Friday, November 12, 2010

Salt by Maurice Gee

I recently read Salt by New Zealander, Maurice Gee while on a road trip to the American Southwest and couldn't put it down.  Set in a dystopian world on the brink of destruction, it it is a world that shares similarities with our own.  Salt is the classic story of a boy and a girl from opposite social classes who find themselves dependent upon each other for their struggle to survive.

Hari lives in Blood Burrow, the decaying remains of a city that lies in ruins.  The inhabitants of Blood Burrow must fend for themselves against packs of starving dogs, rats, and the "Company Whips" who come in search of forced labour.  Hari's father Tarl is captured by the Company Whips, but his resistance earns him a place in Deep Salt, a terrible mine from which no one has ever returned.  Hari has no choice but to try to save his father.  Along the way he meets Pearl, a privileged girl from the city where Company operates.  The fact that she is fleeing her former life as well as an arranged marriage, doesn't endear her to Hari.  But, he needs her help, and the help of her extraordinary maid, Tealeaf to save his father from Deep Salt.  And, the three share the same unusual ability to communicate telepathically.

The fact that Gee's pacing is impeccable, that his descriptions are easy to visualize, and that his characters are compelling, makes this a story worth reading.  Still, Salt offers much more.  The world Gee has built is one you'll want to know more of because it shares so much with our own.  It is a place where greed prospers alongside unselfish sacrifice.  It's a world with potential for greatness, and equal potential for senseless violence.  It is a world that teeters on the brink, and you'll want to know how it fares in the future.  And guess what! The second installment of this planned trilogy is available, so I'm off to buy book two, Cool.

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