Review: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
“But woman, her mettle's thin,
Like copper sails to trap the sun's heat.
Cover us all, she does,
Tame the star's fury and channel life.
In the air, she floats;
A perfect, iridescent thing.
But when her feet touch the ground,
Bare time till she falls crumpled and tarnished.
Women of the air, stay aloft, and be whole!”
Parastrata Ava was born on board a crewe ship and has never set foot on Earth. She is illiterate and longs to work on “fixes”, as an engineer but such jobs aren't considered women's work on the Parastrata. As the Captain's eldest daughter her duty is to marry and cement the trade relationship with another crewe. But Ava is young and naiveand she makes a grave mistake which leads to her being cast out of her crewe, narrowly escaping burial in space. On earth she sets out to find her aunt, a woman she has never met, and try to make a new life for herself in a place that's utterly strange to her.
I've listed this book as my favourite book of the year so far, and I know it's only early days yet but it wouldn't entirely surprise me if it's still in that spot come December. It's exactly what I was looking for, a feminist sci-fi book, challenging traditional ideas about womanhood (especially marriage and motherhood) while telling a great story that made the book hard to put down. In part it's a fairy tale, the Little Mermaid in reverse, but the dialogue and description made it feel real and immediate. The subtlety of the world building and character descriptions really made some of the other books I have read lately suffer by comparison.
Salvage is full of such a variety of women characters. Ava is a wonderful heroine, with so much courage and cleverness, and I found myself cheering for her, especially at the end. I would definitely recommend Salvage for young adult readers as well as adults because it's inspiring, beautiful, feminist and just plain good sci-fi.
There is a second book, Sound, which follows the adventures of Ava's companion, Miyole, as she journeys into space. I rushed to order that one as soon as I finished the first book so I will hopefully have a review of it up soon.
Published: April 1 2014
Rated: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★