Salvage Sets the Bar for World Building for YA Sci-Fi to Come
ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY: As part of the book tour there are ten (10) finished copies of Salvage. This is a book you definitely need to own so you should all enter.
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I pick what book tours I join very carefully. I take a special interest in books that show promise and nine times out of ten I tend to be right about them. I knew from the moment I first saw Salvage come up for download that it was going to be good. The Rockstar Book Tour was just the push I needed to actually get around to reading it and to push it to the top of my to-read list. I cannot express just how happy I am that I did read it despite my horrendous backlog of ARCs.
I’d be writing a review regardless but I’m hoping that this book tour gives me more of an opportunity to share my opinion about this book. Despite how stingy I am with five star ratings this definitely gets one so that should tell you something. Plus it’s a the American Booksellers Association named it a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick. So that should tell you something, too.
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?
Right, so, let’s talk about this book in comparison to all the other young adult science fiction and dystopian novels on the market right now. I love these genres so I tend to read a lot of these books. My biggest concerns and complaints every single time are a.) world building and b.) romance. Too often the world building – while often decent – doesn’t go far enough. Too often we’re left with too many questions or the complexities of society are ignored in place of fast-paced, action-packed plots. We don’t get to explore or appreciate things. All we really wind up getting is a half-fulfilled promise of a new world and a lot of awkward teen romance that moves way too fast. I go into most books just expecting that and accepting it.
That’s probably why I appreciate Salvage so much.
Alexandra Duncan seems to have seen those same problems and decided it was about time someone fixed them.
The amount of world building alone in this book is astounding. Duncan extrapolates upon our current environmental and social issues today and creates a whole new world full of hints of the familiar. From the ideology of the roaming merchant tribes about their ships to the society comprised of climate change refugees built up on the Gyre, you can see so many little reflections of our world. But it’s not just the reflections of the world that matter most. It’s all the little things. It’s how the main character’s people name their children in palindromes to link the beginning and the end. It’s how her friends’ people name their children phrases reflecting their hopes and dreams for the future. The amount of thought that went into it all is incredible.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what science fiction is all about.
And Ava is the perfect narrator.
Ava Parastrata, our main character, comes from one of the sheltered merchant ship communities where her entire life has been very restricted and regimented. Women are second class citizens in a male-dominated world. They never set foot on solid ground and remain naive to the greater universe beyond their ship’s hulls. But things change very quickly for Ava and the reader. I could have imagined an entire story taking place in space alone but there’s too much more to see. As Ava’s life changes drastically so does the scenery. From space stations to floating continents to a futuristic Mumbai built and modeled after our present, we get to see each new location and experience it with Ava for the first time. She struggles, she’s defeated, she picks herself up and learns to swallow her pride. Ava loses people she cares about and builds new relationships. All the while she’s adapting to new, dynamic environments and cultures. We are, too. I love when authors broaden their horizons and move away from Western settings and embrace
The world building mixed with the storytelling would have been enough to keep me interested no matter what. Duncan could have thrown in all the ‘love at first sight’ young adult romance nonsense she wanted. But she didn’t. I mean, yes, there’s a romantic element to the story. In fact, there is kind of a dreaded ‘romantic triangle,’ if you will. But it’s all so much more than just your regular stereotypes. Ava’s understanding of love and being a woman are so shaped by her upbringing that much of the book is framed by her own growth as a person and realization of her own self worth. Her relationships show that perfectly as both are very reminiscent of the person she is at the time. Neither is rosy or perfect and both have their own set of consequences and struggles. And they aren’t the center of her whole world because there are so many other character relationships to be built and expanded on.
All of it just keeps you reading and keeps you wanting more.
It has been a long time since I’ve read a book of any genre that I enjoyed as much as I did Salvage. Yes, maybe it’s a bit descriptive at times. And, yes, it’s long. But this is one of those stories that is so worth it. This is the kind of science fiction we need: realistic characters in fantastic settings that can some how be new and familiar are the same time. I really don’t know what could have made this book better.
I don’t often feel like I need to physically own books. I’m a big fan of ebooks and my Kindle. But this is one of those books that I’m going to have to pick up at some point. It needs to be on a shelf in my apartment ready to be seen and shared. It’s that kind of book.
About the Author
Alexandra Duncan is a writer and librarian. Her short fiction has been published in several Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy anthologies and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Her first novel, Salvage, is forthcoming from Greenwillow Books in April 2014. She loves anything that gets her hands dirty – pie-baking, leatherworking, gardening, drawing, and rolling sushi. She lives with her husband and two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Alexandra is represented by superagent Kate Schafer Testerman of KT Literary.
Don’t forget, as part of the book tour you’ve got a chance to win one of ten copies of Salvage. ENTER HERE. Do it. You know you want to.