The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

The Salt Line

Holly Goddard Jones

"With this intense, arrestingly vivid fever dream, Holly Goddard Jones fully realizes a completely original and wholly terrifying dystopian nightmare." -- Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn

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"Great, near-future sci-fi...A propulsive, character-driven thriller...I really love this book."—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble and Magic for Beginners 

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.

Advance Galley Reviews

Great dystopian book! I look forward to reading more from this author.

I just couldn't get into this book. When I read the description - it drew me in and I wanted to read it, but I just couldn't get into it and it ended up expiring before I could get to even half. I just found it really boring. I just checked out the book from the library on audio to give it another go, but half way through and I'm just not clicking with any of the characters and not liking it. I like the idea - just not the book for me.

What an amazing spin on a dystopian world ravished by biological dangers. One of the best aspects of this book for me was that the threat came from ticks yet even though deadly disease passed on by ticks as vectors is spreading the most dangerous thing is still power hungry humans. Power and politics outweighs humanity. Humans who are unwilling to give up control or materialistic ideals to help others is the drive behind the plot. In a ravished world the one percent still rule and gangster like people and corrupt corporations still dictate. The life of the people depends entirely on which side of the Salt line you live on. People in charge want to profit on the pain suffering and death of others. It says a lot that there is this ideal society set up behind the salt line with all sorts of comforts while others find a way to still survive and even thrive outside with the threat because they have to. I enjoyed this book because it is a great statement on the privileged verses the poor, as well as greed, empathy, humanity and what desperate people are willing to do to survive. The characters are unique and the plot intriguing. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels, science fiction, and post apocalyptic worlds, or for that matter anyone who likes a witty spin on issues we are dealing with even today.

Fun, but a little predictable. Easy to follow and didn't hang too long on trying to answer the questions about how the world got to this point that can sometimes drag stories down.

This was a very good book, however I do have some hang ups with it. The story jumped around quite a bit and it was hard to keep track of who was who and what was all going on. Overall the story was wonderful and captivating and I found myself falling in love with the characters and their flaws.

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones was a really interesting post-apocalyptic novel that turned out to be completely different than I thought it would be. Set in what used to be North Carolina, a group of people have joined an adrenaline-filled adventure group to go outside the zone into the abandoned, tick-infested towns and forests of long ago. The group is also caught up in a hostage plot run by an out-of-zone group that has developed a cure from the ticks. With a lot of gross terror, well-developed characters and the different worlds on both sides of the wall, The Salt Line will draw you in to a scary, possible future.

No matter what this book might turn into, I just cannot get past the initial chapters and all the talk of murderous ticks! It's a personal phobia of mine getting in the way of being able to see what else might begin to develop in the book

It took me a while to get through this book. The story was intriguing, but I didn't really care about any of the characters. I felt like the tick were an interesting story that got pushed aside for a less interesting kidnapping story. The ending was abrupt. It could have been much better.

This was really interesting. Living in the eastern US, I found the idea of a scourge of ticks changing people's lives easy to relate to. I found the story intriguing, I just wish it had answered a few more questions. There were many subplots hinted at that were never either revealed or resolved. Probably the most unsatisfactory unanswered question is about the rest of the country. It mentions other zones, but without making it clear if they are living the same dystopia, or if they had found a completely different solution to the problem. If you are not going to answer that question, then why even bring up the existence of the other zones? All in all, an interesting story, but not as fulfilling as I would have liked.

I really wanted to like this novel but I found I couldn't get into it at all, and I had to add it to my DNF pile. While the story seemed interesting in its premise, I just couldn't get interested enough to pursue this novel. The pacing was quite slow and that made it a bit harder for me to read because I really wanted to get to the good bits as fast as possible. I also didn't feel any real connection with any of the characters; they just didn't have enough for me to feel that emotional tug. I don't really want to write too much on this review since I haven't fully read the novel and others who have finished it would have a better idea on it, but for me, this novel gets a 2/5 stars.

This is a really imaginative and well-written post-apocalyptic drama, told mostly from the points of view of a tech entrepreneur, a mob wife, and a douchey pop star's long-suffering girlfriend. They and several other people sign up for an "out of zone" trip where they will be vulnerable to killer ticks, but everything goes sideways when an outer zone faction decide to use the VIPs in the group as leverage. Overall I really enjoyed this. The world-building is fleshed out in vivid and believable ways - it takes place in the near future, and the advances in technology all seem like logical progressions from where we are now, as do the environmental disasters and genetic mutations in wildlife. I also liked the shifts in perspective - Wes, Edie, and Marta each bring something different to the narrative, and their voices are distinct without becoming caricatures. The second half of the book is less successful for me than the first - the folksy camp at Ruby City and its fearless middle-aged lady leader felt romanticized, as if the author is for the first time telling us what to think about a character or setting, rather than developing it and letting us figure out how to feel about it. I also don't love the way Edie and Wes's relationship develops - it's very much the "nice guy finally makes good" trope, and that would bother me less if Edie wasn't basically defined by how pretty she is. In a book where most of the characters are so well-rounded, it was jarring for every character to keep harping on how beautiful Edie is and for Edie herself to compare her looks to the other women's. But these were minor quibbles - overall this really worked for me.

It moves slowly but kept me intrigued to the end. I would have liked to know more about how the world got into the situation depicted.

The salt line is an dystopian novel. I haven't read any dystopian novels before but this book was really good. This novel is an post apocalyptic story about a group of wealthy people going on an expedition beyond the salt line ( a wall) which can be very dangerous since there's so many different things that can happen beyond the salt line like diseases fevers and killing eating bugs. At first it was hard for me to keep up with all the characters because there's many points of view in this book but once I've gotten all the characters and world building down I was really enjoying it after that. I like the authors writing it was very descriptive and I like how she made this world realistic. I really liked it and it was something different for me.

I received an advanced copy of this book in electronic format from in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted to This book intrigued me because it offered a post-apocalyptic story without zombies but with the obligatory “disease” that threatened mankind – Shreve’s disease caused by ticks. The US, however, built a wall to protect itself from the ticks (the so-called Salt Line). Life in-zone was good, if not without its sacrifices of everyday life as we know it now. Life outside the zones was primitive yet free with struggles like those of our ancestors – no power, no steady food supply, etc. But, one out-of-zone may have discovered a cure of sorts against the ticks. Bring in the politics…and the characters that will shape this new world: the billionaire founder of the new currency, the popular culture icon and his ordinary girlfriend, the wife of the uprising political figure, two rich lawyers, etc. as they embark on a trip outside the zone. They meet with a suppressed but ready to act society. This book comes together great although getting there was a bit slow for me. The build up to the ending was just as eventful but the ending itself left me wanting more.

I think this book had a great premise- rich people going into the wild to brave killer ticks- but it did not keep me captivated as I anticipated. I enjoyed what I was reading but I always found myself setting this book aside and not really caring whether I continued it or not. I did not engage with the characters as much and found myself wondering if this was really a worthwhile venture for them more than once. I think this book will be perfect for some readers, but it was not the best for me.

This really wasn't my type of book at all. I had a hard time reading it and had to make myself finish it. I think some people will really like it but it wasn't one of my favorites

What an interesting and disturbing book this is. It tells the story of a group of super wealthy people who join an adventure tour to experience life outside the safety of the Salt Line and get a lot more than they bargained for. First and foremost, I found the idea of deadly ticks pretty horrific and often found myself itching while reading those sections! What this book does really well is give us the story from several points of view, ensuring that everyone is portrayed as a human being with motivations of their own instead of good and bad guys. I found the character of Marta really interesting and loved her character arc. For me, I thought that too much time was spent on the political and conspiratorial aspects of the narrative - it was the world outside the zone that fascinated me and I felt that this world was never truly realised. I also thought that the ending was a bit anti-climactic. That aside, I think this is a really good book and will be interested to read more of the author's work in future. I received a free copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

For dystopian devotees this one meets the criteria for the genre but does NOT exceed it in any way. I wasn't blown over by the characters who were entirely uninteresting to me. It was slow moving and the themes were mildly challenging. I really don't love this genre and this book didn't help me find any reason to fall into love. Thanks for the early read though I had to force myself to finish...

I really wanted to love this book, because of killer ticks and people having to fight for survival. While the killer tick story was pretty fascinating, the survival aspect really dragged. Ruby City didn't make me feel that the group needed to fight for survival. It felt like a botched ransom kidnapping that really resulted in injury and death when they absolutely lost control of the situation. Almost like a regretful injury/death instead of intentional. Following so many people's perspectives also didn't allow you to care about anyone in particular. Overall, it was an okay book with unfulfilled potential.

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones was a good read in the dystopian genre. However, for me it never did anything to distinguish itself from the many other books I have read in this genre. While the writing was good, the characters never really clicked for me. This is especially true for the relationships between the characters. Unfortunately, much of the story revolved around relationships and when they never really came alive for me or I didn't buy into the motivations and they fell flat, the whole book fell flat for me. Overall, The Salt Line was good but not a stand out and I would recommend this to readers who like dystopian fiction but point to others for people looking for an introduction to the genre.

This was a fun post apocalyptic adventure. I liked that the society behind the salt lines walked the fine line between being a utopian society but also a limited dystopian. I was pleasantly surprised by the searing and satirical commentary on the flaws of capitalism and how corruption and greed still pull the strings in humanity, even after the world was supposed to have ended. Life carries on and so does empty materialism and consumer culture. I will admit that it is pretty slow, the first roughly 30% of the novel is spent on introducing and getting into the heads of the three main characters, so it takes quite a bit of time for the story to really get rolling. Once it does though it's interesting and refreshing.

I’m a sucker for dystopian stories and this one did not disappoint. There weren’t so many characters to where I needed to take notes, but enough to keep the story interesting. I’m hoping that this is a series because I would like to know more about what happens afterward.

In this new reality of a world where a tick infestation has caused the decimation of the population, a new order has arisen. The country is divided into zones and only the very rich can afford any luxury items. One type is an adventure trip into the area beyond the containment wall. As the story begins a privileged group is now embarking on such a trip. Slowly backgrounds of these people are revealed and interconnections become apparent. All the while a sense of unease increases and unexpected twists and turns put this group in peril. A great dystopian read that moves along at a fast pace. Thank you First-to-Read for this free e-copy of "The Salt Line".

I got about 100 pages in and just decided this one wasn’t for me. Thank you for the chance to read it

I'm in the middle when it comes to this book. Im glad I was able to read it before it's release. It was a fantastic read I just wish we were able to dive in a little deeper into a couple characters stories. I do like how we do have a possibility of another book, with the ending because I personally would love to know how June survives on the other side of the wall now and how the others are doing on the outside.

With her tale of adventure travels who quest beyond the Salt Line, Jones has crafted a work of dystopian fiction that, at its heart, is about humanity. Set against a world where the U.S. is reorganized into safe zones and a dangerous wild beyond, the characters in "The Salt Line" struggle for the most primal of human needs--belonging, friendship, family, power and survival. The landscape Jones has created, with its deadly ticks and unusual survival mechanisms, is so like our own in so many ways it's easy to relate. Every time I was sure I thought I knew where "The Salt Line" was going, it took an unexpected, but not unexplainable, twist. I hope Jones has more of this story to tell.

This story was good but not great. I wanted to know what happened to them but I wasn't invested in any particular outcome. It didn't grab me the way I had hoped it would.

The book was ok but not great. More for a summer beach read than anything meaty. I do think that the majority of characters were well developed.

I disagree with the synopsis on calling the excursion participants "adrenaline junkies," since their decision to travel outside the safe zone is informed more by a plethora of personal secrets and hidden motivations than a true desire for adventure or thrill-seeking. However, I appreciated how the interpersonal tension was oftentimes more dangerous and unpredictable than the standard fear of ticks and diseases; it elevated this from a basic dystopia to have more of a thriller feel. The descriptions of ticks and their effects on the human body were grade-A disgusting, but thankfully they only came up a few times - strategically placed to keep the underlying fear alive, but not so overwhelming as to be gory. There's no hero in this book A few characters may seem more innocent at first pass, but in time it's revealed that everyone has brought some fault to the table. It might not be a volatile or unlikeable personality, though there are certainly a few of those; some are at fault for refusing to see the dark underbelly of their choices, for convincing themselves of their deniability when the twinge comes that something is amiss. The pervasive level of panic reminds me of diseases from the past couple of decades like SARS or swine flu, and it hits along the lines of modern-day pharmaceutical scandals by examining how people can be driven by greed to ignore the greater good.

I couldn't finish this book. It sounded very interesting but it was an incredibly slow read and the plot did not develop quickly enough to keep me engaged. I may come back to this later to read the last third. I found myself skimming the pages and not caring about the characters.

Overall, enjoyable though I found the ending pretty disappointing - felt like a scramble to end and then it wasn't fully finished, probably an open end to start a series. I liked how the author introduced how the world worked - gradually pulled through what had happened rather than a huge amount of telling all at once.

I was not sure what to expect from this story. What started out as a story about ticks in a section of the world by the salt line, ends up being more than just a story about ticks. I like that each character has a story that is told in detail with the reason for their decision to make this trip to the salt line. Great story!

I was a little apprehensive about the fact that the storyline involved deadly ticks because I hate ticks, but it wasn't difficult to get through. Which is a good thing because I really enjoyed this book! I loved the character building. I wanted to keep going and know what happened. I liked the fact that there was an epilogue, but I still want more! I'm attached now!

This was a really good suspenseful novel. It takes place in a future where the world has been changed by miner ticks that cause debilitating injuries and can infect people with the deadly Shreve's disease. A wall and the salt line have been built to protect the zones of what used to be the US. This is the story of a group of individuals who venture out on an outward bound like excursion beyond the zone that turns out drastically different from what they were anticipating. I really liked the characters - they were well developed and had distinct voices. The future portrayed in the zones was not all that unbelievable - everyone is glued to their tablet feeds, money has been replaced by credits and instead of banks there is now an app called Pocketz. I highly recommend this book.

A unique look at a different world. It slowly built up the characters and gave an insight into their history. Not what I expected when I started reading it.

Great character driven story. A unique look at a post-apocalyptic world in which society is once again segregated based on financial resources with an outside group looking to claim their piece of the pie in a way. Very entertaining read and I would certainly recommend it for any fan of dystopian fiction.

In future days when America is divided into walled enclaves, those inside the walls are addicted to tablets and enjoy a sheltered life, while those outside live in a world of deadly ticks. Between the two is the Salt Line, a burnt out wasteland and immense garbage dump. But some thrill seekers risk their lives to see the natural beauty on the other side of the walls. The novel follows a tour group of the rich and the famous going over the Salt Line. They think they are on a three week experience of sights few inside the walls ever see. Yes, there are those gruesome ticks and the horrible death they carry. Protective suits offer some comfort, and there are tools to kill the ticks through extraction and burning eggs out of the tissue, leaving circular battle scars. The tour group is taken hostage by an outer-zone insurgency group based in Ruby City, a functioning village populated mostly by people of Cherokee descent. The community is without fear of the ticks, thanks to The Salt. The hostages create alliances and discover what the out-zoners want from them. I was hooked by the time the tour group reached the Salt Line. I enjoyed the characters with their various backgrounds and relationships:a gangster businessman with political ambitions and his wife who will do anything for their sons, a scrappy nobody with a big heart, and a entrepreneur looking for meaning. Ruby City is peopled with characters who seem both admirable and well meaning, but are also willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves. There is a touch of mystery, intriguing motivations, and riveting action. And the whole issue of the Wall, who gets to be on the inside and who is left outside to fend for themselves in a lawless wilderness, can invite thoughtful consideration of the many walls being built today. The ending is a bit weak, but only because it is obviously a set-up for a second volume. I along with many others will look forward to following these characters on their journeys.

This book was intense. I couldn't put it down. I loved that I got to get inside every characters head and the intricacies of how their lives intertwined was amazing. The imagery that was written out before me had me itching at times, thinking I had a tick on me. Yikes! I thought this was just going to be a story about their excursion out into the wild and what they had to face, but it was so much more! There were twists at every turn and this novel kept me on my toes. I would definitely recommend it to a friend. I absolutely love dystopian books and The Salt Line did not disappoint! Very well written!

I only got a few chapters in on this book. What I read was really great but for some reason it started skipping ahead and I was missing chapters, so I returned it, would have loved to have finished it even though it wasn't my kind of book, I did enjoy what I read...

Wow...I didn't see that coming! Such a strange and grim world. I really enjoyed this one, and while I knew it would be dark, I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked it up. I think I enjoyed it all the more because I read it without any spoilers to worry about, and I loved being surprised by the new twists!

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It had a very unique premise and complex characters. After a slow build up of tension, most of the action occurs in the last third of the book. I would recommend reading this.

Decades ago, a particularly virulent tick invaded the United States causing a nation-wide epidemic that divided the Old Republic into factions deeper than the Civil War. Most of the survivors retreated behind quarantined barriers in several geographically defined Zones. Each of these zones devised some method of limiting tick infestations; some more successfully than others. The most secure and safe zone is the Atlantic Zone; rich in resources and power left over from the Old Republic – safe behind the “Salt Line” – a chemically burned area extending several kilometers beyond the guarded perimeter “Wall.” “A pregnant miner tick releases a numbing agent, which allows her to work without detection. By the time you feel the itching, [she] has settled in place, laid her eggs and died. In a matter of hours the ticks spread through the body, mature and erupt through the skin creating an unbearable itch. The bites can be survived but 45% of female miner ticks carry Shreve’s disease that spreads rapidly, causes total paralysis and death in a matter of days.” – OLE Training Course The pervasive miner ticks are bit players here. Their lethal presence a source of existential anxiety. They are pawns in a much greater threat – domination and greed by the seedier side of human nature. Four years ago, a private enterprise, Outer Limits Excursions (OLE), began offering expensive three-week guided trips into the Out-Of-Zone. Some of their clients are enticed by stories of the purple mountains majesty and the abandoned history and culture of the past. Others are seeking the nefarious pleasures unobtainable in the highly regulated Atlantic zone but provided by the Out-Of-Zoners – free spirits choosing to live free of rules and regulations and chancing Shreve’s in the castoff world. For personal safety, OLE excursions require each client to undergo a regimented three-week training program in survival skills. When ready, they will leave the Zone in a protective SecondSkin microsuit, -given a “Stamp”, an intense burner much like an old fashioned car cigarette lighter used to fry embedded ticks – and assigned a partner who must stay as close as a conjoined twin. It’s September and the OLE brochure promises a once-in-a-lifetime view of the mountains in colorful foliage and visits to the remnants of the Old Republic way of life. The training is over – the van has pulled away from the Salt Line – the emptiness- the vast isolation ahead overwhelms them. Among the 12 clients are a popular jazz musician and his girlfriend, a young techno entrepreneur, and a middle-aged housewife; each with a hidden agenda and a specific purpose for being there other than viewing the scenery. At this point background stories of key characters have been defined. The clients have been together for three weeks and have established friendships – or at least allies – and enemies among themselves. A couple of days into the adventure the startled passengers are kidnapped at gunpoint by their guide and force marched to a rustic commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains known as Ruby City. What looked like a three-week sightseeing tour now has turned violent – one of the passengers was shot – two have had been bitten by miner tics – and the future of the remaining passengers looks ominous. "June proceeded to shake the hand of each of her captives. . . When Marta’s turn came . . . [June] fixed her hazel eyes on Marta’s demanding contact. ‘You look tired’, she said. ‘That trek is a bit much for women our age. I do apologize.’ ‘The trek was fine’, Marta managed to say. ‘The treatment we received wasn’t’ ‘I’m afraid that prisoners of war don’t often get the red carpet rolled out.’ ‘What war?’, Marta asked." Buckle up . . . things are about to take off. And no one is who they seem. And no one’s future is guaranteed. Advance reader copy provided by Netgalley and First-To- Reader in exchange for an honest review. Recommended

Carefully crafted dystopian tale, full of complex, often severely flawed characters. Just when you think you might be able to like one, they turn around and make you scream at their choices (whether misguided or deliberate). Thoroughly engaging, from beginning to end.

This novel is fantastic. The characters were very engaging and three dimensional. Their backstories did take quite awhile to get through so the story did seem rushed at the end or really really fast paced. Will definitely recommend to my reader friends who like dystopian novels.

Absolutely gripping and enthralling. There were several times when I sat down just to read for a few minutes and only looked up half an hour later when the perspective switched. Though it is thrilling, the pacing is a bit uneven. The first third of the book is basically the back story of the various characters, so it does feel like a lot of the action occurred in the last third of the book. Definitely thought provoking, and days later I'm still thinking about certain plot twists. I look forward to more books by this author!

I enjoyed this book and had already recommended it to several people before I even finished reading it, thank you First to Read for the early copy. In a world over run with a deadly tick infestation, society now lives safe behind the Wall and the salt line, North America divided into zones to keep the people safe. If you have the funds and the desire to live dangerously you can travel outside the zone, exploring the tick infested nature areas outside the Wall. Outside the zone is not supposed to be a place where people live and thrive, it is supposed to be an area where people go to work to get the extra hazard pay to provide for their families, or where the adventurous/foolhardy go so they can say they been outside the Wall. The most recent group of foolhardy adventurers learn that there are thriving communities living outside the wall and they are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that their way of life survives. There is a lot of world building and character development in the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the book which made the ending seemed hurried, or the beginning kinda of cumbersome, I'm not sure which. The descriptive imagery was great, and my minds eye could see the scenes very clearly. For those who like dystopian fiction it's worth the read and I could totally see it being made into a film one day.

The Salt Line is a dystopian story about a time where people are pushed behind this scorched line dividing society from nature that's full of disease-ridden ticks. Wealthy people can take camping trips behind the line to experience the world in the way their ancestors did but with the understood risk they might be bitten by a tick that could lay eggs under their skin and possibly infect them with an incurable disease. The story of one expedition behind the line is told through several different rotating perspectives from the first day at the training center until the end of the trip from hell where all the campers are taken hostage. This is definitely a new take on the dystopian genre and I think the idea is sooo good. I love a book that shows different perspectives and shows you the reason for the different characters' actions. I loved getting to know everyone and I felt like I was on almost everyone's side a little bit. Even the side that typically would have been the bad guys had reasons that made you stop and think "Well, would I do the same thing in their situation?" The character development was amazing. There were major underlying messages throughout the story about using more than we need from what we've been given by the earth and possible scary consequences from that, however it didn't feel like it was being shoved in your face. I really loved how complex the story was and all the different moving parts that had to come together to understand the reason for being held hostage and how everyone was involved. My only issue with the book was that the different perspectives made the book feel pretty disjointed at times. Maybe there was too much irrelevant information being told in the back stories or maybe the different stories weren't meshed well enough. I kind of felt like I was starting a new book every time a new perspective was introduced. It took me longer than usual to finish reading because I just didn't feel like picking it back up and continuing after certain back stories were finished. I would recommend this to someone who enjoys dystopian or interesting adventure stories who isn't as bothered by a jagged plot line.

I'm still working my way through this book. Will submit a review as soon as I'm done. Liking it so far.

I can't review the whole book by the requested date, ask am still reading it. I love getting the back stories of the characters and am excited to see how they all interact on the journey. At the beginning it seems more about the characters than the world, but that is likely to change.

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.

“The burn was the first rite of passage.” Man! Strap in when you open this novel, because you are in for an intense ride! The Salt Line is everything a solid dystopian novel should be. We learn that the burn referred to in the first sentence, is the burn of a Stamp. A small device that kills the lethal female miner tick and any disease or eggs she has implanted in your body. Kills it, as long as it is administered in time. This is presented to us through a class, given by an outdoor extreme trainer, getting ready to take a small group of wealthy adventurers beyond the Wall and out of their safe zone. Exciting right? As the training unfolds, we get to know the characters and through them a picture of the society we are in begins to emerge. We know that what was once America is now divided into zones. Currently, we are in the Atlantic zone, one of the more stable and thriving zones. We learn that other zones are not faring as well. These zones were put into place after this miner tick and the outbreak of a deadly disease began to run rampant. “The thing was, you hoped like hell to be in a zone as clean and safe as Atlantic, and if by birth or luck or talent you got in one, you stayed put — because the rules kept changing, the quarantines and security measures kept getting revised.” There is an art when writing dystopian, to drawing your reader into the new world while also giving them some idea of why it emerged. Sometimes books can get too bogged down in the history, making them feel clunky and bloated. And other times, we don’t get enough of a sense of the past to make sense of the future. This novel; however, gets that balance absolutely right. Jones gives us the history of the society while also introducing us to each character. And some pieces of information are done within dialogue, so the effect is so subtle, I found myself flipping back to make sure I didn’t miss these details. While I can appreciate that perhaps this isn’t a style some readers enjoy, for me, it added a rich texture that made the novel completely suck me in. Each character was able to add context through their own experiences, and so Jones was able to really provide a lot of depth to not just their individual past, but the overall zones as well. The other thing I loved about this novel is that there are so many strong women! Evie and Marta are the first main characters we meet, and though they are presented as a rockstar’s girlfriend and a mobster’s housewife, their strength and vibrancy go far beyond their societal descriptions. We also meet Wes, a young CEO, arguably the wealthiest and most influential man in the Atlantic zone. He seems to be at odds with himself to participate in this excursion, and yet is driven to succeed. It is through their eyes that we see the training and the initial moments of the excursion unfold. This isn’t simply a dystopian where a group of adventurers has to survive the harsh wild. It isn’t a typical things go wrong and they have to make it through. Even though they deliberately set out beyond the Wall to attempt to survive a three week adventure, the things that go wrong are all provoked and planned by humans. The group is taken hostage by a group of people who have been waiting for a group like this to fall into their hands for a long time. The political undertones written in the plot are very smart, and add a touch of realism. It is easy to imagine a group of people operating like this, both in zone and out. And as each hostage faces shifting alliances and new information, they have to decide which truth they believe, if any. “There’s this assumption that most people, if you strip society and its laws away, are capable of evil.” If I had a complaint, it would be in June, leader of Ruby City. I wish I had gotten to see a little more of her and what she was capable of. We saw glimpses, but never the in depth reveal that would have made her character more satisfying. She was a complicated character, impossible to tell if she was a victim of circumstance caught up in a game she lost control of, or a very tightly controlled manipulator who knew exactly what she was doing. I have my opinions, but they are built on shaky ground, and I would have really loved to have been given more in either direction. In all, there is so much to like about The Salt Line. In all directions, there is danger lurking. You get the sense that there is more to the story in any direction you look. And, for a dystopian, thats exactly how you should feel. Uneasy. A society that has changed for logical reasons into something illogical. And we get that here. Beyond Marta and Evie, we get June and Violet, all strong female characters that are so varied in not only age, gender and race, but in personality and motives as well. We are given things to like and things to dislike in each of them, but they are true to themselves throughout it all. And yet, it isn’t a book that forgets the men. We get to know Wes, and Andy, their guide and betrayer. They are just as flawed and varied and diverse as the women. In all, each character, no matter how large or small their role, is balanced and real. I don’t know if there is a sequel to this book. The ending was satisfying as a stand alone, but could lead to future books. I would really enjoy more from these characters and this society. In fact, I will be reading previous books from this author, I enjoyed her writing so much. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dystopian fiction. There is intensity and mystery and suspense, and refreshingly, no romance or other silly distractions to take away from the heart of the plot. Very enjoyable. The Salt Line goes on sale TOMORROW!!! Don’t miss it! Thank you to Penguin Random House and Putnam Books for approving me through the First To Read program in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

I'm not generally a big reader of dystopian novels - they are often just the same story, rehashed yet again - but this one sucked me in! Set in a future in which parts of the US are walled off from each other to prevent killer tick infestations (!), a group of thrill-seekers heads off on an extreme camping trip that quickly leaves them in over their heads. Goddard-Jones gets credit for the unusual premise and the execution of it; she builds an elaborate world, weaving a complex, half-sci-fi-and-half-crime-thriller plot filled with numerous characters for the reader to get to know. Those who insist on the likability of their characters may struggle with these characters, but this story would not work without them and all their whining and questionable decisions, both strategically and morally. The book twists through its four (counting the epilogue) parts, keeping the reader guessing about what could possibly happen next and at several points, gasping aloud. Like all dystopian stories, it also provides rich commentary on the current state of our society, touching on technology, capitalism, the environment, and immigration. I'd recommend it for those who like dystopian novels, but also those who might not generally opt for this genre; it mixes enough reality into the story to be palatable to a wider audience. Thanks to First to Read for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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.**

A dystopian tale set in an America where the wealthy, adrenaline junkies inside safety go beyond the salt line to a place where disease carrying, dangerous ticks live. While I have read many dystopian books, I found this one to be an original but rather difficult to get into tale. There are a lot of characters to follow, perhaps too many, and it's a rather wordy story that sometimes drags on. I didn't find myself enjoying it as much as I hoped to. That said, the plot twists are interesting and help to make the story a little more worthwhile to read. I also enjoyed the fact that the antagonists are shown to be people and not just evil for the sake of being evil types. They all have their reasons for what the do and the character development is probably the stand out of this story. If I had to give it a starred review, it would probably be a 3 star rating.

Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to preview The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones. A new America exists, the country is divided into zones, and fear of "ticks" prevail. These ticks have developed in this new world and they will kill you almost immediately unless you are saved by a "stamp". A stamp is thrust into an area of a tick bite and it saves your life. These killer ticks are prevalant beyond the "salt line". Most Americans do not go out of their zone; the rich and wealthy are willing to risk it all by going out on a journey to see the world beyond their zone. A group of wealthy individuals are prepared to see this new world; they pay big bucks for this thrilling excursion. For some, this trip is thrill seeking, but for others, they have a hidden agenda. This excursion for some is a dream come true; for others, their life depends on what they find out beyone the salt line. I think the idea of the book is good, but this book moves slowly, lots of characters, and a plot that rambles on. It took me longer than ususal to finish this book, but I did. For me, this book was just ok. I didn't care about the characters or what happened to them. Some parts had just too much information that for me was meaningless. I give this book 2.5 stars.

Dystopian thriller, complete with deadly disease carrying ticks, divided citizenry and thrill seekers who get way more than they bargained for. The United States, has been divided into zones (mostly along the East Cost) with the rest of the country behind the salt line, which is an actual wall as well as a large swath of land that has been chemically treated. Wealthy thrill seekers can take excursions behind the wall, out into the wilderness, 3 weeks of boot camp behind them, they head out, only to be taken hostage by a group of people who live outside the zones, they have a political agenda, but lack the resources to actually pull it off, a few people die, but it's almost glossed over. I really wish more information was given on how the tick/disease problem happened and why there are zones. Overall, I found the book to be slow moving, overly political, the world building was confusing and incomplete. The only saving grace is that the character development is fairly good and their are some plot twists that keep things interesting.

This book suffers from a slow beginning; and even once I had a full understanding of the plot and the characters, it was still a chore to read. I found nothing terrifying or intense in this unspecified future and felt the characters difficult to invest in. The premise is interesting, but I think for the most part this book was served up quite under-baked.

I have read several dystopian novels, and while this one can certainly be described as such, it has enough of our modern day in it to make it relatable. It is also a good old-fashioned thriller that takes a sharp, unexpected turn about a third of the way in. By using multiple characters' POV, the story weaves us through their present and their back story so that we see that most of the characters- heroes and villains alike- are both good and slightly flawed. The author is great with the descriptive elements. My only complaint is that she often drops phrases into the middle of a sentence and I found myself losing the sentence thread. I had to go back frequently and re-read the sentence without the long and laborious middle phrase in order to understand it. There were also a couple of dangling plot points. For example, one of the characters mentions the possibility of "being reported to Public Safety and Morals" if found pregnant outside of marriage, but at no time did it explain why an unmarried pregnancy was cause for concern or what the punishment might be. On the whole, I would recommend this book to those who like a story that is out-of-the box while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

As far as dystopian novels go The Salt Line was a refreshing change from the dozens of YA dystopian novels I've been reading. Its about living in a world behind barriers and walls where society is controlled by the fear of ticks. These ticks aren't your regular run of the mill creepy critters. The females burrow into the skin to lay their eggs inside human flesh, and later when hatched, the offspring burst from the skin and crawl away to feed on anything nearby. That in itself is horrifying but isn't deadly. The disease they may carry, however, definetly is and its not a pretty way to go. Its enough to make most people never hestitate to stay within the confines of their walls, but a select few actually pay a fortune for the opportunity to see what life is life outside the barriers in all its tick ridden glory. A tourist company takes rich travelers on a adrenaline filled journey to see nature is its purest form. There are many rules in place to prevent injury/death, but even so, everyone is still at the mercy of the ticks. When a group cross the salt line, and begin their adventure, they find themselves taken hostage and caught in a deadly feud bewteen corrupt individuals inside the walls and a small community living out in nature. From there it becomes less about the fear of ticks and more about the fear of not being able to make it home alive. . This book was really really good. The story wasn't very fast paced and its not for people who need suspense and twists and turns in every chapter but the premise was pretty unique and the writing style, in my opinion, was a breath of fresh air. Too many dystopian novels have taken on a pattern but didn't even graze the common premise. It wasn't about one person being special somehow and saving the day or trying to lead a revolution to overthrow a corrupt government. In a general sense it was about a group of people, most strangers to eachother, who end up caught in a terrible situation and they must work together to make it back home in one peice;all while trying to avoid getting bit by killer ticks. The narrative switches every chapter between a few characters on the expedition whichs gives a great dimension to the story. Each character is really well written and their backstories are intricately woven into the plot. While reading this book i never knew what direction it was going to take me but i enjoyed the ride all the same. It was slow going at first but once the story found its rhythm I became invested in the characters and needed to know they'd make it out alright. I really liked that the antagonists were portrayed as people with hopes, dreams and fears like the rest of the characters. They were just people that had a lot at stake and a community to protect. Their actions, although harsh, were understandable and to a degree even defendable. I was conflicted at how i wished to see the issues resolved and was hoping for a happy ending for everyone. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes dystopian novels as well as anyone who really doesn't. This one just might change their minds.

**5++/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.

I received an advanced copy of the Salt Line from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review. I decided to give the Salt Line a try because the description made it sound like something I have never read before – a refreshing change to say the least. I’ve read plenty of dystopian novels in my time, but never once has a novel incorporated an insect as the reason for the world going to hell. Needless to say I was intrigued. The world has gotten even smaller – but not thanks to overpopulation. There’s a new breed of ticks out there and they carry fatal diseases (as well as causing severe damage on their own). This caused humanity to flee into safe zones. Naturally the curious and exceedingly wealthy can adventure out into the wilds, but it’s worth noting that you pretty much have to be both in order to make it work. This should probably go without saying, but if you have a phobia about bugs you should seriously consider staying away from this novel. Heck, I don’t have a phobia and I found my skin crawling hours after having read it. Seriously, I kept thinking things were crawling on me…it took me longer than I’d like to admit to put two and two together there. I haven’t read anything else by Holly Goddard Jones, but based on what I’ve seen in the Salt Line she very clearly is awfully talented in world building. The dystopian world came to life in ways that I probably should wish it hadn’t – the threat from the outside seemed so real (as did the barrier and the tech introduced throughout). I did find myself wondering if other animals were affected by the ticks – but there were limited examples of this one way or the other, so I find myself wondering still. The perspective shifts were used to flesh out the world in addition to creating and building tension. Seeing the different character’s way of thinking helps the reader to realize that there’s even more going on than meets the eye (which is saying something), unraveling layers upon layers of depth. As a bonus: while there’s a decent number of characters the perspective switches between, it never hits the overwhelming point. My biggest complaint about the novel was that the book I started reading wasn’t the book I finished reading. It starts out as a dystopian world where the ticks are the biggest threat. Then (spoiler warning) it turns into a government conspiracy where humans are the real enemy. The ticks become nearly irrelevant. Considering that the ticks were the biggest draw (for me at least) that was pretty disappointing. I would have loved to see more about them (even if they made my skin crawl). The Salt Line appears to have set up for a sequel (though it also has one of those endings where if there was no sequel it wouldn’t drive you bonkers). I think I’d be willing to read the next one, despite my complaints about this one. Holly Goddard Jones is a fantastic writer and I’d be curious to see where she brings her world next.

This book started out differently than expected, and I found it difficult to invest in the characters, but gradually grabbed my interest when the plot moved along. A dystopian world is divided into zones with a salt line area inhabited by dangerous ticks. Wealthy risk takers can go there for an adventure in the remote area, The world building was a novel idea but lacked follow through. The adventurers on this cursed trip, Edie, Mara and Wes, the main characters, are taken as hostages to a remote village beyond the salt line. The action picks up and you need to finish to see who ultimately survives the encounter. Plot twists and surprising connections and deals are revealed in the end. The actions of a couple of the survivors are hard to believe and may set up for more to come. Some awkward sentence structure and long information inserts slowed down the flow. A good read if you stick with it.

Overall the content of the book is appropriate for most teenagers it does start off with some really intense swearing, mention of abortions, and sex but nothing entirely too graphic and it really isn't a big focus of the story . There a plot twist at the end of the first part of the book that pushes the characters a different direction than what you would've thought you'd be reading about. It's not altogether unpleasant and in fact keeps the intrigue up. I will argue that I like the first and second part better than the third which seems to rush to put things together so that they can be tied up with a bow. Overall though great read and solid character development. A good read for dystopian junkies.

I don't normally read many dystopian novels so this was a leap outside of my reading 'comfort' zone. Because of that, it may have taken me a little longer than usual to get my head around this new world. That said, several of the concepts, such as reliance on tablets and apps for communication and news, were pretty relevant to present-day, and the idea of wealthy thrill-seekers paying to go on an excursion like this, was also well within the scope of my imagination. What I had trouble with, more than anything, was that I didn't find myself really caring too much about the people in the book, and I didn't feel like there was enough invested in anyone to make a reader worry too much about their fates. I wanted the backstory of how those living behind the Wall to be delved into more, as well as more gory details as to how the ticks really messed with everyone! I think the ending may have been rushed through but I also wanted to rush to know that the last 'survivors' got out okay. Overall, this was a pretty 'light' read for a survivalist dystopian novel that I thought could have been fleshed out more. I just couldn't tell if that was because it wasn't my normal genre to read or not. All that said, I'm glad to NOT be living around these disgusting killer ticks!

I was really excited to get my hands on The Salt Line. I have to give this book credit for being such an original end of world scenario. The Salt Line takes place sometime in the future after the world's population has retreated to different zones, protected from the wild behind chemically burned lines. Everyone is frightened of ticks, which I get I live in a highly populated tick zone myself. I will spare you the details of why these ticks are so horrible. The story is about a group of rich individuals who pay to take a risky trip outside of the salt line to see nature and get a thrill. From there they run into a group of people who live outside the zone and drama takes place.  If I give you much more detail it runs the risk of spoilers. While I enjoyed the originality of this novel I really wish the story was told a little different. The world building and character development left a lot of room to be desired. The first part of the book was amazing, I really wished it was expanded upon and told on its own. The 2 & 3 part of the book were good but I felt rushed and could have also been expanded into another book or two. Lastly I see another one or at least a need for a sequel. I was left wanting to know more about this world she built and I hope I get to. With that all being said The Salt Line is a good read for when you want a little drama and adventure.

The America of the future is overcome by ticks burrowing into people's skin and spreading a terribly debilitating disease, forcing people to reside with safe zones. But for those who wish to experience nature and the world beyond safety in Holly Goddard Jones's The Salt Line there's the option of an expensive excursion, where safety isn't always guaranteed.  With the fear of a tick-spread disease, civilization is cordoned off within a salt line, where the earth is scorched to provide a safe barrier. Civilization seems to keep functioning as it always had as people continue to work, grieve, love, and attain fame and fortune as they always have, even if the technology and state of the world have changed. When the most recent collection of intrepid explores go out of zone, they unknowingly become part of a larger plot between groups to make money and gain control over a drug supply. In order to survive, alliances and difficult decisions must be made.  The novel follows a fairly standard dystopian structure, with the country divided into sections, the government in on nefarious plans to keep citizens under control, and rebellions coming from those who live outside the boundaries of "standard" or accepted society. Despite the expected and familiar ideas used to help build the world, there were aspects to this speculative story that were interesting and unique, including: the pervasive technology used in both everyday life and survival out of zone; character studies (which negatively impacted the narrative's momentum); and an element of "when nature fights back" against humanity. I found the reliance on tablets a good depiction of how contemporary society finds it difficult to socialize and interact with others without a screen in front of them - the obsession and addiction is real and disconnecting can be difficult, although this story takes that disconnect to an extreme.  Overall, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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