In her new novel, The Salt Line, Holly Goddard Jones welcomes readers to a horrifying vision of a not-so-distant future in which a virulent species of disease-carrying ticks has divided the United States into factions. The well-off find themselves safe and secure “in zone”—behind a menacing wall known as the Salt Line that is meant to keep people locked in and danger out. Only a few thrill-seekers dare venture outside the protection of the Salt Line, signing up for pricey wilderness expeditions that take those with the courage (and the cash) beyond the walled zones to get a taste of America’s remaining purple mountain majesties. Those who return from the excursions promise that it’s the experience of a lifetime, but for one group of travelers, their trek beyond the Salt Line tests their survival skills in ways they never imagined. And it’s more than just the killer ticks; their voyage causes them to question which side of the wall is truly the most dangerous.
Terrifying and bold, The Salt Line is a character-driven thriller with shocking plot twists, jaw-dropping revelations and splashes of horror, sci-fi and romance. Key characters include a pop star and his girlfriend, the young inventor of a financial app and a housewife with veiled intentions. In beautiful turns of phrase that will make readers’ hearts flutter and skin crawl in equal measure, Jones ratchets up the tension with perfect pacing and vivid descriptions of terrible (and terribly sad) experiences. Jones’ unique riff on dystopian fiction as a platform for examining present-day concerns like climate change, immigration, technology and fundamental human rights offers plenty of surprises, but the most disarming aspect of The Salt Line is the unexpected tenderness expressed by its fully fleshed out, complicated characters who are fighting not just for their lives but for their very humanity.
More than just a high-octane, speculative survivalist tale, The Salt Line is also a powerful meditation on humanity’s fragility and resilience.