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Salt (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Mass Market Paperback]

Adam Roberts
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Mar 2003 GOLLANCZ S.F.

Two narrators tell the story of the simmering tensions between their two communities as they travel out to a new planet, colonise it, then destroy themselves when the tensions turn into outright war.

Adam Roberts is a new writer completely in command of the SF genre. This is a novel that is at once entertaining and philosophical. The attitudes and prejudices of its characters are subtlety drawn and ring completely true despite the alien circumstances they find themselves in. The grasp of science and its impact on people is instinctive. But above all it is the epic and colourful world building that marks SALT out ¿ the planet Salt rivals Dune in its desolation and is a suitably biblical setting for a novel that is powered by the corrupting influence of imperfectly remembered religions on distant societies.

From the early scenes set on a colony ship towed by a massive ice meteorite, to the description of a planet covered in sodium chloride, to the chilling narrative of a world sliding into its first war, this is a novel from a writer who shouts star quality.

Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (13 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185798787X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857987874
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Roberts is a writer of science fiction novels and stories, as well as Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature in English at Royal Holloway, University of London. Three of his novels, "Salt", "Gradisil" and "Yellow Blue Tibia" were nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; and his most recent novel "By Light Alone" has been shortlisted for the 2012 BSFA Award. He has published over a dozen novels, a number of academic works on both 19th century poetry and SF, stories, parodies, bits, pieces, this and that.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A supremely assured first novel that charts a new world as it is destroyed by old enmities.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most notable for what it doesn't say. 7 Dec 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Adam Roerts' _Salt_ is a sparse and harsh book just like the planet on which it is set. It doesn't allow much sympathy with the main characters - both are basically war criminals who end up being responsible for the deaths of thousands. It also paints scarcely any picture of the world in general outside of the particular situations faced by the colonists, and gives almost no background for its characters. Basically, it doesn't give us any soil with which to foster a more comfortable experience with the narrative. Its aridity is the factor that shrinks it down to 250 pages.

This doesn't mean that as several previous posters said, the characters are undeveloped. On the contrary, the characters are very completely developed. It's just that the complexity of the characters isn't spelled out for us. To get a complete understanding of the characters you have to read deeply into the limited material available. Take Barlei's weird obsession with his lieutenant jean-Pierre, which reminds one of Achilles' affection for Patroclus and along with remarks made in the final chapter suggests a radical interpretation of his behavior. Or the references in both narrators' accounts to combat and war being analagous to musical compositions, which seem to suggest that our two protagonists are similar in some deep way.

It's possible as well to use the few references to Earth to figure out that the world left behind isn't exactly the kind of world we live in now. References to the New Vatican States and the World Ecclesiastical Union (or somesuch) paint a picture of a world divided again on religious lines, where the main impetus for space travel is escaping persecution and colonist fleets are privately funded.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent book worth a read 22 Jun 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It's obvious that some people hate Salt and some love it. This is an effect of the way the book tells the story. The whole point is that you see the flaws of both sides and don't get a one-sided view of the events. This isn't a goodies-and-baddies book, and that seems to have been the objective. Since this is fairly new, it makes the book a fresh read, and I'm very glad that I read it.
Having said that, I found it difficult to get into at first. The reason for this is that I found myself hating both characters for their hypocrisies and dodgy reasoning that I'd just get annoyed with them and have to put the book down before it went flying out the window.
On the comparisons with Dune...? I don't get it. Well, yeah it has a heavy political component but its implementation is much simpler. Dune was a baroque galaxy-spanning feudal empire, and Salt is not. If you want another Dune, go and read Iain M Banks' The Algebraist.
I don't think this was trying to be like Dune, and the comparisons would have both Herbert and Roberts scratching their heads and frowning.
So, then, a decent book? Yep. For everyone? No.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars at last....a good one 18 April 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As a younger man I loved SF, but after years of throwing Bova, Brin and whoever else across the room in disgust after 50 pages, I finally found Adam Roberts. Salt was the best SF book I have read in 10 years (OK, except for 'A Voyage to Arcturus'). I do not believe the characters are unbelievable in their extremism (no less unbelievable than the North American junta on Earth at the start of the 21st century). And for me, the ending satisfies perfectly: one is released from the diabolical tension of the opposing philosophies of Barlei and Petja, into that of a woman wearing the deeper human heart-pain of life in a world torn apart by 'leaders' who project their internal wreckage on all around them.
A beautiful book. But not for those who want sugar-coated fiction with canonical plot and the kind of 'resolution' that leaves you exactly where you were.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Between a rock and a hard place 12 Nov 2009
By Sarah A. Brown VINE VOICE
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I suppose if I was forced to choose between the grubby and graceless anarchists of Als and the fundamentalist and slightly fascistic free marketers of Senaar I'd have to go with the former. (But I really hated the Alsists' disdain for small talk and social niceties - and their refusal to allow any rights to fathers. ) This is a similar sort of dilemma to that which faces readers of `The Dispossessed' of course, and there are many parallels between Le Guin's portrait of two very different societies and Adam Roberts' first novel about the tribal conflicts between colonists on Salt. But whereas Shevek, Le Guin's hero, is an engaging and humane maverick, both of Roberts' main narrators, Petja and Barlei, are decidedly unappealing. Petja's trek across the wastes with Senaarian Rhoda reminded me of an incident in another Le Guin novel - the hazardous journey made by Estraven and Genly in `The Left Hand of Darkness'. But whereas the relationship between Le Guin's characters is moving, the events during the parallel journey in `Salt' are simply sordid. I think the fact that there really isn't a single likeable character in this novel is one of the reasons why, although I admired Salt, I never fully engaged with it, and found myself reading it in smallish doses rather than getting swept along by the story. But I thought the writing very impressive indeed - as others have noted it's as cool and spare as the planet itself. Although I cannot recommend this novel completely wholeheartedly I certainly plan to read more by Adam Roberts.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars but not a style of writing I enjoy.
An interesting idea for a book, but not a style of writing I enjoy.
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, unusual and thought provoking novel
Society broken down into philosophical, not religious tribes. Wonderfully clear visual picture of a different world 'Salt', although mankind's problems remain very similar. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Diana Temple
4.0 out of 5 stars Chapter 3 is a standalone treatise on anarchy
I read this all in one go, and enjoyed it. I related very strongly to Petja. His conversation with Rhoda in Chapter 3 is a classic in cultural misunderstanding. Read more
Published 10 months ago by James Scott
4.0 out of 5 stars I think I like it
It reminded me of Ursula K LeGuin, but without the optimism that we humans will be able to sort things out in the end. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars We carry our prejudices with us, even to other Worlds
I struggled to become involved with this book until I recognised that this was neither 'Dune' nor 'Red Mars'. Read more
Published 20 months ago by W. Hedinger
5.0 out of 5 stars First and Best
This is the first book that Adam Roberts wrote, the first of his I read, and for me, the best one he's done. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Jason
4.0 out of 5 stars A Man For All Seasonings
This is an enjoyable, engrossing book, featuring the colonisation of a new planet - one rather more arid and unforgiving than had been expected. Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2011 by M. LOCK
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost ideals
Adam Roberts' first book is remarkable. After thirty-seven years of travelling through space, the colonists arrive on a less than friendly planet. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2010 by Diziet
4.0 out of 5 stars A stimulating sci-fi read.
Several colony ships head to a new world full of promise. However, upon arrival they discover their surveys were wrong and the world gains the nickname 'Salt'. Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2005 by Ian Tapley
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