Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Add it: Goodreads
Salvage is a thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is literary science fiction with a feminist twist, and it explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family. Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean. This is a sweeping and harrowing novel about a girl who can't read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. What choices will she make? How will she build a future on an earth ravaged by climate change? Named by the American Booksellers Association as a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick.
Salvage is one of those books that has so much promise, and yet is an epic fail when it comes to the delivery. When I saw that Salvage was about a girl who lived on a spaceship ruled by men, I immediately requested it. It was supposed to be about this girl breaking free and escaping those who rule over her, and about her discovering that there is more to life than serving those with the Y chromosome.
The novel starts off with Ava introducing us to her world, which is limited to the four walls of a spaceship. Well, the parts that she is free to access, anyway, which isn’t many. I was immediately intrigued as to just how Ava was going to escape this life where she and the other girls were assigned to do duties that are classed as feminine, such as sewing, and where the men of the ship were the “protectors” (read: abusers).
I love how Duncan provided contrast with Ava’s friend (whose name I have forgotten) in the beginning. Said friend was from another spaceship, which although still in no way ideal, was slightly more lenient when it came to male versus female roles. It really hit home as I read about it, since although the second spaceship was a horrible place for women to live, Ava’s ship was even worse.
And while all of those things should have appealed to me – and I guess, in a sense, they did – this book still fell short of the mark.
The biggest problem I had was the slow pace, which I feel was somewhat caused by Duncan’s writing style. The prose was dangerously close to being purple, and the fact that Duncan invented a new dialect didn’t help matters at all. In fact, it made things downright confusing. Ava and the other characters were using all of these new terms and phrases, and it took a long time for me to even understand what they were talking about, let alone actually get used to it. It really stunted the writing and the pace of the story for me.
In addition, since this is a science fiction novel, I was expecting more action and suspense. Although I only read this book a couple of weeks ago, I would struggle to tell you what went on after the 30% mark. Once Ava hit Mumbai, I was ready for everything to kick off, but it never happened. It was as though the author was dangling a What Could Have Been carrot in front of my face for the entire second half of the novel. I felt like something exciting was definitely going to happen around the next corner, and yet it never did. It was a huge letdown.
If you’re looking for a better take on this subject matter, I would definitely recommend reading The Handmaid’s Tale, which is what Salvage is being compared to. Both contain the same themes, but The Handmaid’s Tale is 100% more engaging. Salvage has a lot of lost potential, and I’m highly disappointed in this book.