The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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. :)
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