I really enjoyed this book, even with the slow pacing - looking through the reviews for this one, that was the most common complaint. Nevertheless, in this instance, I ended up savouring it instead of getting bored - I suppose it’s all down to personal taste.
Salvage can best be described as a feminist sci-fi - our protagonist, Ava, lives in a rigid, patriarchal society where women are essentially there for child-bearing and cleaning - y’know, like some parts of the world today. She ends up committing a major faux pas in the eyes of her clan, with the penalty of death. Although pretty much brainwashed by the rules and expectations, our girl still has a curiosity, yearning to learn and fierce will to live. It’s this combination of traits that allow her to escape from her captors and former family, along with the help of an ally.
The story then details Ava’s journey to Earth (she’s been living on a spaceship all this time, yo), and her personal growth as she develops and grows outside of the confines of her old society. We also meet a wonderful cast of supporting characters - a shuttle pilot and her daughter who give Ava a home, a love interest who just wants to help, and a long lost family member.
While the book appears to be a one-shot, there is certainly room for more in this universe. The new-world slang also got confusing in the beginning, but you quickly get used to it.
In short, I loved the character development and the imaginative setting.
Madeleine L’Engle on creativity, writing, censorship, and the art of disturbing the universe – spectacular read.
Jeepers. So disturbing, and so sad. I don’t even know how to review this.
"This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do."
The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.
The book is beautiful, lyrical and shocking. Told mainly from the perspective of an inmate who remains unnamed until the end, we explore the harsh reality of prison life, flashbacks to moments from his life, and vivid imaginings. There are other POVs included, such as a female investigator dubbed The Lady, an investigator who helps to try get criminals off death row; a fallen priest who administers to the inmates; the Warden, a fair man with a definite sense of justice; and a number of other side characters.
“I would think for hours how strange it was that some parts of words are silent, just like some parts of our lives. Did the people who wrote the dictionaries decide to mirror language to our lives, or did it just happen that way?”
One thing that really stood out for me was how the book didn’t try to pass off/dismiss the horrific crimes that these men committed, but also showed how they got there, from forms of abuse to a system that failed them over and over again. There are many mentions of rape and sexual assault in the novel - while not graphic, I found the insinuations were actually more jarring to me. So if you’re easily triggered, do keep this in mind.
“Inside, the lies you tell become the person you become. On the outside, sun and reality shrink people back to their actual size. In here, people grow into their shadows.”
Beautifully written, slow and horribly sad. One of those books that ends up haunting you long after you finish reading it. It makes you think on a number of issues: redemption, accountability, love, justice and abuse, both outside and within the prison system.
“He knows that when she passes, a grief will rip through him unlike anything he has ever known. Preparing for it doesn’t help. He just knows it will come. It is like realizing you are sailing a boat across an ocean and soon you will find the other shore- it will be just you and acres of dry, blinding white sand. There may be trees on that island, and sun, and food, but none of it will feel or taste right, because you will stand there and realize: I am alone.”
*Interesting to note: the author has actually worked as a death penalty investigator, and she has commented that “I spend a lot of time in prisons. They vary in conditions, but aside from the narrator’s fantastical visions, much in the novel I recognize in my work.”
Probably one of the best written arguments ever, found in The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce