Cover Image: The Salt Line

The Salt Line

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While The Salt Line starts out as typical dystopia, post-apocalyptic novel; it's main theme changes at out the halfway point and then again just before the end. 

This makes it a bit of a weird read.
The writing itself is very good and certainly the story moves forward quickly enough to keep the attention of the reader. However, if you want a badass dystopian story this is not for you. If you want a bleak depressing story this is also not the right story. It's somewhere between a bit of horror (ticks that have wiped out huge portions of the populations), thriller (rebels) and humanism (reproduction concerns and overall quality of life questions). I felt confused at many points about what Holly Goddard Jones was trying to say. 
By the end I felt like I mostly understood the point, but didn't feel all that satisfied; hence my three star rating. 

Stereotype Shattered
I thought at one point that the author had to be a male given the lack of chemistry every couple had. Much to my shock I found out that our author, Jones, is a woman. While the stereotype shatters in my mind (lol); let me tell you a bit more about the pace of this book. There are three distinct portions to the book and if you feel like you liked what you read up to the end of one of the sections but are not intrigued by the latest "twist" in the story then I'd say you are probably safe to stop reading. I'm glad I read the whole book but could see people getting frustrated by the change of messaging in each section. 

In Conclusion
Overall it's like Jones tried to put too much into her dystopian novel and missed a lot of key factors. I wanted more chemistry between characters, less back stories about irrelevant people, and more focus on one or two characters (the voice is constantly changing). Maybe that's why the thrill is taken away at some times; I had heard about the situation from too many voices at some points and just wanted to move on or go back to a favourite character or two. The Salt Line is not a bad read, but it's not a good read. It sits right in that awkward three star zone.
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Nope. 

While the synopsis isn't lying, I don't think it's being honest. When I grab a dystopian book, I think of fear, life-endangering, fast-paced action. Sure, a character or two perhaps dies in this novel, maybe the group encounters a deadly tick. But for being about a society that's been destroyed by disease and ticks, that live inside walls and fear the outside, there's so little action that it seems rather bucolic on the outside.
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I could not finish this one. There was no suspense and the plot dragged to the point that I lost interest. I wasn't invested in the characters enough to care what happened to them so I gave up.
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Set in the not too distant future, America is no longer a unified fifty states, but rather separate zones existing inside a "salt line", a wall to keep out the infestation of killer ticks that decimated the world's population a few generations ago. Inside the zones you are safe from these ticks, living a relatively comfortable life. Outside the zone, you are told, no one can survive.

Some of the zone's wealthier citizens, looking for an escape, a vacation into the wild, pay for a company to teach them how to survive outside the zone and take them on a three week excursion. When the book opens, a new group of tourists is about to start their expedition. There's Jesse, a young pop star, and his girlfriend Edie, Wes, the owner of a hugely successful tech startup, and Marta, the wife of the largest crime boss in the zone. These four, along with the rest of their tour group, end up getting more than they bargained for on their trip. Ticks are not the only thing that can kill you out of the zone.

I find this type of post-apocalyptic story interesting, and this was a new take on the idea of humans trying to survive a natural disaster of sorts. I liked the way the author showed how none of the characters were entirely good or bad, by showing the reader what motivated them to act as they did. As with most books of this type, the book ended without tying up all the loose ends, but it did end on a hopeful note. Worth reading, unless you are deathly afraid of ticks; if so I would steer clear of this one.
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When you have a phobia of bugs one of the last books you should be reading is one where the main threat is a bug bite.
That being said, I thought bugs would play a bigger role than it did. My sanity is glad that it didn't, but it was kind of a bummer. I was looking for thrills thst weren't there. A lot of time was spent on back stories, maybe a bit too much time. It didn't feel like anything was added to the story, I didn't feel closer to the characters because of it. It just made the story fill longer than what it should have. 
But with all that it was an interesting story with it's ups and downs. Some of tha plot could have been worked a little better, but still a quite enjoyable read.
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Title: The Salt Line 
Author: Holly Goddard Jones
Links: Indiebound |Goodreads 
Rating:  three-stars 
This book has another unique idea for an alternate reality. In the future, global warming has enabled the spread of ticks carrying a deadly disease throughout the world. As a result, humanity lives in isolated enclaves behind various ‘salt lines’, razed earth that the ticks cannot cross. A group of wealthy tourists pay to expedition outside the salt line, but get more than they bargained for when they’re kidnapped by survivors from beyond the salt line with mysterious motivations.

This book was described as literary fiction in the spirit of Station Eleven and although I try not to take these comparisons seriously, I do think that influenced my expectations. This was similar to Station Eleven in that it was slower paced sci-fi. However, I would not describe it as ‘literary’, a term I would (perhaps slightly snobbishly) use only for exceptionally well-written books that I feel have something profound to say about human nature. This was more a character-driven, psychological thriller. There was a lot of suspense because we didn’t understand the goals of the kidnappers. There was also a lot of backstory for many characters. I found the characters fascinating and the world building creative, but most of the characters’ motivations didn’t convince me. That might be why I didn’t feel much emotional connection to the book. And as with Certain Dark Things, I found the ending anticlimactic. There were a few big reveals in the plot and they didn’t lead up to the exciting confrontation I expected.
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Just from reading the description of this book, I thought it sounded interesting. This book, unfortunately, was not for me. The main problem I had with this book was that it was mostly hard for me to understand the world, the things they were going through and how some of the tools/medical equipment they used worked. I also found that it had a slow-pacing and a bit of unnecessary information that didn't have anything to do with the story, making the story drag on. All in all this book was not for me.
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I was given an advance copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for my candid review.

Wow!  A fascinating read.   A world in which zones are walled off from the rest of the country because of an infestation of ticks that immediately lay their eggs in you, which is excruciatingly painful, and which can frequently give you a fatal disease.   There is "In Zone" and "out of zone".   And people can pay to take exotic tours of the "out of zone".   Except that there are still people living out there.    And they have an agenda.   But so do the people "in zone".   It is an interesting read about relationships that form in adverse situations and in extreme living conditions.

It was a captivating read and I really enjoyed it.  I really liked some of the characters and it was well written.   I have rated it a 4 instead of a 5 because I am still rather confused about the ending......it was somehow unsatisfying.     Still, it is worth the read.
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Long and complicated, this story feels so real. Characters do bad things for good reasons, medical science hasn't yet caught up with common diseases, and all eyes of humanity are still glued to screens. By the end of the book, I didn't really like any of the characters... but I understood them.
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The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones is a dystopian thriller - with mutant ticks. I picked up this books based on this tag line: "Jones brings strong diverse female protagonists who dominate the plot line, controlling their own stories instead of furthering those of male leads." This is where a lot of my confusion and frustration is based.

There is honestly NO good way to write this review without it being 100% spoiler free. You have been warned rage ahead..

I will agree that some of the protagonists are female and possibly diverse, but that could easily be debated. There were certainly two fractions of humans in general and there were other nationalities, but I am not sure you really get a "diversity" pass for that. Making all people (or two groups) the same without the cultural differences, is really just talking about diversity in class and nothing else. (Like..you know CULTURES). So, it was diverse in classes and not everyone was white. M'kay, lets move on, "controlling their own stories instead of furthering those of male leads." Yay! This happens so much in literature and I was excited to read a book that contained women controlling their fate and making shit happen, only it didn't. Every event or movement contained in this story was male related. A cure - a male. Safety - dude has it. A magical way out - A DUDES MONEY. I wanted to scream and parts of me died a little at some of the twists that literally revolved around a man and his money.

Another thing that drew me to this title in the blurb is the fact that abortion is illegal. The Salt Line takes it a little further by glimpsing into our past and making it a whole "red letter" event with shaming for loose women. M'kay, well lets see what shit the world goes to...only it doesn't. It was like the author started to build a world where that mattered and then forgot about making a point. Maybe I could forget the issue, but she takes it a step further by explaining why women are changed on a DNA level when they are baking a baby in their womb and that is why secretly ALL women change when they have babies. It makes us into maternal machines of one-mindedness. So, I can't figure out what the author was trying to achieve here. My gut says that she, herself, is internally conflicted about this subject. Making the pieces of the story revolving around these issues uncomfortable to read.

Holly Goddard Jones' writing was of median quality. Sometimes the story-line lagged and lacked finesse in filling in the character's motivation. I kind of broke my rule and peaked at some reviews. Many of them contained references to how the author nailed the Trump Wall issue, only I call BS. I know how publishing works. It takes time to write a book and time to release the book. I also read the authors bio. I can deduce that 2 years has went by since she started writing this book...2 years ago we had not even HEARD a whisper of a wall. So, I don't buy that the salt line and wall in this book is supposed to represent the theoretical Wall. I can do math.

In all, The Salt Line was disappointing. The premise of mutant ticks and resulting isolation of society didn't manifest on the pages enough to crawl out of the shadow of the things I didn't like. I give The Salt Line 1 1/2 bullets..which I don't actually have a graphic for.
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The Salt Line was one of most-anticipated releases for 2017, especially since I adore post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. And granted, this novel did fall under the categories mentioned above, but I didn't find this as enjoyable as I thought I would. 

Jones presents some unique ideas that give some freshness to her take on the old tale of apocalypse, but something got lost in the sauce for me. I liked all of the elements she presented - the ticks, the salt line, the futuristic aspect, the rogue groups of people, but when added all together, I was lost. The pacing was also incredibly slow, wherein I spent the majority of the time waiting for something, anything, of excitement to happen. And just when the pace should have picked up, the story rambled off into another long, overly descriptive backstory. 

As I said before, I love all of the ideas that Jones worked into the story, but some cohesion was lost on me. 

(I refrained from leaving either a review or a rating online.)
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From the very beginning of this book, my mind kept wandering back to The Walking Dead (the TV show, not the comic book series). They are both dystopian, so there is that commonality. It’s set in the South (US), maybe even Georgia itself (it’s been a few weeks, forgive me), so they have that in common as well. And there is an element of people who have found a way to survive in the danger zone, to build a community that has become like family. And, as is always the case in dystopian stories, there is a bad contingent of people. But.
There is minimal violence, and it isn’t particularly graphic. The world went to hell in a handbasket because of disease-carrying ticks (not zombies), and the only solution the government could come up with was to burn away a border from tick-infested areas and create some safe zones that were made tick-proof. A generation or two have grown up without ever having experienced nature. However, there are still people who go out to do work in tick-infested areas, including a company that takes adventure seekers out to experience nature and all it has to offer. It is during one of these excursions that the participants learn more than they ever wanted to about what is really going on, the truth about the tick-infestation, and some hard truths about themselves and those they love. 
Ultimately, I think my association with The Walking Dead has to do with the tone. It’s direct and offers no false reassurance. While TheWalking Dead is a bit more pessimistic (and therefore a great deal more violent), The Salt Line doesn’t gloss things over the same way some dystopian novels do. And there isn’t really a singular hero or leader. It didn’t feel fantastical, it felt realistic. And the storyline is actually a lot more complex than I would have expected. In many ways, it’s almost a dystopian mystery.
Really enjoyed it. While I’m a sucker for dystopian of any flavor, The Salt Line was unique and refreshing.

Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
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I don't toss around words like "masterpiece" often. Okay, never. But Salt Line is THAT good. If the killer tick idea is tripping you up, don't let it. Unique plots like this just don't come along every day, and the fact that it's amazingly well written is just icing. Add this to your TBR list, your online wishlists, and your must-shove-into-the-hands-of-all-my-friends list.

*ARC via netgalley*
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This was an interesting, fast-paced novel about a not-so-unbelievable future world ravaged by killer ticks. Yep, ticks. The diseases the ticks carry are so deadly that the US has fractured into several regions, each surrounded by walls and high-tech tick deterrents. Those areas outside the walls are deemed wild and unsafe. But for a price you can take a guided tour of the outside areas, a sort of high-stakes wilderness adventure to see trees, smell fresh air, and cheat death. The novel follows one such group on their adventure gone wrong, as they try to figure out whether life is more dangerous inside or outside the walls.
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The premise, cover and title very much drew me in to this book. The beginning also captured my attention as far as the scenes at the training camp. Where I started to lose interest was when it switched perspectives and we got a tremendous amount of backstory from the characters. For me this broke up the pace and caused me to become bored. I have a hard time connecting with so many multiple POVs and while there were several moments of action and suspense, there weren't enough to lead me into feeling that this was an above average read
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Continually surprised me with every page. The multiple narrations help bring the whole world to life.
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Decades ago, a particularly virulent tick invaded the United States causing a nation-wide epidemic that divided the Old Republic into factions deeper than the Civil War. Most of the survivors retreated behind quarantined barriers in several geographically defined Zones. Each of these  zones devised some method of limiting tick infestations; some more successfully than others. The most secure and safe zone is the Atlantic Zone; rich in resources and power left over from the Old Republic – safe behind the “Salt Line” – a chemically burned area extending several kilometers beyond the guarded perimeter “Wall.”

“A pregnant miner tick releases a numbing agent, which allows her to work without detection. By the time you feel the itching, [she] has settled in place, laid her eggs and died. In a matter of hours the ticks spread through the body, mature and erupt through the skin creating an unbearable itch. The bites can be survived but 45% of female miner ticks carry Shreve’s disease that spreads rapidly, causes total paralysis and death in a matter of days.”     – OLE Training Course

The pervasive miner ticks are bit players here. Their lethal presence a source of existential anxiety. They are pawns in a much greater threat – domination and greed by the seedier side of human nature.

Four years ago, a private enterprise, Outer Limits Excursions (OLE), began offering expensive three-week guided trips into the Out-Of-Zone. Some of  their clients are enticed by stories of the purple mountains majesty and the abandoned history and culture of the past. Others are seeking the nefarious pleasures unobtainable in the highly regulated Atlantic zone but provided by the Out-Of-Zoners – free spirits choosing to live free of rules and regulations and chancing Shreve’s in the castoff world.

For personal safety, OLE excursions require each client to undergo a regimented three-week training program in survival skills. When ready, they will leave the Zone in a protective SecondSkin microsuit, -given a “Stamp”, an intense burner much like an old fashioned car cigarette lighter used to fry embedded ticks – and assigned a partner who must stay as close as a conjoined twin.

It’s September and the OLE brochure promises a once-in-a-lifetime view of the mountains in colorful foliage and visits to the remnants of the Old Republic way of life. The training is over – the van  has pulled away from the Salt Line – the emptiness- the vast isolation ahead overwhelms them.

Among the 12 clients are a popular jazz musician and his girlfriend, a young techno entrepreneur, and a middle-aged housewife; each with a hidden agenda and a specific purpose for being there other than viewing the scenery.

At this point background stories of key characters have been defined. The clients have been  together for three weeks  and  have established friendships – or at least allies – and enemies among themselves.

A couple of days into the adventure the startled passengers are kidnapped at gunpoint by their guide and force marched to a rustic commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains known as Ruby City. What looked like a three-week sightseeing tour now has turned violent – one of the passengers was shot – two have had been bitten by miner tics – and the future of the remaining passengers looks ominous.

"June proceeded to shake the hand of each of her captives. . . When Marta’s turn came . . . [June] fixed her hazel eyes on Marta’s demanding contact. ‘You look tired’, she said. ‘That trek is a bit much for women our age. I do apologize.’

‘The trek was fine’, Marta managed to say.  ‘The treatment we received wasn’t’

‘I’m afraid that prisoners of war don’t often get the red carpet rolled out.’
‘What war?’, Marta asked."

Buckle up . . . things are about to take off. And no one is who they seem. And no one’s future is guaranteed.

Advance reader copy provided by Netgalley and First-To- Reader in exchange for an honest review.

Recommended
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The Salt Line is a searing look at what humans will do to survive, and what they’ll do for the people they love. Jones writes superbly about the best and the worst in humans: self-sacrifice, compassion, and cooperation tempered with greed, insecurity, and pettiness.

I had a hard time putting down The Salt Line. The protagonists were likable and complex; the antagonists hard to judge and to label as bad guys. Sometimes the lines between the two was blurred and confused, making it that much more engrossing.

I highly recommend The Salt Line.  Absorbing, captivating, and compelling.
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I just had to read this when I saw the premise. It turned out to be a pretty cool story, even though it creeped me out at times.
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In the future, life in the United States has contracted behind a wall of scorched earth—The Salt Line—that keeps citizens safe from deadly ticks that carry a horrific disease. Social media is ever-present, and life isn’t too different from now. Instead of going on big-game safaris to Africa, the wealthy pay to travel outside the safe zone, into the American outside the salt line.

A pop star’s girlfriend, Edie; tech genius Wes, and housewife Marta are all part of the same excursion, but once through their three weeks of survival training, they realize their vacation trip has more in store than they ever suspected. Ending up as hostages to a group of outer-zone survivors, they discover the darker secrets holding up their world, and find themselves at the mercy of everyone who wants to keep those things secret.

At first the idea of a tick causing everyone to retreat behind walls was a little bit hard for me to adjust to, but yeah, I’d run from these things, too. The world of The Salt Line is just familiar enough to make the idea of killer ticks even more scary, with social media a constant focus of every life (sound familiar?). This is a novel about an ensemble cast, which can be hard to pull off, but Jones nails it, and the backstories and motivations of her characters kept me just as engaged as the “current” action.

Holly Goddard Jones’ newest novel is The Salt Line.

(Galley provided by Penguin Group/Putnam via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

***Also reviewed on Amazon.***
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