vanessa, Prumble and Ana. Now all had assumed quite background roles in the earlier books, but Jason M Hough now takes each of these character and keeps on developing them, and in this he introduces qutie a few unexpected twists. Just like Russel it's quite something...

All in all the characterization in The Plague Forge shows just that extra step. In the first book the focus was really on Skyler and yes he is still the main characters of it all but Jason M. Hough shows more and more of the other as well creating a character cast that you will remember. 

I praised the first two book on the amount of action that was shown, and The Plague Forge isn't an exception either. Though mostly is shown in the way when Skyler and company are looking for the Keys, the encounters with the SUBS are just a thrill. But about halfway through the book the story does take a new direction, it seemed for me that the pacing slowed down, but there was no sacrifice in showing action. Instead it felt like Jason M. Hough was building up the suspense for the conclusion of the book and perhaps unavoidable encounter. By taking the end of the story is a bit of slower pace, allowed me the recount all that had happened until now. One thing in the beginning of the story was really cool and that is how even the characters are constantly speculating what the Builders want, do they want to destroy the humans? Is it a sick and twisted game? Undoubtedly if you read the first two books you will have the same questions. I can say that: yes you will read the Builder's plans in The Plague Forge. And is it worth it? Well that is for you to judge for yourself. But for me it was worth the wait. I can honestly say that I have thrown away all my earlier assumed idea's because yes I thought it was a twisted game of powerplay. But it is something totally different. I was actually quite pleased that Jason M. Hough took to a different ending that I has assumed, and looking back to all that has happened it actually does seem logical (by Builder reasoning then). Writing a trilogy with introducing a concept and keeping everything in the dark is a hard thing but Jason M. Hough has created a satisfying and rewarding conclusion to the Dire Earth Cycle...

The Plague Forge is a rewarding and satisfying ending to the Dire Earth Cycle. From initiating the story in The Darwin Elevator down to the conclusion this has been a non stop ride. The way that the story was build-up; with multiple perspectives from different places but with one common "problem", that of the Builders, allowed you to make a few free guesses, but in the end you will most likely abandon them. The story itself is riddled with enough exciting twists and turns but when you find out what the Builder actually are, well that's the major curveball right there. If you are looking to read an engaging and unputdownable fresh science fiction series, get the Dire Earth Cycle.


...And it feels that Skyler's adventures might not be over just yet. There is a nice epilogue that skips a few years to the future and I think and moreover hope that these years in between will be explored further.

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