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The Salt Line

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This was a fun book as you just don't know what to expect. An interesting premise and a quick read. Enjoyable! There's a few things that weren't perfect, but didn't detract from the overall book. Don't want to say too much as it may spoil your experience with the book. But definitely read this book.
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Editor's note: This review can be found at the Mountain Times website. Link:

In review: Holly Goddard Jones' 'The Salt Line' — a different sort of arachnid to make you squirm

Dystopian literature terrifies me.

With so much of the genre’s offerings reading as bad fan fiction, disproportionately filched from William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” it’s not so much the premise, but the implementation that is so often so disturbing.

But then along comes a novel such as Holly Goddard Jones’ “The Salt Line” (Putnam), forcing a reader to reexamine how good, how important, the best of the genre can actually be.

Jones is a seasoned author who’s won important literary awards, published a well-received debut novel (“The Next Time You See Me”) and a volume of short stories (“Girl Trouble”), earned a M.F.A. and teaches what she knows — creative writing — at UNC Greensboro.

And what she knows is that three-dimensional characters, cleverly integrated plot lines and well-drawn backstories are vital components of the craft.

All of which she incorporates into “The Salt Line,” a novel that, assuming you didn’t like ticks before, could well make you squeal at the sight of one during your next outdoor venture.

In the (perhaps not so distant) future, and specifically the future of what we know today as North Carolina and its environs, the borders of civilization are drawn at a ring of scorched earth that separates those who live in the “zone” from death-carrying “miner” ticks — arachnids that burrow into your skin, release eggs, infiltrate the blood stream and potentially unleash a deadly disease.

Of course, the possibility of such high adventure appeals to a certain sort of adrenaline junkie, and so enter Outer Limits Excursions, a tourist operation that caters to the ultra-rich who can afford its price to travel outside the zone and experience life — and death — as it was lived before society wrapped its protective arms around those willing to trade a goodly measure of freedom and control for safety from ticks.

You’ll recognize, or at least put a face with, Jones’ cast of characters — the pop star and requisite girlfriend, the insecure tech giant, the seeming housewife and others who find themselves thrust together into intertwined plots that will dissolve into murderous alliances, friendships and cleverly woven themes of government control, environmental disasters, corporate greed and morality.

A lot like what Golding might have produced had he diverged into a world of arachnids.

And, it must be noted, nearly as well examined and executed.
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The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones is a very highly recommended dystopian with killer ticks, salted and walled area perimeters, drug farming, and political intrigue.

The novel follows a group of wealthy people who have paid enormous fees to Outer Limits Excursions for the opportunity to go beyond the salt line and experience nature. Andy is their tour guide, the man who will also show them how to survive in the wilderness behind the salt line during their three week boot camp. Included in the tour group are: Jesse, a pop star and his girlfriend Edie, a bartender; Wes, the tech-wizard who developed Pocketz, a web-bank for credit storage and use; Marta, a woman in her fifties sent on this adventure by her crime-boss husband; along with several other minor characters.

Lucky citizens in the U.S. are living within the walled salt line zones. The salt lines are borders around zones where controlled chemical burnings had taken place, scorching the earth, or salting as it has been called historically. Then the Wall was erected for further protection and the TerraVibra added, emanating a pulse fifty kilometers eastward, out from the wall. The chemical and physical barriers are needed to protect people from the deadly miner ticks.

The male tick isn't the real problem. It is the female miner tick that can potentially kill you. The female numbs your skin, burrows in, and will lay eggs that enter your bloodstream. These eggs will mature and erupt out of your skin. But the even worse problem is Shreve’s disease, which about half of the female miner ticks carry. That disease is deadly and fast. In order to travel behind the salt line you need to have and carry a stamp with you at all times. Once you feel the unmistakable tell-tale itch of the female miner tick on you, you have to prepare for the worst pain in your life and immediately use the stamp.

"The Stamp thrusts a barbed hook through your skin, skewering the female miner tick, and then retracts it, capturing the tick in a chemical solution. Then a burner brands the wound, cauterizing it and killing any of the eggs in the perimeter, as well as disinfecting the blood-borne contagions the bitch might have left behind. The Stamp has a ninety-nine-point-eight percent success rate if used within sixty seconds of initial burrowing."

The Salt Line begins with the group in boot camp with Andy and gives us the backstory and history for several of the characters. This continues as the group, rather than going on an adventure, become hostages of Ruby City, a community of outer-zone survivors and drug farmers who have their own political agenda to advance.

The quality of the writing is incredible. This is sophisticated protean world building at its best - and exactly what people want when they ask for better world building and a more sophisticated plot. The main characters are all extremely well-developed and complicated. Their thoughts and interactions are very realistic. I will concede that reviews which say the novel you have at the beginning isn't the novel you have at the end are partially right, but in this case I appreciated the shake-up and felt it created a stronger, more realistic plot. Sure, killer ticks are a draw, but add in the other elements and this becomes a multifaceted novel with depth and intrigue rather than a one-dimensional thriller. (Not that I wouldn't have kept reading if The Salt Line was a thriller only about the killer ticks, which had me feeling itchy during the entire novel.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Penguin Publishing Group.
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This is a fascinating and well crafted dystopian novel.  Every time I think the genre is overdone, something like this comes along.  Jones has put a fresh face on a world gone wacky.  She's created a great cast of characters willing to take risks (really stupid on their part given the situation) to travel outside the safety zone to explore the US and nature.  You'll find one or two you like and a few who seem just awful but the group as a whole will remind you of people you know.  This is sci-fi at it's finest.  I didn't like Station Eleven (heresy!) but I did very much enjoy this. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Try this one if you like the genre or if you're looking for something new and different.  This would actually be a terrific book to read during travel as it will engage you and your mind.  There's a lot to get you thinking not only about how we treat our environment but also how we treat one another.  Two thumbs up!
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The Salt Line is an excellent dystopian novel based around deadly disease-carrying ticks. If you've read The Hatching, this does what that did with spiders for ticks. This one is very character focused. There are multiple perspectives involving different backstories, though it all works within the plot. The world building is very strong. If you are looking for something a bit different in dystopian fiction, this is a great one to pick up. It doesn't heavily rely on twists to keep the plot moving.
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Very good! A bit different from the usual post-apocalyptic/dystopian/irreparably-changed-world novel, and that's a good thing. The characters were well-written and well-fleshed-out. The world-building was great, enabling the reader to understand the near-future world and its tech easily without unnecessary confusion or hand-holding. The ending was unexpected, which is always welcome. I enjoyed this very much, and look forward to more books from this author.
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Set during an unspecified time in the future, America as we know it is no more, thanks to disease-carrying Miner ticks. First they bite, then burrow under your skin to lay eggs that travel in your bloodstream as they mature, eventually erupting from your flesh to scurry away. Many ticks carry the deadly Shreve's disease, but it takes up to two days to know if you've been infected. If you are, you're left to suffer a horrible death. Anyone who doesn't have a Stamp handy to incinerate the tick as soon as it bites (or a friend to do it for them) is going to have a really bad day... perhaps for the last time.

Now people live in zones behind the "salt line"—an area of scorched earth beyond a massive wall—in order to stay safe. People who want to risk the danger can pay an adventure company for a nature excursion beyond the salt line, after receiving crucial training on how to survive. The latest group to go on the tour are enticed by the danger of the trip, but they have no idea just how dangerous it will be. Kidnapped by people associated with a community called Ruby City, the hostages learn there is more fear out-of-zone than just the ticks. What do their captors want? And what does it have to do with them?

I don't know which caught my attention first—the title, or the cover showing that long stretch of empty road leading away from the massive wall in the background. The blurb sealed the deal, despite the ick-factor of deadly ticks. They're nasty little creatures, and I'm thoroughly disgusted by them, but I couldn't let that stand in the way of what promised to be an interesting story with a unique take on how the world as we know came apart. I was willing to risk being grossed out (and I was, more than once) in order to dive into this story and see what happened.

The story is told from many different perspectives, and while that may be off-putting to those who don't care for multiple POVs, it's my opinion that this particular story couldn't have been told any other way. The story would fall flat told from only one or two points of view, and the things that motivate both the hostages and the captors to do what they do is often vital to the overall story.

Of the hostages, I think it's safe to say Marta had the most compelling story. I won't go into why, but she's the sort of character who thinks of herself as weak only to discover an inner strength she didn't realize she had. Of the captors, I was most interested in Violet. There was a great deal more to her than meets the eye, and her reasons for taking part in the kidnapping scheme (once revealed) made a lot of sense to me.

I enjoyed reading the story, but there were quite a few things I (correctly) expected would happen, and it was a little disappointing to figure it out so easily. Redemption came with an unexpected twist that was so subtle, the implications of what I'd just read didn't register for a moment, and I had to read the sentence again in order to understand. Things took an intriguing turn from there!

I can honestly say I've never read anything quite like this before. Jones' writing is imaginative and kept my attention solidly focused on the book as I was reading. The tick scenes creeped me out completely but I was horribly fascinated by them, as well. (And yes, I did keep imagining I felt something crawling on me as I read about them... EEK!)

I'll be watching for Jones' next novel. After writing a book about deadly ticks, I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

Rating: 3.5 stars
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Book Review: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
Publication date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: G.P Putnam's Sons

Wow! I'm just about speechless, having just finished The Salt Line. It's a future America that's not that that difficult to foresee. A dystopian novel that is creative and unusual. Well-developed characters. A cracking plot that develops at a perfect pace. A thriller as well. Terrifying, and in the end, full of hope, love and redemption. This book will rocket to the top of the bestseller lists. I highly, highly recommend. I am certainly going to read the author's previous books. Very, very well done. One of the best novels of 2017.
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They were thrill seekers, using their wealth to buy an adventure of a lifetime, to feel invincible, to go beyond the boundaries their world has dictated. What would drive a person to risk their life to go beyond THE SALT LINE, the barrier that protects humanity from the dangers that now exist in nature?

What the latest group of thrill seekers will find will defy all they have been told as they become pawns in a deadly game of power, survival and greed. They will learn who they can trust, who to fear, but not how to get back to the safety and relatively mundane lives they once had. For once, their money cannot buy them out of the danger they are in as they become captives in Ruby City, a town that knows the truth that only money and power can buy.

Witness humanity at its worst and at its best as these thrill seekers learn what they are really made of and what is truly important in life. Flawed and complicated characters will rise to occasion and their resilience will call to the humanity in us all.

Holly Goddard Jones does more than create a speculative future world, she gives life to a story of survival when all seems lost. Often violent, filled with underlying subplots and the machinations of powerful puppet masters, in the end, it will be those with heart who will have truly survived, because without heart, are we capable of possessing real humanity? When will we have "enough" and how far will we go until finally destroy ourselves and our world?

Plain and simple, this is fabulous reading that asks so many questions, then sends a message in reply.

I received an ARC edition from G.P. Putnam's Sons in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (September 5, 2017)
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic | Dystopian
Print Length: 394 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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The author has a nicely built dystopian world, but the book faces a problem of indecisiveness. It's hard to tell if the book wants to be a truly scary and adventurous book about tics, or if it wants to brush over the goriness and be a mostly political and uplifting story. The characters were all well-developed, but the differing perspectives along with the jumping around time frames caused the story to be weighed down by all of the information, and to not flow as smooth.
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"Stay in suit, stay aware, keep your buddy close and your Stamp closer."

I like dystopian and post-apocalyptic tales and I like those corny monster stories, like INVASION OF THE GIANT EARTHWORMS, so this book seemed like one I would enjoy.

But it turned out to be MUCH more than I was expecting. This is not a corny monster thriller. This is a post-apocalyptic cautionary tale that happens to have a deadly form of tick in it.

The story takes place in our future. Miner ticks have appeared and along with their own gruesome side effects they can carry a deadly disease that is fatal in 40-50% of the cases when bitten.

The world has divided into habitable, crowded zones that are tick free surrounded by actual physical walls and earth that is chemically scorched in a wide perimeter away from the walls.

The story starts out with a group of wealthy tourists that want to take an adventure trip with Outer Limits Excursions into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to actually see beautiful scenery, artifacts from abandoned towns, and thrill to the possibility of encountering ticks.

This is a great book. The pace was perfect. The character development was perfect for each character. There are quite a few characters but I didn't have a difficult time keeping track of them.

I had a run-in with ticks a few weeks ago in real life so this book seemed way too plausible.

This is going on my list of top post-apocalyptic books - ones that I keep for my library and re-read periodically.

I received this book from Putnam Books through Edelweiss and Net Galley in exchange for my unbiased review.
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I received an ARC from NetGalley to read and review. The below is my honest, unbiased opinion. Thank you, Holly Goddard Jones, the publisher, and NetGalley, for allowing me to review.

THE SALT LINE is a literary dystopian novel that explores equal parts character and plot. It was an interesting read. I'm much more of a genre fiction reader than a literary fiction reader, but when I came across THE SALT LINE, I had to read the author's take on a dystopian world with a literary twist. 

THE SALT LINE describes a post-apocalyptic world in which disease-carrying ticks have ravaged the world. Most people now live in areas surrounded by a salt line, which is both a physical wall and a chemical barrier, designed to keep them safe from the ticks. However, the salt line doesn't keep everyone safe: some people live voluntarily outside of this protected area, and thrill seekers venture out of their "comfort zone" to explore the old world that's infested with these ticks.

I appreciated that the author kept the gore to a minimum. I was intrigued by the concept but not looking forward to detailed descriptions of ticks devouring people. Thankfully, there was but one scene expertly described that would fall into the "gross" category. 

Sadly, I wasn't kept on the edge of my seat throughout the novel. I could tell who was a "good guy" and who was a "bad guy" because of the writer's style, so I was able to guess certain parts that were (probably) meant to be more surprising (like the ending). This is because of her writing style; it's unusual for the dystopian genre, but it may be typical of literary fiction. For example, the "good guys" are given great detail, while the "bad guys" are barely described. (It actually reminded me of the television show THE WALKING DEAD. Viewers can always tell when a main character is going to be killed off soon by the amount of increased air time they receive.) Similarly, the female characters are defined by their relationships with their mothers. Now, this could be argued as a positive thing, as motherhood was a dominant theme throughout the novel. But as a genre fiction reader, I wasn't a fan of the way this theme was executed.

With that being said, it was a good read, and I would definitely recommend it to someone who enjoys literary genre fiction.
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*netgalley copy*

Pretty good book overall but somehow just not what I was hoping for. I really enjoyed the beginning, getting to know the characters and feeling their anticipation and trepidation right along with them as they readied themselves for the 'big trip out' but somehow as the story progressed I actually found myself losing interest. I won't give away plot points but the story went in a direction I hadn't really been expecting and still can't be sure that I liked. There were interesting developments and I did enjoy how character driven the story was but I guess I just expected a little more sci-fi than it really was. I'd still recommend it to some even though it didn't quite end up what I wanted.
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**5++ Goodreads Stars**

Readers are thrust into a dystopian world divided by disease, borders, and fear in Holly Goddard Jones' masterfully written The Salt Line. In the not too distant future, the world has been infested with ticks. The majority of these ticks cause Shreve's disease, which kills those it infects. In response, the entire world has been cordoned off into quarantined enclosed zones. Those quarantined, also known as "Zoners," have been told that the exterior world was obliterated, destroyed via massive fires designed to burn landscapes clean of ticks.

Despite the danger that the exterior world (out of zone) poses, it has become a tourist attraction full of abandoned towns and historical sites that capture how humanity once lived. Outer Limits Excursions (OLE) provides an outlet for this adventure or "dark" tourism, catering to the uber elite who have the pockets to bankroll such trips. The first portion of the book sketches out a group of characters who have decided to take such a trip. It explores the motivations leading these well-off tourists to take fate into their own hands and risk their lives for a glimpse into what once was.

There's Edie, who is whisked away from her life as a poor waitress by Jesse, a mega pop star who charms her. There's Wes, one of the Zones' wealthiest men alive due to his tech savvy and entrepreneurial prowess despite his youth. There's Marta, who is the wife of a mob boss, and who cares more about her sons than anything else in her life. There's Andy, who leads the tour group for OLE despite his shady past.

I often have a hard time following a book with so many characters, especially if the author neglects to flesh them out and make them seem human. This was definitely not the case with The Salt Line. I was rooting for each character despite their flaws and sometimes nefarious intentions. The author makes you care about each character by telling their back stories and how those shape their actions and beliefs. The author avoids stereotypes and generalizations; she really wants to you to empathize with each of the characters, to truly understand why and how they act the way they do.

This was a fantastic read, one that I hope ends up on the big screen in the near future. It was brilliantly written and I could not put it down. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy dystopian thrillers and sci-fi. I really hope she writes a sequel to this because I will be first in line to grab it!
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This book is a good dystopian thriller that was more character based than I expected. An infestation of disease-carrying ticks has disrupted the country.  Most people now live in newly-designated geographical regions behind the Salt Line which is both a physical wall and a chemical barrier.  A few people still live voluntarily on the wrong side of the line and a few thrill seekers take adventure trips beyond the Line.  They will spend 3 weeks in boot camp, 3 beyond the Salt Line and 2 in quarantine. 

I won't describe the life cycle of the ticks or the ways in which they can cause damage to people, but it's scary. I'm freaked out by bugs so I was a little reluctant to even read this book due to the ticks but I needn't have been because the ticks are rarely described in all their creepy detail and there is only one really gross scene. In any event, the ticks turn out to be the least of the problems of a group of adventure tourists who have signed on for a tour to see the natural sights beyond the Line. What started out as a post apocalyptic wilderness adventure story turned into something else about a third of the way in. Some of the participants have secret motivations for taking the trip. 

There are a lot of characters in this book, unfortunately the author signals who the good guys are because they are the ones with back stories, the rest of the characters are just names who barely even have physical descriptions. For my taste, the motherhood theme was hammered a little too hard. Each of the main female characters was defined by her relationship with motherhood. The ending of the book felt a little limp but I generally liked this book and would be willing to read more from this author. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a chance to read this book early and submit my review.
I was really excited to get my hands on The Salt Line. I have to give this book credit for being such an original end of world scenario. The Salt Line takes place sometime in the future after the world's population has retreated to different zones, protected from the wild behind chemically burned lines. Everyone is frightened of ticks, which I get I live in a highly populated tick zone myself. I will spare you the details of why these ticks are so horrible. The story is about a group of rich individuals who pay to take a risky trip outside of the salt line to see nature and get a thrill. From there they run into a group of people who live outside the zone and drama takes place.  If I give you much more detail it runs the risk of spoilers. While I enjoyed the originality of this novel I really wish the story was told a little different. The world building and character development left a lot of room to be desired. The first part of the book was amazing, I really wished it was expanded upon and told on its own. The 2 & 3 part of the book were good but I felt rushed and could have also been expanded into another book or two. Lastly I see another one or at least a need for a sequel. I was left wanting to know more about this world she built and I hope I get to. With that all being said The Salt Line is a good read for when you want a little drama and adventure.
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The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones is a dystopian novel in which the world has been severely altered by disease carrying ticks.  Cities and communities have retreated behind salt lines to protect themselves.  The borders that protect communities also separate them from the beauties of nature, confining them to strictly urban lives.  There are, however, always adrenaline junkies who are willing to pay outfits for a "safe" trip into the wilderness.

The ticks are terrifying enough, but they are not the only problem that an adventurous group will encounter.

Given the serious diseases ticks transmit, the idea of a deadly tick-borne plague isn't as far-fetched as it may originally seem.  The latest threat from these tiny, parasitic arachnids is not from the usual culprit, the black-legged tick, but from the Lone Star Tick which causes an allergy to mammalian meat--beef, pork, or lamb.  

Tick bites can be serious enough without having the horrors that occur in the novel, but it does make one remember the devastation caused by the plague epidemic that resulted from bites from fleas infected with Yersina pestis.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Dystopian.  Sept. 5, 2017.  Print length:  400 pages.
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A very unique addition to the genre of scifi/dystopian novels. A different concept for the time, and well-executed. A lot of unexpected twists and turns that were not at all foreseen! I raced through it.
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This was one of the rare cases where the book actually lived up to the blurb. The comparison to Station Eleven was accurate, and I loved Station Eleven. If you're looking for a character-driven dystopian novel, The Salt Line will scratch that itch (pun intended based on the ticks' prominence in this book haha). Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC. 

I REALLY enjoyed the character development in this book. Deeply impressed with how the characters felt like living and breathing people that emerged from the static pages of this book. Loved how characters such as Wes and Marta were deeply flawed but I ultimately rooted for them. I was also fascinated by the world-building, and kept re-reading descriptions of how the U.S. was now "zoned" based on the threat of tick infestations that transmit a deadly illness. 

My main criticism that kept this from a 5 star rating is that the first half was more riveting to me than the second half. I felt the second half meandered, with less clear direction and the character insights were not as interesting. That being said, really enjoyed this book as a whole.
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I read this dystopian fiction because it was recommended to fans of Station Eleven (one of my all time favorites) and it was really good. I thought the world building was well done, not overly complex and the character building was defined. I got into it really fast and speed through it. I was mildly disappointed with the ending, a little too neat for my tastes and HATED the epilogue. All in all a good read but  not as captivating or literary as Station Eleven. I would recommend it to adult and older teen fans of the Hunger Games, as it is superior to many dystopian fiction I have read.
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