The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Jones

The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Jones book coverGenre: Apocalyptic Science Fiction
Published: 2017
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Reviewer:  David L. Felts

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In the near future (the reader isn’t told precisely when) the United States has broken up into a separate zones, each zone protected by a “salt line”, a broad expanse of scorched earth necessary to protect residents from deadly miner ticks. Life in the zones can be good or bad, depending on the zone a person lives in, but any zone is considered better than the outside, where the ticks are a constant threat.

Life inside the zones is fairly controlled, almost dictatorial (again, depending on the zone), but few are interested in venturing outside. For those that crave adventure though, there is an opportunity to see the unspoiled wilderness that is the rest of the United States… unspoiled, that is, except for the constant threat of infestation by the deadly ticks.

Companies exist for the purpose of running adventures trips outside the zone. Three weeks of training is required, as well as a demonstrated willingness to use a special (and painful) device to remove ticks. The trips are expensive, so mostly limited to the well-heeled, that latest and most significant (to the story) of those being a music star and his girlfriend, the tech CEO Wes; Marta; who is more than she seems, and Violet, the Out-Zoner.

Led by wilderness guide Andy, the outdoor adventure rapidly goes south, when the group finds themselves captive in a place called Ruby City, a community made up of out-zone survivors determined to protect their existence and led by an any-means-necessary woman named June. The group has to learn to rely on each other, and on people who have already proven their at-odds intentions, if they want to survive and be able to return to their zone. It turns out the ticks are the least of their worries.

Edie, girlfriend of pop star Jesse, is a bartender and waitress who got the celebrity and wonders how she got him and whether she should keep him. Is she with him just for the comfort he can offer? Or does she really love him?

Marta is married to the mob, in more ways than one. She stays in her relationship for the sake of her sons, but her husband has another use in mind for her.

Wes is a billionaire wonder-kid CEO, now in his 20s. There’s more to Wes than is immediately apparent.

Violet, born and raised out-zone, is horribly disfigured from abuse she received as a child. She wants more then June and Ruby City can give her, and is willing to do what it takes to get it.

So an adventure tale wrapped in a survival tale wrapped in an intrigue tale packaged in an end-of-the-world box with some great writing and well-developed characters.

Good stuff.

If you’re looking for good character-based dystopian fiction, The Salt Line is a good choice.


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