Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

18114921

Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Greenwillow

Book, you are awesome.

You remember those famous intro words to Star Trek TNG?

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Well, Salvage shows us not the bright, chromed future of Star Trek, but a gritty one minus the aliens. Small nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers, marked by powerful kinship bonds, fixed status and rigidly defined social expectations tumble on their patched-up ships through space. The future of humanity in space is shaped by a preindustrial, heavily patriarchal society with predominant roles for custom and habit, polygynous households, strict gender roles where the division of labor is influenced by age, gender, and status. Those tribes have powerful collective memories sanctioned by rituals, songs and legends. Sounds like a interesting premise, right? It is.

I was utterly engrossed in the intense description of this life. It’s an unhurried meditation on society. Ava is illiterate as are all women on this ship. Every once in a while the ship on which her father is the captain returns to Earth and meets up with other tribes the nearby trade space station. At sixteen, she learns she has to go through with the arranged marriage to someone on a different ship. Ava escapes her fate. Now on Earth Ava has to come to terms with not only what happened to her but also an overpopulated, technological advanced earth suffering from environmental issues, weather conditions and pollution. On an enclave built in the middle of the pacific ocean out of garbage, Great Pacific Garbage Patch/Gyre, she starts to heal, to see her own worth, learns to read and write, learns even to pilot a ship by herself.

This is young adult science fiction done right. Ava’s journey from her starship, to the Babylon 5 space station, to a garbage island reminiscent of Waterworld to Mumbai, a city overpopulated by 170 million people, takes her not only to different places but introduces us to different societies and ways of life. Ava is a survivor and she grows beyond the limiting confines of the circumstances in which she was born. She crept through the bowels of hell and came out free. One other thing: I was relieved by the lack of silly romances or stupid love triangles. There is romance, there even are two young men, but it is just the way it is, not overdone.

This book feels very much like a stand-alone but I hope this is not the last we have heard of Ava and her friends.

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