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The Salt Line

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In the spirit of Station Eleven and California, award-winning novelist Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary spin on the dystopian genre with this gripping story of survival and humanity about a group of adrenaline junkies who jump -the Salt Line.-

How far will they go for their freedom--once they decide what freedom really means?

In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line--a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks--and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Holly Goddard Jones

21 books263 followers
Holly Goddard Jones's newest novel, THE SALT LINE, will be published by Putnam in September 2017.

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5 stars
469 (14%)
4 stars
1,392 (41%)
3 stars
1,151 (34%)
2 stars
265 (7%)
1 star
53 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 634 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
August 18, 2018
it’s rare for me to have no idea how i feel about a book, but here we are.

this is a good book, it's occasionally a great book, and it kept me entertained and surprised throughout despite some bumps in my reading road.

if that’s all the review you need, god love ya. i’m gonna fill up the rest of this space with all sorts of of thinking-out-loud and reaction-processing and you're all invited to hang out if that's fun for you, OR you can just go read sh3lly’s review, which gave this book ALL THE STARS and is very persuasive.

so, first, the easy stuff. i snatched this book from the free shelves at work because the cover is great and because the idea of disease-carrying/world-ending ticks is such shivery good fun for me. i don’t even think i read the whole synopsis before grabbing this thing, so when the plot started to shift, i was completely surprised.

here, i shall quote a really long passage detailing what the ticks in this book are all about:

”The bite of a pregnant female miner tick releases a numbing agent, which allows her to work without detection. The burrowing appendage, which is called the horn, is corkscrew shaped. The female essentially drills into your skin, pulling her body behind her into the opening. This takes less than half a minute.

By the time you feel the itching, the female miner tick has created a tiny cavity under your skin and settled into place. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of quick action here. Within a few minutes, the female will start releasing eggs into the cavity. The eggs are each the size of a pinprick. They can’t move on their own, but they’re covered in a fibrous coating, which makes them exceptionally sticky, like burrs. They spread out quickly and can even enter the bloodstream.”

“If the itching stops, you’re fucked. The female has died, and the eggs have scattered. Over the next several hours, the area around the bite will erupt in hundreds of pustules. Depending on where the eggs traveled, and if evacuation occurred near a vein, eruptions can occur all over the body, and even in vital organs. The itching will return and become almost unbearable. If you don’t scratch the pustules open yourself to try to sooth the itch, the miner ticks will eventually tear their way out.”

and that’s just the best-case scenario. if that burrowing tick is carrying the dreaded shreve’s disease, the human/tick incubator will be dead within days, after paralysis and having to watch hundreds of baby ticks explode with glee out of their own pustule-covered body.

this, friends, this is why i read books.

it's such scary, buggy awesomeness. i also want to read this: Containment, which has the same general premise, but looks like more of a breezy action book than a literary exploration of the sitch.

because this book is definitely a literary treatment, not the LOOK OUT FOR BUGGAS kind of slant that something like The Hatching provides. it’s compared to both Station Eleven and California, and all three are all post-event stories centered around survival, but The Salt Line is a much closer match to California. Station Eleven is very much about the broad scope of humanity and cultural legacy and community, while this one and California are more narrowly focused on the experiences of individuals within the wasteland. alliances exist and new alliances form throughout the story, but even when characters are emotionally connected here, they are still very much alone and their decisions and motivations are frequently withheld from other characters.

like California, there’s also a particular emphasis on motherhood, whether it’s biological, informally adopting an orphan, situationally maternal relationships, characters undergoing fertility treatments or who have chosen abortion, as well as some insight on the new-world regulations for that particular option.

and for the first 3/4, it was pretty fantastic: i loved the dread of a life-ending threat being contained within such a tiny, easy-to-overlook creature (and lemme just say - i brought this book with me when i was visiting my dad deep in the woods of maine, which i assume are teeming with ticks, hoping my surroundings would make it even more terrifying), i loved the tension of relying on the reflexes, bravery and general competence of one individual (who might be a complete stranger, in the case of marta and wes), to intervene if a tick went a-burrowing inside of you, i loved many of the twists and reveals and even though it wasn’t the “survival in the wilderness” story i’d anticipated, i was digging what it was becoming, and i definitely appreciated june who was like a badass deanna monroe in my mind

but without zombies.

and yet, for all that i did enjoy, i had a hard time following some of the later developments and i got tangled up in the various plots and counterplots. not so much in terms of “what happened,” but more in the necessity of these things happening - the motivation behind them. one of these “things” was a disproportionately destructive reaction to an easily-subdued threat, and in a world with so little left, it seems unlikely that someone who had survived/flourished under such extreme circumstances for so long would have been so successful without considering the long game. i’m dancing around all the nouns right now, but there were a couple of things like that particular vague example that had high-dramatic value but weren’t all that logical, so i got all caught up in trying to follow the cause-and-effect line, which pulled me out of simply enjoying the book.

but i guess not enough to ruin it for me, so i'm going to rest on my four-star rating because star rating precision never troubles me too much, and i tend to give out a lot of four-stars as a result.

this is a lowish four, if anyone's doing the math on it.

definitely worth reading.


oh, man - this book is getting CRAAAAZZYYYY. but awesome. i wish i wasn't about to fall asleep so i could read all night long...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,156 reviews1,515 followers
September 1, 2017
In a dystopian future citizens live in fear in protected burned out areas beyond the salt line for protection from ticks that have begun to spread a disease that kills in mere seconds. Extreme thrill seekers can still venture out beyond the protection into the wild by paying a high sum to an adventure company. The company then trains the adventure seekers as to what to expect beyond the salt line and how to fend in the wild.

The latest group of adventure seekers have teamed up and trained to go out into nature on their adventure but what awaited them was more than they ever would have expected when the deadly disease-carrying ticks become the least of their worries. Ambushed by a group with guns the wealthy travelers are taken hostage and find themselves captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors that none of them knew existed.

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones is a book that I honestly expected to fall in love with but in the end ended up thinking this one was just an OK read. There were things in here that I really liked such as the plot in which the ticks have gotten so bad that people are hiding in safe areas. I mean come on, who hasn't seen on the news lately that ticks are even more dangerous these days, between the ticks and mosquito stories one would think maybe we do need burned out insect free areas. But the author took the story beyond that initial fear and went into much more so it actually had a bit more depth in that regard than I was expecting.

But as for the downside to this one I don't think that I was a huge fan of the style in which the story was written. The author chose to follow multiple characters and even the further you got there are more characters that are brought into the book and more drama piled on so there was a bit of a disconnect as far as connecting with any specific person or people on a deeper level. I also thought that the flashing back to learn of what led characters to get to where they were in the story didn't always flow well the way it was done. Not that any of this made the book terrible, just ended up being one that I wasn't totally in love with when finished.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,262 reviews222 followers
January 18, 2018
In a mid-term future a group of people from varied backgrounds depart on an adventure tour beyond the Salt Line, a barrier that keep most of humanity safe from horrific ticks and the fatal disease that they carry. Several of the people on the tour are actually there because of ulterior motives rather than tourism but everyone's plans go awry when the tour starts to go wrong.

Fantastic world-building with a post ecological collapse world, oppressive government and a thriving criminal element and all with the ever present threat of the ticks. The characters are fantastic too, including Wes, a tech billionaire looking for a purpose, Edie, a bartender with a rich and famous boyfriend and Marta, a matronly figure married to a mob boss. The setup is intricate, and the twists shocking when they come, with constant pacing and fascinating outcomes.

The book also has a lot to say about inter-dependency, trust and motivation as well as desperation and loyalty. A minor but important part of all that is the various dependence setups that women suffer largely due to biology. From Edie's unwanted pregnancy in a place where abortion is "feticide" "punished like any first degree murder" to problems faced by the women of a community later in the book.

This book is complete, but there is ample material for a sequel which should be very interesting to see.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
September 28, 2017
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/09/28/...

It’s a year for pleasant surprises, it seems. The Salt Line is a book that first caught my eye because of its thriller-dystopian premise, but it’s more than just that; author Holly Goddard Jones has created an exciting high-drama experience, the kind that would not go amiss in a Crichton novel, but her story also contains a high level of literary quality that challenges most genre labels.

Taking place in the not-so-distant future, The Salt Line features a world defeated by an enemy smaller than the size of a pea. The United States has even ceded most of its natural territories to this tiny terror, a tick that serves a as a vector to a deadly pathogen. Getting bit by one of these things is scary enough—their life cycle and what it does to the human body is like something straight out of an Alien movie—but the true killer is in fact Shreve’s disease, carried by a large percent of these ticks. For this reason, most people now live in safe zones in which these pests have been eradicated. These enclosed areas are separated from the wilderness, which is where the ticks thrive, by a physical wall as well as a burnt-out dead zone called the Salt Line, a large swath of land that has been purged of all life by fire and chemicals designed to keep the ticks at bay.

Still, there are people who live beyond the Salt Line—some by choice, others by necessity. Then there are the thrill-seekers who pay big money for their chance to go out there, to have a grand adventure to see what’s left of nature. Our story begins with such a group, receiving their first orientation from the tour company that’s being paid to bring them outside the quarantine zone. Those among the expedition include Edie, a former bartender in her 20s who somehow ended being roped into this dangerous excursion by Jesse, her reckless popstar boyfriend. Then there’s Marta, who may seem like just a simple housewife, except she is actually married to a notorious robber baron whose illicit activities she has endured for years because of her love for her children. And of course there’s also Wes, a young billionaire tech prodigy who founded Pocketz, the financial app that has taken the world by storm.

Most of the people on this tour are there because of what the company brochure promised—a chance to experience the untouched beauty of nature. For some, being able to witness sparkling waterfalls and sunrises without the filter of pollution is worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the risk of death from a tick bite. But for those mentioned, they have other reasons for wanting to take this trip. And when the expedition is waylaid by a group of rebels and held captive in an outer-zone commune called Ruby City, those secrets begin to come to light, with dire consequences for their chances of returning home.

The unofficial tagline for this book should be The Salt Line: come for the creepy ticks, stay for outstanding characterization and the in-depth exploration of social themes. Those who want suspense and intrigue will get plenty, but there’s no doubt that the novel’s strength is in its rich, character-driven narrative and fantastically written cast. Our key players are all fleshed out with robust back stories, complete with their individual moral dilemmas, conflicting desires, and other very human concerns (I especially loved Marta and Wes). They also come from varied backgrounds, representing the different strata of this troubled society with its extreme socio-economical class divisions. The arrival of the deadly ticks has altered daily life at all levels, impacting issues related to the environment, healthcare, immigration, technology, and more. Though the price of safety and security is high, many appear willing to pay it even if it means being trapped in poor circumstances.

Still, despite its social commentary, I appreciated the way our story maintained its focus on adventure and suspense. Love them or hate them, the characters are at the heart of this novel, and the ambiguities behind their ambitions are the fuel that drives the plot, keeping things engaging. All this and more are presented in a seamless package containing a fine balance of horror, dystopian, and thriller elements.

Would I recommend The Salt Line for fans of dystopian fiction? Yes, but with an added proviso that this genre description merely scratches the book’s surface—a good thing, in my opinion. I got a lot more out of the story than I expected, and enjoyed spending every tense moment in this world with its multifaceted characters. I wouldn’t hesitate to read another novel by Holly Goddard Jones in the future.
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
565 reviews979 followers
September 5, 2017
3.5 – 4 stars

I absolutely loved the concept of this book and mostly enjoyed the implementation. The publisher’s description mentioned that The Salt Line would appeal to those who liked Station Eleven and for once I felt that suggestion was actually accurate. But even more than Station Eleven, the story reminded me of The Hunger Games but without the battle to the death component. In The Salt Line, an aggressive tick, which carries a deadly virus about 20% of the time, has invaded the United States. Much like The Hunger Games, the United States no longer exists as we know it and instead much of the population is living in Zones, some wealthier than others. The main characters of The Salt Line live in the Atlantic Zone and are surrounded by a large wall, an electric field, and chemically treated wasteland to prevent the ticks, and other people, from entering. The people within the walls are heavily controlled by a government that uses fear as its main method of rule and grants little privacy to its residents.

The main plot of the book revolves around an excursion company that offers pricy, adrenaline fueled trips outside the Salt Line. The main characters embark on such an excursion, and of course almost as soon as they head out, the trip is derailed. To avoid spoilers, I will not say anything more about the plot except to say that it is creative and mostly entertaining (it occasionally drags a bit). The story was at its best when the author described life in the Atlantic Zone or what remained from life prior to the arrival of the tick. I loved when the characters encountered places from the old United States such as a Cracker Barrel or when school groups visited what was at one time D.C.

Several small things baffled me a bit in the story. First, the area outside of the walled in Atlantic Zone is called the Salt Line. I never understood why – the area is a ring of chemically scorched earth treated to prevent ticks from crossing where the trash is slowly taking over the scorched earth. There was a reference to an old folktale about not treating the earth well, but I did not feel that the tale tied well to the whole Salt Line idea. Salt is also the name of an addictive drug used by some citizens in the Atlantic Zone and as the story unfolds Salt may potentially be ingested for other uses. It confused me that the word salt was used in these various items for no apparent reason and with no connection between them. I also would have liked the zone idea to have been fleshed out more. There is a lot of detail about the Atlantic Zone because a fair amount of the story took place there so I had a good feel for how it operated; I would love to have learned more about the other zones.

I read this book as Hurricane Harvey was descending upon my city and in the storm’s aftermath which I found to be appropriate timing. The people in The Salt Line live in a world where a potentially deadly tick has caused people to change the way they live. As climate change gets worse and these horrible storms keep occurring, we as a country are going to need to address ways that we can remain living in coastal cities without the fear of catastrophic and deadly floods. Hopefully we can find rational and less scary ways of doing so than the people did in The Salt Line.

The Salt Line provides a lot to think about regarding today’s world, and I know I will be contemplating these various issues for a long time to come. Thanks to First to Read for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
904 reviews274 followers
November 1, 2017
While The Salt Line starts out as typical dystopia, post-apocalyptic novel; it's main theme changes at the halfway point and then again just before the end.

This makes it a bit of a weird read.
The writing itself is very good and certainly the story moves forward quickly enough to keep the attention of the reader. However, if you want a badass dystopian story this is not for you. If you want a bleak depressing story this is also not the right story. It's somewhere between a bit of horror (ticks that have wiped out huge portions of the populations), thriller (rebels) and humanism (reproduction concerns and overall quality of life questions). I felt confused at many points about what Holly Goddard Jones was trying to say.
By the end I felt like I mostly understood the point, but didn't feel all that satisfied; hence my three star rating.

Stereotype Shattered
I thought at one point that the author had to be a male given the lack of chemistry every couple had. Much to my shock I found out that our author, Jones, is a woman. While the stereotype shatters in my mind (lol); let me tell you a bit more about the pace of this book. There are three distinct portions to the book and if you feel like you liked what you read up to the end of one of the sections but are not intrigued by the latest "twist" in the story then I'd say you are probably safe to stop reading. I'm glad I read the whole book but could see people getting frustrated by the change of messaging in each section.

In Conclusion
Overall it's like Jones tried to put too much into her dystopian novel and missed a lot of key factors. I wanted more chemistry between characters, less back stories about irrelevant people, and more focus on one or two characters (the voice is constantly changing). Maybe that's why the thrill is taken away at some times; I had heard about the situation from too many voices at some points and just wanted to move on or go back to a favourite character or two. The Salt Line is not a bad read, but it's not a good read. It sits right in that awkward three star zone.

To read this and more of my reviews visit my blog at Epic Reading

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,965 followers
January 16, 2018
There really is a lot going on in here that can't really be done justice in a short review and some of it is quite good.

Dystopian Nightmare Ticks, yes, please.

And then there's the rest. Most of it is a good four-star read. A lot of focus is on regular human relationships and the larger developments like the drug that allows the bunkered enclaves of the "safe" humanity to live without fear of the ticks. The action often feels like a boardroom drama mixed with mafia dons against a dystopian survival novel, but it starts out first as a bunch of rich thrill seekers wrapping themselves in high-tech fibers to enjoy nature without worrying too much about the tick menace.

For a great deal of the novel, I was just fine with this. It had a rather more epic feel with a lot of characters and situations and developments that tended to lean a lot more toward a lit-fic bent than a straight SF or Horror. In fact, most of the possible horror moments and SF elements took a long back seat to everyday folk.

That wasn't actually a plus for me. In fact, I often didn't really care about the folks portrayed and maybe it says more about me that I just wanted to see some epic tick action taking out more people than the guns eventually did.

And then, there was the veiled theme burrowing into the setting. If we read this a certain way, the novel is just a souped-up novel of the Mexican-American border, featuring fear of foreigners and a very, very heavy reliance on drug cartels and related issues. With a new skin, of course. And this isn't much of a problem in itself, but some of the directions it took left a weird taste in my mouth.

And then there are the related associations. The deeper allusions. And while it never comes right out and makes any direct connections, I feel like there's something rather... well, I'll leave it up to other readers to come right out and say it. I'm definitely not sure that there's any kind of intent. It just feels... icky, in a way. Even the border town feels like Tijuana.

So, my hackles rose. No real issues about the whole pregnancy business or the drugs even though the uses and abuses took up a huge portion of the novel. In general, I liked the novel pretty well, but I'm beginning to get tired of the trend to put LIT stuff in SF. It dilutes the really fantastic stuff SF is known for. Just my opinion. :)
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,220 reviews224 followers
February 11, 2020
Ticks - even our own version is a nightmare when you think about them. And in The Salt Line it goes so much further than that; so far that humanity (well, the bits most people care about) have retreated behind a wall and a solid no-man's-land of scorched earth. But humanity being what it is, tours are offered for those willing to risk their lives to catch a glimpse of an otherwise unreachable wasteland - yeah, I don't get it either. But our protagonists are a group of people willing to embark on such a tour, and it's not long before the predictable happens, and things go very, very bad.

This is a good book. I don't know why I initially struggled so hard to get into it, but once I'd hit the 10% mark it all started reading much more smoothly. Life even within the safety walls in this future world is hard, and it wasn't hard to see parallels from here to there - there's a significant gap in life quality between rich and poor, illegal immigrants are met with outright hostility, and social media has made its way even further into the depths of it's users private data.

Overall, it's an enjoyable book, though I'm not sure it's one I'd revisit. One read was entertaining, the suspension of disbelief wasn't weighing on me too heavily for most of it, but it's definitely a like and not a love.
Profile Image for Heather.
993 reviews27 followers
November 26, 2017
For a book about "killer ticks" this sure was a slow read. :(

The Salt Line follows a group of people who have paid an exorbitant amount to travel to the other side of the salt line, a place where people no longer live and where the lands have been taken over by killer tics. But while along their journey to see the great scenery of the natural world, they are kidnapped by the native people living outside of the line and one of their own is killed.

I guess my expectations were too high. After reading the description, I thought this book could go so many different ways. But after the first 15% or so, I was convinced it was going to go more along the lines of....



And there was a little bit of killer tics. And a little bit of "crazy killer people in the middle of nowhere" vibe, but for the most part, the plot was mostly about how all of the people were connected to the outside world. And how the government had gone crazy. And how it was almost worth trying to survive the crazy tics instead of having to live on the other side...

And I just didn't buy it. There's crazy adrenaline junkies, and then there's these people. Paying $200,000 (currency rate, is going to the movie costs, $30 so basically the same), living in some kind of campground (which we never find out about), and having a threat of mutant tics that can kill you within days if you don't perform a procedure within a minute. I just don't buy that people would pay to put themselves in this much danger for scenery.

In addition, the book got very political, and then just overall boring.

Some people die, and it's just kind of mentioned offhandedly to the point where I had to go back and reread the scene after it was mentioned later. There were a few scenes that got pretty gruesome, but most took place at the beginning of the book, and it made the whole book feel like it was written by two different people. The first person, wanting to write about killer tics, survival, and danger with light at the end of the tunnel. And the second person wanting to write mostly about the light at the end of the tunnel.

So I stand by my first line: for a book about killer tics (which the author mentions is how she sold it to her agent) this was pretty boring for the most part.

** I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the Publisher, Penguin Group Putnam in exchange for a review. However, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,845 reviews516 followers
August 22, 2017
This book is a good dystopian thriller that was more character based than I expected. An infestation of disease-carrying ticks has disrupted the country. Most people now live in newly-designated geographical regions behind the Salt Line which is both a physical wall and a chemical barrier. A few people still live voluntarily on the wrong side of the line and a few thrill seekers take adventure trips beyond the Line. They will spend 3 weeks in boot camp, 3 beyond the Salt Line and 2 in quarantine.

I won't describe the life cycle of the ticks or the ways in which they can cause damage to people, but it's scary. I'm freaked out by bugs so I was a little reluctant to even read this book due to the ticks but I needn't have been because the ticks are rarely described in all their creepy detail and there is only one really gross scene. In any event, the ticks turn out to be the least of the problems of a group of adventure tourists who have signed on for a tour to see the natural sights beyond the Line. What started out as a post apocalyptic wilderness adventure story turned into something else about a third of the way in. Some of the participants have secret motivations for taking the trip.

There are a lot of characters in this book, unfortunately the author signals who the good guys are because they are the ones with back stories, the rest of the characters are just names who barely even have physical descriptions. For my taste, the motherhood theme was hammered a little too hard. Each of the main female characters was defined by her relationship with motherhood. The ending of the book felt a little limp but I generally liked this book and would be willing to read more from this author.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews309 followers
January 4, 2018
This is a gripping, near-future tale that makes use of excellent in-depth characterisation and exploration of socio-political themes, giving it a literary fiction feel. The pacing was such that that I felt compelled to finish it in rather short order. The result is a pretty satisfying read, if a rather dire vision of the future.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,766 reviews590 followers
August 27, 2017
They were thrill seekers, using their wealth to buy an adventure of a lifetime, to feel invincible, to go beyond the boundaries their world has dictated. What would drive a person to risk their life to go beyond THE SALT LINE, the barrier that protects humanity from the dangers that now exist in nature?

What the latest group of thrill seekers will find will defy all they have been told as they become pawns in a deadly game of power, survival and greed. They will learn who they can trust, who to fear, but not how to get back to the safety and relatively mundane lives they once had. For once, their money cannot buy them out of the danger they are in as they become captives in Ruby City, a town that knows the truth that only money and power can buy.

Witness humanity at its worst and at its best as these thrill seekers learn what they are really made of and what is truly important in life. Flawed and complicated characters will rise to occasion and their resilience will call to the humanity in us all.

Holly Goddard Jones does more than create a speculative future world, she gives life to a story of survival when all seems lost. Often violent, filled with underlying subplots and the machinations of powerful puppet masters, in the end, it will be those with heart who will have truly survived, because without heart, are we capable of possessing real humanity? When will we have "enough" and how far will we go until finally destroy ourselves and our world?

Plain and simple, this is fabulous reading that asks so many questions, then sends a message in reply.

I received an ARC edition from G.P. Putnam's Sons in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons (September 5, 2017)
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic | Dystopian
Print Length: 394 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,073 reviews372 followers
January 5, 2018
Ahoy there me mateys! This book was described as being in the spirit of station eleven but with ticks. Being as I love me some dystopian fiction I gave this one a shot.

So in this version of Earth, ticks have become a menace that is so bad that most humans live in zones beyond controlled wastelands (the salt line) and walls that keep them sequestered and safe from the natural world. The difference in this book is that a lot of the outside world is still beautiful. So there are very rich adventure seekers that pay vast sums of money to go on death-defying adventures to see fall foliage or the mountains etc. But beware if a tick bites, they only have a very limited time to burn them out of their skin or risk serving as an incubator for tick eggs - usually with fatal results.

The strength of the novel lies in the characterizations and in the overlaying ideas of the adventure-seekers. Each member of the expedition has interesting reasons for venturing beyond the salt line. In particular the relationship between Marta and Wes was very much a favourite. Edie and Violet were two other beloved characters. I also thought the ticks and their impact on society were well through out and portrayed.

The main problem I had with the book was with the politics of the outer-zone survivors who take the adventurers hostage. Once the hostages reach the village and are trapped, the books plot went downhill for me. The outcomes were a little predicable and the politics were rather simplistic. The pacing slowed down. I continued to read because of the characters but was overall unsatisfied with the ending. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the read. I just didn't think it was amazing. But the characters and ideas are worth reading this novel and who know ye may love it more than I did.

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Juli.
1,879 reviews473 followers
September 2, 2017
In this dystopian tale, residents of the United States live in regional zones protected by a wall that is surrounded by more than 4 miles of chemically burnt landscape, debris, and garbage. The wall is known as the Salt Line, referring to native folklore about punishment for disrespecting the land. The Salt Line protects those who live within the zones from miner ticks, ticks that can burrow inside people causing extreme pain, disease, and death.

As with most death defying acts, there are adrenaline junkies willing to pay lots of money for the chance to risk their lives. An adventure company, Outer Limits Excursion, will take groups outside the Salt Line to see what's left of the old cities, forests and beauty beyond the wall. Of course, it costs an exorbitant amount of money for those weeks of training, three weeks beyond the safety wall and two weeks in quarantine. The latest trip has pulled together a strange mix of people -- a famous musician and his girlfriend, a rich financial tech wizard, bored businessmen, and even the wife of a gangster. Little do they know that this excursion is going to go wickedly wrong.....

I enjoyed this book. It starts out a little bit slow because of character development, but that development time is vital to the story later. It sets the reasons why the characters react the way they do as the trip goes fundamentally wrong quickly. I'm not going to say much more about the plot, or why things go wrong because well....spoilers....readers will have to have their own Holy Crap moment just like I did. I said those two words multiple times while reading this book.

I do think I was bashed in the head a bit too much with the respect nature/revenge of the planet theme. It wasn't turned up to 11-M.NightShamalan level, but got a bit tiresome. The suspense of wondering whether any of this group of rich, spoiled thrill seekers would survive saved the story for me...I was more interested in that than the constant angry-nature-in-your-face theme.

All in all, a nice thrill. I'd definitely read more by this author.

**I was provided an advanced readers copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Profile Image for Viv JM.
692 reviews153 followers
January 11, 2018
I thought The Salt Line was an excellent and fast paced post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller. The characters were well written and 3 dimensional with very few obvious good guys/bad guys. There were plenty of twists and turns and unexpected events to keep me reading. I did find the ending a little unresolved, like maybe a sequel would be in order.

I listened to the audibook version narrated by Hillary Huber who I thought did an excellent job of the narration.
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews535 followers
October 7, 2017
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2017/1...

4.5/5 stars

I’ll cut straight to it: The Salt Line is one of my favorites for the year. The entire concept of killer ticks sounds like it could be campy or over the top. That is not at all the case. The ticks are described in such a realistic and terrifying way that it truly becomes plausible. Or at least feels plausible. The author is able to use enough facts grounded in science to create this terrifying epidemic. This book did remind me a bit of Joe Hill’s The Fireman in that way. It depicts a world that has been ravaged by some disease, where people’s ways of life are altered because of them. I suppose there are a number of books that could fit this, but the over all tone and presentation and just the quality of writing put me in mind of Hill. That is a huge compliment from me as Hill is one of my favorite, must read authors.

Honestly, there is not much that I did not love about this book. This is a book that you can read at surface value for the compelling story and intriguing characters, both of which are well developed. But you can also delve a bit deeper and see some scary parallels with our current world as well as our history.

There are city or areas here that are protected by what they call the salt lines. They are contained communities where its residents are safe from the ticks. The walls and patrols that surround them keep them safe. But for those that are not fortunate enough to live in zone, those same protections for some, keep others out.

But, you know there will always be some people that crave adventure, risk takers that are willing to chance leaving the protections that shelter them from the risk of ticks. A tour company caters to that and promises to provide that a breathtaking experience out of zone, where people can enjoy the nature they’ve only seen in pictures, and bonus, they have the ability to do so and protect their tourists from the ticks. But this adventure comes with quite a hefty price tag, so its luxury for the rich.

Edie is the one person on this trip that if not wealthy. She is the girlfriend of a mega pop-star. She is poor, and grieving, not a likely fit for this trip, but she is very relatable and her personality and and just goodness make her very likable. The range of other guests varies. There are scientists, a tech innovator, etc. We do get the POV of a few of these other guests, which I feel helped to flesh out the characters and also give them more background. I felt the characters were well done. Often in a book like this, multiple POVs can actually detract from the main story by not allowing the reader to focus in and “get to know” any of the characters well enough. But in this case, it worked well. Edie still felt like the star of the show for me, but I also came to really understand and enjoy a couple of the other characters as well, something that would not have happened if I had not had their perspectives.

Once out past the walls, things do not go as planned, and the tourists get a more frightening experience of life outside of the walls than they anticipated. How they deal with this and try to survive, as well as what we learn in the process is as exciting as it is frightening.

So, if you are craving a slightly disturbing view of future earth with life threatened by something as small and common place as a tick, with some adventure, thrills and terrors along the way, I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for MissBecka Gee.
1,492 reviews596 followers
January 16, 2021
Killer ticks drive society into hiding. Really? That's your plot? Can this actually be any good?
The answer to that my friends is... FUCK YA IT CAN!!!

I started reading this book and a little more than a 100 pages deep I had to stop. The book became all consuming for me to the point where adulting in general seemed like menial tasks meant to derail my reading with no other real goals or benefits. Do I really need a job anyway?
Apparently I do. Soooooooooo.....
I decided to put it on hold till things at work simmered down and I had a few days off to dig into this one properly. I started over and read from the beginning.

Humor? Check
Awesome Characters? Check
Neato Landscape Descriptions? Check
Bad Guys? Check
Twists and Turns? Check
Emotionally Sucked in? Check

This book had everything. It had been sitting on my shelf unread for weeks and now I'm angry I waited so long to crack the spine and get this roller coaster of awesome started.

It did come to a "close" with many unanswered questions.
I reeeeeeeallly hope this is the start of a series, otherwise I will be hella cranky about the way this ended. There is definitely room for more books and if they are as well written as this one...
*********** ARC FROM GIVEAWAY ***********
Profile Image for Karen’s Library.
1,063 reviews164 followers
September 20, 2020
4.5 stars rounded up. Every once in a while you find that one book that is so unique and surprising and you get a massive book hangover. The Salt Line was that book for me. It’s being compared to Station Eleven.

Marta, the wife of a crime boss; Wes, the super rich techie; and Edie, girlfriend to a pop star, all have their reasons for crossing the salt line, a wall surrounding their safe zone from the deadly monsters - Ticks. Yup, ticks...! This world of the possible near future is infested with deadly disease carrying ticks.

The part of this world that I found crazy is that people are stuck in their cities; their safe zones. You can’t just take a drive to the countryside to see the leaves change or experience nature in any way.

Those few who are rich enough and want to put their lives in danger can pay for an excursion to the wilderness, but they will most likely also experience several ticks. As long as your buddy gets to the tick quickly, within seconds, you’ll be ok, and you’ll have a nice nasty scar to take home as a souvenir of your trip. But if your buddy is lame, and can’t burn the tick out in time, you could be dead within a couple of days.

I really thought I’d have nightmares reading about the ticks. Surprisingly I didn’t. Where I live we have the occasional scorpion. I guess this premise was like having scorpions by the truckload. A few a day rather than one every few months. I’d have to move. So I guess I can understand how the government would close the borders and build walls to keep everyone safe.

I really thought this storyline would be about fighting the ticks. So imagine my surprise when an event turned this story upside down. I was blown away and needed to get back to my book every chance I could to find out what was going to happen next.

I really enjoyed this and became quite attached to Marta, Wes, and Edie.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
September 13, 2017
3 ½ stars

Well now this was a nice surprise.

When you find a book that perfectly matches what you were in the mood for it feels like a lucky strike.

The book description may make you think that there will be a lot of run-chase scenarios (as with most books in this genre) but there was very little scary tick action but rather the construction of characters with strong enough back stories to make them feel real.

We have a waitress, a semi-famous popstar, a seemingly innocent housewife, a tech-savant only to mention a few.

The story starts with the first briefing session of a group of adventure seekers who has paid through the nose for the “privilege” to tour the out of zone area. Those areas are past the salt line where there is no control or protection against the ticks. But the appeal of these eco-adventures is to experience nature as it was supposed to and by default to also expose themselves to the ticks…. But that’s part of the thrill.

The story focuses less on the obvious hook – the ticks – and more on the people dynamics when put under massive stress. I was toggling back and forth between 3 and 4 stars the whole time I was reading this. I love the premise, liked the characters and the unexpected twists in the story.

It was a fun reading experience and one I can recommend if you want to read a post-apocalyptic story that does not follow the normal recipe of books in this genre.

Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,041 followers
June 11, 2017
3.5 stars. The book you start definitely isn't the one you finish. I hesitate to say much about the plot at all, I hesitate even to say there are plot twists because not expecting them is part of the pleasure. But I definitely want to bring THE SALT LINE to the attention of lovers of speculative fiction. It walks a nice line between character development and plot plot plot plot plot, and feels like a version of the future I haven't seen before.

Occasionally the writing wasn't clear, instead of "Are they doing what I think they're doing?" it was often "I can't actually tell what they're doing." Also hoped for more of a slam dunk of an ending, but it's still a solid final act.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 18 books1,279 followers
September 24, 2019
I read a whole lot of post-apocalyptic thrillers in my life, so believe me when I say that it takes quite a bit from one to impress me anymore, like was the case with Holly Goddard Jones' The Salt Line. In this case, what made me like it so much wasn't really a matter of some magical alchemy, but rather a series of very sensible, workmanlike decisions about story construction, starting with extremely rich world-building; we're looking at an America that an entire century ago went through its apocalyptic moment, when a new breed of tick developed that burrows under human skin in order to lay eggs and hatch its (literally) explosive young, and then as a horrible side effect just happens to transmit a virus during the process that makes a person's internal organs turn to goo 24 hours after contracting it. Our story takes place an entire hundred years later, when the former US has been reorganized into relative stable regional walled enclaves that for the most part keep the ticks out; we follow some of the citizens of the Eastern Seaboard enclave, run as a fake democracy by an elite of far-right Christian-Empire Trumpians, as they leave for an "adventure vacation" into the uncontrolled, tick-infested Smoky Mountains.

What truly makes this an engaging book, though, is that all that world-building serves only as the first-act setup, with us getting the sense early in that not all is what it appears at first to seem, then with the story taking an unexpected left turn in act two that raises the stakes dramatically. At this point we as readers don't know what's going to happen next, which is so much nicer than the usual post-apocalyptic story that takes place immediately after the apocalypse itself, and which typically follows the well-known tropes of that genre so closely that we can easily guess every beat from there to the end of the story. Jones then adds complex, believable characterization to what is often in this genre a bunch of throwaway characters; allows all of them to behave in the normal, smart ways we would expect real humans to react in that situation, thus avoiding the lazy construction of conflict through stupid behavior that usually marks this genre; and conveys it all in a tight, sober, mature prose style, a mark of Jones coming from a literary background and only then turning to genre fiction, instead of the other way around. All in all, a fascinating and intense three-day read, although those who get squeamish easily would be wise to stay away altogether from this virtual definition of "body horror." For those who love The Walking Dead but wish there was more shadowy political conspiracy behind the rise of the zombies, this is exactly the book for you.
Profile Image for Stacey Camp.
Author 5 books59 followers
August 22, 2017
**5++ Goodreads Stars**

Readers are thrust into a dystopian world divided by disease, borders, and fear in Holly Goddard Jones' masterfully written The Salt Line. In the not too distant future, the world has been infested with ticks. The majority of these ticks cause Shreve's disease, which kills those it infects. In response, the entire world has been cordoned off into quarantined enclosed zones. Those quarantined, also known as "Zoners," have been told that the exterior world was obliterated, destroyed via massive fires designed to burn landscapes clean of ticks.

Despite the danger that the exterior world (out of zone) poses, it has become a tourist attraction full of abandoned towns and historical sites that capture how humanity once lived. Outer Limits Excursions (OLE) provides an outlet for this adventure or "dark" tourism, catering to the uber elite who have the pockets to bankroll such trips. The first portion of the book sketches out a group of characters who have decided to take such a trip. It explores the motivations leading these well-off tourists to take fate into their own hands and risk their lives for a glimpse into what once was.

There's Edie, who is whisked away from her life as a poor waitress by Jesse, a mega pop star who charms her. There's Wes, one of the Zones' wealthiest men alive due to his tech savvy and entrepreneurial prowess despite his youth. There's Marta, who is the wife of a mob boss, and who cares more about her sons than anything else in her life. There's Andy, who leads the tour group for OLE despite his shady past.

I often have a hard time following a book with so many characters, especially if the author neglects to flesh them out and make them seem human. This was definitely not the case with The Salt Line. I was rooting for each character despite their flaws and sometimes nefarious intentions. The author makes you care about each character by telling their back stories and how those shape their actions and beliefs. The author avoids stereotypes and generalizations; she really wants to you to empathize with each of the characters, to truly understand why and how they act the way they do.

This was a fantastic read, one that I hope ends up on the big screen in the near future. It was brilliantly written and I could not put it down. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy dystopian thrillers and sci-fi. I really hope she writes a sequel to this because I will be first in line to grab it!

Thank you to Penguin Random House's First to Read program for an advanced ready copy of this book.
Profile Image for Theresa.
316 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2018
I'm giving this book 4 stars and although that's a pretty good rating I'm so disappointed and sad I can't give it 5 stars.

Here's why--


This could so easily have been an absolutely great book. I'm so disappointed that my enjoyment was hurt because of some glaring inconsistencies. Honestly, I cannot understand how these things slip through the cracks. Does nobody really proofread a manuscript nowadays? How is it possible an author cannot remember their own story enough to not make obvious mistakes? Admittedly, I'm not the most careful reader but still these instances of poor consistency were too great to pass by.

I'm going to share two things --- neither can be considered story spoilers but be warned if you're the type who wants to know NOTHING before reading.

Before leaving on the expedition all of the members were required to shave their heads. Later (and it was only days) someone outside the group referred to one of the members as "the one with long blonde hair" Umm-- wait -- not possible!! Hair doesn't grow that fast!!


There was speculation by expedition members early in the adventure about whether two members of the group were husband and wife. Later during a conversation amongst the group it was "revealed" that they were in fact brother and sister as well as famous in their respective scientific fields. So then imagine my surprise when later in the story the male makes a comment about his wife and is speaking about the female present. I was so confused. And to make matters worse I kept waiting for an explanation and thought perhaps it was part of the story and its importance and significance would be part of the larger picture. But no-- it was merely poor editing and storytelling.

Even with these irritating flaws I really liked this book! I'm still giving it four stars. It would have been an easy five star read if not for these and other stupid mistakes.

4*/ 3.59
Profile Image for Annie Slasher (Booked & Loaded).
258 reviews17 followers
September 19, 2017
This is an original review from Booked & Loaded (Original rating 1.5 stars)

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones is a dystopian thriller – with mutant ticks. I picked up this books based on this tag line: “Jones brings strong diverse female protagonists who dominate the plot line, controlling their own stories instead of furthering those of male leads.” This is where a lot of my confusion and frustration is based.

There is honestly NO good way to write this review without it being 100% spoiler free. You have been warned rage ahead..

I will agree that some of the protagonists are female and possibly diverse, but that could easily be debated. There were certainly two fractions of humans in general and there were other nationalities, but I am not sure you really get a “diversity” pass for that. Making all people (or two groups) the same without the cultural differences, is really just talking about diversity in class and nothing else. (Like..you know CULTURES). So, it was diverse in classes and not everyone was white. M’kay, lets move on, “controlling their own stories instead of furthering those of male leads.” Yay! This happens so much in literature and I was excited to read a book that contained women controlling their fate and making shit happen, only it didn’t. Every event or movement contained in this story was male related. A cure – a male. Safety – dude has it. A magical way out – A DUDES MONEY. I wanted to scream and parts of me died a little at some of the twists that literally revolved around a man and his money.

Another thing that drew me to this title in the blurb is the fact that abortion is illegal. The Salt Line takes it a little further by glimpsing into our past and making it a whole “red letter” event with shaming for loose women. M’kay, well lets see what shit the world goes to…only it doesn’t. It was like the author started to build a world where that mattered and then forgot about making a point. Maybe I could forget the issue, but she takes it a step further by explaining why women are changed on a DNA level when they are baking a baby in their womb and that is why secretly ALL women change when they have babies. It makes us into maternal machines of one-mindedness. So, I can’t figure out what the author was trying to achieve here. My gut says that she, herself, is internally conflicted about this subject. Making the pieces of the story revolving around these issues uncomfortable to read.

Holly Goddard Jones’ writing was of median quality. Sometimes the story-line lagged and lacked finesse in filling in the character’s motivation. I kind of broke my rule and peaked at some reviews. Many of them contained references to how the author nailed the Trump Wall issue, only I call BS. I know how publishing works. It takes time to write a book and time to release the book. I also read the authors bio. I can deduce that 2 years has went by since she started writing this book…2 years ago we had not even HEARD a whisper of a wall. So, I don’t buy that the salt line and wall in this book is supposed to represent the theoretical Wall. I can do math.

In all, The Salt Line was disappointing. The premise of mutant ticks and resulting isolation of society didn’t manifest on the pages enough to crawl out of the shadow of the things I didn’t like. I give The Salt Line 1 1/2 bullets..which I don’t actually have a graphic for.
Profile Image for Vicki.
677 reviews16 followers
August 18, 2017
Pretty solid world building of a dystopian world that has been overrun by incredibly damaging ticks. A few things are a little odd:the chapters jump around a little unevenly between characters. You're always glad for the information, but one strange side effect of this is that you don't really know whom to root for. But then I got to thinking: that's a pretty unusual strategy. It didn't bother me, necessarily, but it IS a little weird. (2.5 stars. Come on, good reads. Just do half stars already.)
Profile Image for Kaora.
568 reviews281 followers
May 10, 2019
I picked this up because it was compared to a novel I enjoyed - Station Eleven. Other than that I wasn't totally sure what to expect going in.

Then novel started out okay. It kept my attention although the backstory of some of the characters didn't really matter to me. Normally it should be used to get to know the characters, but I found it made me dislike them, and I never really recovered from that. In a book with a great number of characters I didn't find a single one I cared about.

Mostly because none of them cared about anything other than themselves. One woman cared about her children but that was about it. Everyone else was in it for me and me alone.

I get that in a Dystopian type setting some people will give in to the dark side, but I like to believe some will still be good people.

But my biggest annoyance was the ending. It touched on things that could have been expanded upon and then ended up leaving them unresolved. Then the end drew parallels between current events but then dipped away again so I'm not really sure what all the point was if there was one. You have no idea what the fates of any of the characters are except for one and it happened to be one I liked probably the least.

I just wanted a bit more resolution.

That being said I did still give it 3 stars. I felt the author did a great job of the setting. It isn't a typical dystopian novel. There are no zombies or aliens. The end of it all comes from the tiniest organism. I did enjoy her fresh take on it. It was also reasonably well paced, and had a ton of great ideas. I just feel that maybe she set too much into motion to wrap up in the amount of pages she had.
Profile Image for Mitch Karunaratne.
366 reviews33 followers
September 4, 2018
The premise of this was so interesting - a near future world where people live behind the Salt Line - for fear of being infected by a deadly insect. Beyond the line is nature - vast sky, mountains, the opportunity to hike, camp, be back in tune with the earth. Tours of this "wilderness" take place for the very rich. I love the idea of people needing, so much, to be back in the wilds that they will pay and risk everything. However - the story never really materialised. There are lots of flashbacks to go deeper into each characters motivations. but this really effects the pace and thread of the story being told. There's a array of characters - none really to champion or deeply care for. So whilst I loved the idea - I didn't become invested in how it played out.
Profile Image for Wendy Bunnell.
1,260 reviews31 followers
October 7, 2017
Who doesn't love a unique dystopia? Killer ticks have ravaged the world, and people are living in enclaves walled off by physical and chemical barriers to keep out the pesky ticks. So, as people do, some well-off folks have signed up for an "outside the salt wall" adventure tour. Get back to nature, and fight off the pesky ticks with protective gear and a nasty "stamp" device that if applied within seconds off a tick bite will deliver a nasty burn that prevents further damage. Burn the ticks out with a nasty device - oh yes, let's go camping.

The first third of this book sticks with this premise and follows the three week training process for the adventure campers. We learn backstory of some of the characters, but not all of them. There are probably too many characters to all get in-depth backstories or even descriptions, but those folks had "Redshirt" written all over them.

Then cool twists start happening, and the plot picks up. This novel is actually more character driven that plot driven, and I liked that. Let's just say that there is more than just ticks and wildlife out beyond the walls, despite what you hear in the media back in "society." The plot is interesting, but the ending was not really that awesome. Oh well.

Most of these backstories are pretty well done and explain the characters and their motivations. One rather head-scratching one though is Andy the tour guide. His backstory seems more plot-driven and "reactive" than like an actual character, and that was just weird. I never got a decent idea of who Andy was as his different aspects of backstory kept throwing us convenient curve balls. Maybe that was just a me issue.

Octavia Butler said that everyone's uptopia is someone else's dystopia. I don't want to give spoilers, but that thought stuck with me when we meet some of the characters who aren't in the first third of the book. Spoiler

I would definitely read more from this author.
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