Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
Most notable for what it doesn't say.
on 7 December 2006
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. The group of colonists on Salt seem to be not a wide sample of the human race, but an assemblage of a few Eastern European religious sects that presumably felt that the political consolidation of religion left them little freedom to practice on Earth. (It is never stated precisely which church the colonists belong to but mandatory male and female contraception points to it being radically different from any on Earth today.)
Because Salt has been pared down to its essentials, it reads as carefully structured and highly concentrated prose. You have to work a bit to get what you want out of it, but once you do the book os pretty rewarding.