Book Review: Salvage
Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
ashley | I loved The Handmaid’s Tale. I was young and impressionable when I read it and it was one of the first books of its kind that I ever came across and it changed my perspective on female characters ever since. That’s why I was so excited for Salvage by Alexandra Duncan, mixing that pro-feminist element with sci-fi; it was a combination I didn’t think could fail. But while Salvage tries really hard to be the best that it can be, it doesn’t quite stand as tall as I was hoping.
There is a lot to want to stand up against in the Salvage world, women aren’t allowed to do certain work, aren’t taught to read or write, are put mainly in the kitchens and then wed off to other families in trade for something in return. Not to mention the statement that their bodies are purely for producing children and nothing more. Women’s rights are stripped, and not just in the sense that this futuristic world is different and things have changed, women are just no longer equal to their male counterparts. That’s enough to make any strong willed woman shudder. But of course, no one really questions these ways, they just go along with what they’ve been told.
What starts this entire journey is love. Ava falls in love with a boy named Luck and they sleep together. This is okay because they’re both under the assumption that they’re going to be bound to each other the next day anyway. Of course, they were mistaken and Ava was actually promised to Luck’s father, and this doing is the undoing of everything they know.
From the description of this book and existing reviews, I mistakenly thought this was a feminist-driven book and I’m sure some would argue that it is, but I just didn’t feel it. I was lead to believe that Ava flees her patriarchal society and takes her fate in her own hands, but she’s actually dragged out the door and pushed into her escape to earth, where she spends most of her time wishing she were carrying Luck’s baby so she could at least have done something right and redeem herself with her people.
I understand she’s just been ousted by her own family and I can’t imagine how confusing and devastating that must be, but even as she spends more time on earth and starts to see that there is more to life and more to her worth as a woman than she was ever given spaceside, she doesn’t seem to have any real feminist awakening.
There was so much potential for uprising and growth, Ava had the perfect mentor in Captain Gitueau and I feel that avenue wasn’t as explored as it could have been. Though our introduction to Captain Gatueau reminded me a lot of Firefly, which is always a good thing. It held a very space-cowboy feeling and Gitueau was such a strong, motherly character. Ava could have learned much more from her.
In fact, she could have really taken hold of the new ways she was being exposed to, seeing how liberated groundways women are and used that to change her own stars, but it was almost like she refused to let go of her past and couldn’t quite grasp the opportunities that were being given to her now. I just don’t understand that. Perhaps I just can’t relate to her character, can’t relate to having such a limited scope of my worth, but I just want to believe that we have a natural drive and desire to thrive built into us and would have liked to have seen Ava take advantage of new opportunities and come into her own instead of shy away from everything and continually long for her old ways.
One thing I really liked about this book and why the beginning started off quite strong was the intimacy between Ava and Luck. For a first time sex scene, it’s not over the top graphic, descriptive or unrealistic. It’s natural and curious and Ava and Luck are not acting far beyond their years or experience. This is rare among books these days, it almost seems like sex is over glamourized and exaggerated, which takes away what makes your first time so scary and special.
The characters of this world have their own language, which is something that usually adds a more intimate connection to a world and an interesting component to a book. However, this new language is almost too similar to our own, to the point where I didn’t even realize that there are differences until I read certain sentences that didn’t quite make sense, which happens so rarely that my initial reaction wasn’t to appreciate the foreign language, but to wonder whether there was a typo or error in the text. This is almost more frustrating than having to get used to a strange language entirely.
Salvage could have been really great, I liked the beginning and for the most part, I liked the ending, but I felt there was a lot of misused potential in the middle which was disappointing. One thing is for sure, though. We need more feminist books. We need more feminist sci-fi books. We’re kind of losing ourselves in those modern books that are heavy with the sex, thinking that’s all we have control over to empower ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than that and I want to read about characters who are more than that too.