Thursday, March 6, 2014

ARC Book Review: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Title: Salvage
Author: Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow/HarperCollins
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Rating: 1/5

Cover Impressions: 
The cover is pretty, if a little boring.  I do appreciate how the dry and dusty print within the color font stands in juxtaposition with the blue background.

The Gist:
Ava has spent her entire life aboard a merchant ship.  As the head daughter in a polygamous family she spends her days working and overseeing her sisters in the menial day to day tasks.  Bound as bride, she is led to a sister ship as the marriage negotiations seal her fate.  After a fatal mistake, she is forced to flee for her life or risk being turned out into the void.  Ava finds her way to Earth and, for the first time, sees what options may lay before her.  Options that she, as a daughter and woman, never dreamed were possible.


Salvage is one of those frustrating books, not because of what it contained, but because of what it didn't.  The element that drew me in was the whole Polygamists in space angle.  Polygamous families here on Earth are pretty fascinating all on their own.  Combine that with a community that tries to cut their children and wives off from the outside world, and things start to get scary. 

Picturing that same thing happening on board a ship where it was actually possible to live your entire life without knowing that other people have freedoms that you never even conceived as possible - now that had the possibility of being downright terrifying.  This is where my hopes went with Salvage and why I wanted to review it in the first place.  In the beginning, that is just what I got.  The sexist nature of the family/community on board the Parastrata was disturbing and the thought that it was the only way of life left (as the first few chapters led me to believe) was even more so.  However, this quickly changed as Ava was forced to flee.

My first real problem came when sweet, obedient Ava who had never stepped out of line except to secretly fix a few machines, suddenly forgets everything she has ever been taught and every secret shame that has been imbeded in her and has sex with someone that she THINKS she is going to marry and whom she barely knows.  This seemed completely out of character and, instead of getting involved in the romantic nature of their tryst, I spent this scene yelling at her to stop, and think about what she is doing. 

This theme continues as Ava escapes to earth.  The speed with which she picks things up is more than a little unrealistic and certainly did not help me relate to her.  She accepts her new life wholeheartedly, despite never even knowing that this type of life was a possibility and without any surprise or shock that she had been lied to her entire life.  She learns to read and navigate a ship in what, a few weeks?  Months?  All the while she remains flat and boring.  I understand some desire to make her this way since she was born into a society that valued blandness, but even the other characters were flat and uninteresting.  None of them seemed to have any personality quirks and their backstories were left untold.  The characters motivations confounded me especially when faced with personal tragedy and simply accepting it and moving on without so much as a moment to mourn.

Confession time: I am not the greatest lover of Science Fiction but it seemed like this one had a lot of new terminology simply for the sake of throwing it in.  I found it distracting, particularly how Ava marked time, and rather than enjoying the story I spent a great deal of time simply trying to figure out what the heck she was saying.  I will admit, this might be an issue with me and Sci-Fi rather than just with this novel but I just can't handle being bombarded with invented language at the expense of clarity.

This new language came with no explanations of the Sci-Fi elements, how the ships work, why some people are on earth and some living on ships, etc.  This was particularly frustrating because, with Ava having lived confined to a ship for her entire life, the author had a fantastic, legitimate reason for other characters to explain to her (and subsequently, the reader) how these things actually worked.

Two things forced me to give up on this novel.  First, a great character died and it didn't have any emotional impact.  Instead, it was used as a cheap ploy to move the plot along (however sluggishly that occurred).  At this point I started skimming, awaiting the event that would signal a shift in the plot, spoiler - it never came.  Instead, I was treated to a love triangle.  This is the point where I stopped.  I was interested in the life of a girl raised in a polygamous bubble who escaped to the outside world - I was NOT interested in listening to her whine about her romantic feelings. 

I don't think I will be coming back to this author again, unless the next book has a kick ass idea and some really awesome reviews....

Teaching/Parental Notes:
These are just for the half of the book that I read, there may be other issues further along in the novel.

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing and Sex
Violence: Severely sexist attitudes, Physical Violence towards Women
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking


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