The publishers of Salt
, the debut SF novel by a British author, compare it to Frank Herbert's Dune
--and certainly the harsh beauty of the planet Salt makes arid Dune seem cosy and lush. Here are great deadly deserts of salt-crystal dunes, "seas" that are supersaturated lakes scummed over with hard salt, free chlorine in the air, inedible salt algae, a corrosive wind called the Devil's Whisper and a sleet of cancer-spawning radiation from the sky ...
Ill-assorted groups of Earth colonists were lured across space by misleading survey reports--or did Salt change during the long voyage? They build their makeshift cities around the salt lakes, struggling to tame this dreadful world. Unfortunately two of the settlements are desperately incompatible, hardly able even to communicate. Senaar city has a rigid, disciplined hierarchy with every person in their place, ordered like atoms in crystalline salt; Als is a leaderless anarchy where anyone might tackle any job, all as fluid as seawater. (Yes, Roberts loves salty metaphors.)
The viewpoint alternates between Petja of Als and Senaar's leader, Barlei, whose non-communication escalates into a war for which Senaar has been prepared all along--although Barlei has hypocritical justifications for everything, including oppression of his own people and Orwellian rewriting of history. Meanwhile, against all his Alsist principles, the gentler, poetic Petja hardens into a charismatic terrorist leader. Their entwined stories are grim, sad and bitter as salt. (Roberts does sometimes overdo the metaphors.) Salt is a skilful, intense, gloomy novel. --David Langford
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A supremely assured first novel that charts a new world as it is destroyed by old enmities.