The Plague Forge (Dire Earth Cycle #3) by Jason Hough (Del Rey, Sept 2013)-Note: No spoilers for this one, but might be spoilers for the first 2 books. If you’re not caught up, read at your own risk)–Skyler is still shaken from the events in The Exodus Towers and he’s also still a little conflicted about his feelings for Tania, who risked her life to save his. It turns out that the alien Builders have something else up their sleeves, but what? Skyler and Tania do know that they must find the remaining keys, and they’re hoping that the towers will lead them to the artifacts needed to complete the Builder puzzle. They decide that two groups will go in search of the artifacts, with Tania leading one, and Skyler leading the other, but Tania isn’t an immune, so she’ll be limited in what she can do on the mission, since exposure to any area beyond the auras that surround the space elevators could result in her contracting Subs:the dreaded disease that has wiped out so much of the world’s population and driven the rest mad. Luckily, the portable towers do provide protective auras, but the danger is still great. Meanwhile, back in Nightcliff, Samantha is having her own struggles with Grillo’s fanatic Jacobites and her own part of the mission, which is also to get one of the keys back to the Builder ship, and hopefully save her friend Kelly from his clutches in the process.
The danger level is as high as ever, and it doesn’t help that Tania must not only fight her way through hoardes of SUBS infected humans, alongside Vanessa and Pablo, but she’s got to wear a protective suit to do it, and Skyler and Ana are toting Russell Blackfield along with them, ostensibly to help them with any and all info pertaining to Grillo and his operation.
I kind of love this series, and if you’re wondering, there’s just as much action as the first two books, and more twists than you can shake a shock stick at. We also get to know Prumble quite a bit better, as he’s helping Sam out, and that was an added bonus. He’s a bonafide hero, guys. Samantha is one of my favorite characters (like, ever), and the scenes with her and Prumble are among my favorites. Russell Blackfield was also a bit of a surprise this time around. Hough gives him more depth and even though he’s still a jerk, he finds himself in a unique position during this mission, and there may be a little hope of redemption, even for a scoundrel like him. Turns out he is actually capable of a little introspection. Who knew? Of course, Hough loves to throw all kinds of obstacles at our heroes, so there’s plenty to thwart their efforts in getting those keys to the Builder ships between the infected and Grillo’s goons. Since this is the last in the series, though, the narrative must move toward solving the why of the Builders, but it’s not so straightforward as all that. I was pleased and a little surprised at the ending (in a good way), and admittedly, more than a little sorry that the series ended. The Dire Earth Cycle is the equivalent of a blockbuster action movie (but with considerably more depth), and the books are certainly paced like one. I had great fun with this series, and I can’t wait to find out what Jason Hough has in store for us next!