Survival Scramble

The America of the future is overcome by ticks burrowing into people’s skin and spreading a terribly debilitating disease, forcing people to reside with safe zones. But for those who wish to experience nature and the world beyond safety in Holly Goddard Jones’s The Salt Line there’s the option of an expensive excursion, where safety isn’t always guaranteed.

With the fear of a tick-spread disease, civilization is cordoned off within a salt line, where the earth is scorched to provide a safe barrier. Civilization seems to keep functioning as it always had as people continue to work, grieve, love, and attain fame and fortune as they always have, even if the technology and state of the world have changed. When the most recent collection of intrepid explores go out of zone, they unknowingly become part of a larger plot between groups to make money and gain control over a drug supply. In order to survive, alliances and difficult decisions must be made.

The novel follows a fairly standard dystopian structure, with the country divided into sections, the government in on nefarious plans to keep citizens under control, and rebellions coming from those who live outside the boundaries of “standard” or accepted society. Despite the expected and familiar ideas used to help build the world, there were aspects to this speculative story that were interesting and unique, including: the pervasive technology used in both everyday life and survival out of zone; character studies (which negatively impacted the narrative’s momentum); and an element of “when nature fights back” against humanity. I found the reliance on tablets a good depiction of how contemporary society finds it difficult to socialize and interact with others without a screen in front of them – the obsession and addiction is real and disconnecting can be difficult, although this story takes that disconnect to an extreme.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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