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The Salt Line (2017)

por Holly Goddard Jones

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
2112999,180 (3.68)14
"In the spirit of Station Eleven and California, award-winning novelist Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary spin on the dystopian genre with this gripping story of survival and humanity about a group of adrenaline junkies who jump "the Salt Line." How far will they go for their freedom--once they decide what freedom really means? In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line--a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife. Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks--and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line"--… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 28 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
A well-written, thoughtful post-apocalyptic novel that doesn't deliver quite as satisfying a punch as it might have done, given its strong premise.

Let's start with the unreservedly positive. I am a big admirer of Holly Goddard Jones. Based on this, and her previous novel, she is an exceptionally talented writer, who effortlessly brings literary fiction rigor and style to genre fiction, all the while appreciating what is good ... and fun ... about genre fiction. Goddard Jones' previous novel, The Next Time You See Me (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2839884898) took murder mysteries, upended them and rattled the tropes and cliches around a bit. The result, in my opinion, was a deeply satisfying "anti-mystery" that asked us to consider why so many of us love stories about murder.

In The Salt Line, she sets out to do the same for the post-apocalyptic novel, with somewhat more mixed results. Still beautifully written, still very readable, still very worthwhile -- I just don't feel that she has nailed the What is this for? Why are we here? as she did in The Next Time You See Me.

The premise here is a belter: simple and yet, when you stop to think about it, very frightening and effective. Fifty-odd-plus years in the future (never specified, but a familiar yet different future is neatly sketched in), the world as we know it has been completely changed by the emergence of a particularly aggressive and virulent species of tick, whose parasitical and disease-bearing ways have rendered great tracts of the world almost uninhabitable, and caused the break-up of the USA into "zones." If I had been reading this in April 2019, I might (heaven help me ...) have thought interesting, but a bit implausible, isn't it? ... A bit "Hunger Games-y"?

Reading it in April 2020 (and God alone knows what possessed me to do THAT ...), it feels all too painfully plausible, like headlines straight from the dystopian future that we all fear we have inadvertently strayed into ...

"... how strange was that? ... No rations, no digital counters, no yearly fuel audit requiring drivers to keep track of kilometers traveled and the purpose of that travel ... She knew that the old times weren't simpler, that lack of foresight then was in part what had led to the necessity for strict regulation now, but it was amazing to ponder that freeness. And hard not to feel some jealousy of it. (p. 82)

and how about this ...

"It was natural for a kind of large-scale claustrophobia to set in once the panicked post-eradication years were behind them, mostly. People were going to want to travel. Take calculated risks." (p. 113)

Whatever crystal ball Goddard Jones was using ... I would like one please. I think. Reading this in lockdown in a UK, while reading the news reports from the USA, was an almost surreal experience. It was easy, sometimes, to get a little muddled -- so, remind me, is the novel about Covid-19, and in the real world, we're afraid to go out our front doors because of Killer Ticks, or is it the other way around ...? Just checking ...

This is one of those times when an author has hit upon a premise that was obviously meant to be about one set of hot-button topics (climate change, Donald Trumps' border wall, the fracturing of the USA -- and other First World countries -- into Zones of affluence and deprivation, just for a start) and effortlessly turned into a premise that is much more terrifyingly immediate and -- ripped from the headlines. This momentum keep the narrative going for about two-thirds of the novel with my disbelief suspended, safely anaesthetised, and stowed in an overhead locker. Taking enormous pleasure in how Goddard Jones played with the familiar tropes of science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction, while keeping a sharp eye on the possibilities for neatly skewering current politics, pop culture and "lifestyle" issues.

When the wheels came off, I felt that it was because Goddard Jones couldn't decide exactly what it was all for, and therefore the conclusion, the winding things up, the drawing it all together, sadly felt a bit contrived and arbitrary. To be more specific, I'll have to stray into Spoiler territory, so I'll go there at the end, suitably veiled.

Let's end with the unreservedly positive -- READ THIS BOOK. Goddard Jones is an author who respects and understands genre fiction -- what makes it tick, and why it's important. The Salt Line isn't perfect, but to paraphrase a very wise man, nothing is. It's very, very good. Just, maybe, you might want to wait to read it until Lockdown is lifted in your Zone ...

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS (with serious spoilers) ...

I felt that Goddard Jones bottled out of the Hard Choices -- I read the novel in a heightened state of dread, sure that at least one of our carefully nurtured (and reasonably likeable) perspective characters were Not Going to Make it. And then -- here's the SPOILER, turn away now!!-- they did. Even the "bad guys" emerged, ok not unscathed -- but they emerged. Perhaps Goddard Jones felt that not going for a "big" death (noble or otherwise), and not even indulging in a big payback for those responsible was more realistic -- except that it wasn't. Goddard Jones tried hard to buck the "happy ending vs bleak ending" dilemma, but I think she winds up with an ending that just doesn't exactly wash, and feels contrived.

I didn't buy it for a minute that the freed hostages (who now Know Too Much) would be able to stay under the radar, leaving Crime Boss and Evil Genius David Perrone to think that they were dead. Nor did I believe that the hostages, who had suffered so much, would cheerfully allow two of their captors to slink away to their own modified Happily Ever After. I wonder if someone thinks there might be a sequel in this-- which, I think would be a shame. Sequels can be fun, but sometimes, a really good novel needs the creative uncertainty that only a satisfying ending can give.
( )
  maura853 | Jul 11, 2021 |
I was actually disappointed in this book because I had been looking forward to the tick-infested dystopia, but the book is actually driven more by a survivalist social plot (which I still find interesting, but I had anticipated more of a medical/horror-driven story). ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
In this dystopian tale, residents of the United States live in regional zones protected by a wall that is surrounded by more than 4 miles of chemically burnt landscape, debris, and garbage. The wall is known as the Salt Line, referring to native folklore about punishment for disrespecting the land. The Salt Line protects those who live within the zones from miner ticks, ticks that can burrow inside people causing extreme pain, disease, and death.

As with most death defying acts, there are adrenaline junkies willing to pay lots of money for the chance to risk their lives. An adventure company, Outer Limits Excursion, will take groups outside the Salt Line to see what's left of the old cities, forests and beauty beyond the wall. Of course, it costs an exorbitant amount of money for those weeks of training, three weeks beyond the safety wall and two weeks in quarantine. The latest trip has pulled together a strange mix of people -- a famous musician and his girlfriend, a rich financial tech wizard, bored businessmen, and even the wife of a gangster. Little do they know that this excursion is going to go wickedly wrong.....

I enjoyed this book. It starts out a little bit slow because of character development, but that development time is vital to the story later. It sets the reasons why the characters react the way they do as the trip goes fundamentally wrong quickly. I'm not going to say much more about the plot, or why things go wrong because well....spoilers....readers will have to have their own Holy Crap moment just like I did. I said those two words multiple times while reading this book.

I do think I was bashed in the head a bit too much with the respect nature/revenge of the planet theme. It wasn't turned up to 11-M.NightShamalan level, but got a bit tiresome. The suspense of wondering whether any of this group of rich, spoiled thrill seekers would survive saved the story for me...I was more interested in that than the constant angry-nature-in-your-face theme.

All in all, a nice thrill. I'd definitely read more by this author.

**I was provided an advanced readers copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
There really is a lot going on in here that can't really be done justice in a short review and some of it is quite good.

Dystopian Nightmare Ticks, yes, please.

And then there's the rest. Most of it is a good four-star read. A lot of focus is on regular human relationships and the larger developments like the drug that allows the bunkered enclaves of the "safe" humanity to live without fear of the ticks. The action often feels like a boardroom drama mixed with mafia dons against a dystopian survival novel, but it starts out first as a bunch of rich thrill seekers wrapping themselves in high-tech fibers to enjoy nature without worrying too much about the tick menace.

For a great deal of the novel, I was just fine with this. It had a rather more epic feel with a lot of characters and situations and developments that tended to lean a lot more toward a lit-fic bent than a straight SF or Horror. In fact, most of the possible horror moments and SF elements took a long back seat to everyday folk.

That wasn't actually a plus for me. In fact, I often didn't really care about the folks portrayed and maybe it says more about me that I just wanted to see some epic tick action taking out more people than the guns eventually did.

And then, there was the veiled theme burrowing into the setting. If we read this a certain way, the novel is just a souped-up novel of the Mexican-American border, featuring fear of foreigners and a very, very heavy reliance on drug cartels and related issues. With a new skin, of course. And this isn't much of a problem in itself, but some of the directions it took left a weird taste in my mouth.

And then there are the related associations. The deeper allusions. And while it never comes right out and makes any direct connections, I feel like there's something rather... well, I'll leave it up to other readers to come right out and say it. I'm definitely not sure that there's any kind of intent. It just feels... icky, in a way. Even the border town feels like Tijuana.

So, my hackles rose. No real issues about the whole pregnancy business or the drugs even though the uses and abuses took up a huge portion of the novel. In general, I liked the novel pretty well, but I'm beginning to get tired of the trend to put LIT stuff in SF. It dilutes the really fantastic stuff SF is known for. Just my opinion. :)
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
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"In the spirit of Station Eleven and California, award-winning novelist Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary spin on the dystopian genre with this gripping story of survival and humanity about a group of adrenaline junkies who jump "the Salt Line." How far will they go for their freedom--once they decide what freedom really means? In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line--a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife. Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks--and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line"--

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