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The Compulsive Reader: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Ava has grown up on a merchant space vessel ruled by patriarchy. She is smart and wishes for more of a future than a simple role as a wife and caretaker—she wants to learn to read, to repair technology. When Ava’s ambitions and a chance to marry someone who promises to her more freedom lead her to make irreparable mistakes, her crewe sentences her to death. Suddenly Ava has no choice but to flee to Earth—the very place that she has been taught to fear her entire life.


Salvage is a unique, engaging story about one girl’s journey from complete reliance on an oppressive society to independence in a very large universe full of infinite possibilities. Ava’s physical journey is full of action as she constantly faces new threats and challenges and the Earth settings are refreshingly not North American. Instead, Duncan paints a realistic future Earth with settlements on floating trash barges in the Pacific and where Mumbai is the center of education and travel. Cultures and races have evolved in interesting and unexpected ways, but humanity still struggles with oppression and injustice--just in different ways. Ava’s journey is perhaps a bit predictable in its twists, and even though her emotional and intellectual growth is obvious throughout the novel, Duncan tends to show only Ava’s surface-level emotions; her fear and confusion, anger and pride, and her reluctance to trust others. Salvage is a hefty book, weighing in at over 500 pages, but for all of that Ava’s character falls a little flat. The endless action keeps readers turning the pages and the skillful world building never ceases to be fascinating, but readers will no doubt feel relief when Ava’s decisions at the end of Salvage bring her a bit of peace and don’t hint at a drawn-out series arc.

Cover Comments: Oh, this cover is just terrible. I like the large-scale planets, but the girl on the beach in that dress? You can't see me, but I'm cringing.

ARC picked up at the Heartland Fall Forum.

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