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SALT by Colin F Barnes

In 2014 humanity didn’t stand a chance.

A series of fatal climatic disasters struck, entirely drowning the planet. Now, just one hundred and twenty-five souls remain, surviving on a flotilla of damaged ships. But their survival isn’t guaranteed. Facing severe threats to their numbers by a fatal bacterium and increasingly warring factions, they discover a serial killer within their midst.

When the murderer targets Eva Morgan’s friend, her investigations draw her into a deadly mystery and a race against time before the killer’s actions destroy the fragile existence on the flotilla. The further she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the truth becomes a pawn in a game for ultimate survival.  

Regular readers of The Eloquent Page will know that I can’t ever let an opportunity to revel in good apocalyptic fiction pass me by. I just love this devilish little sub-genre. I wish I could tell you exactly why, but in all honesty I’m not sure I can. All I know is that apocalyptic fiction really resonates with me, just can’t get enough of it. The latest work I’ve cast my beady eye over is SALT by Anachron Press supremo, Colin F Barnes. So let’s sit back, relax, and get ourselves comfortable while the water starts to rise and the world comes to an end…

Eva Morgan is a suitably engaging heroine. She is completely committed to learning the truth and won’t let anything stand in her way. It doesn’t matter to her that the world has almost gone to hell. Eva will keep digging because she has to learn why her friends are being targeted. There aren’t enough people left to allow a murderer to go about their business. If humanity is to have any hope, Eva must find the killer and stop them before they act again. This isn’t just about justice and hunting down a killer, this is about the preservation of the species.

I also really enjoyed the dynamic that exists between the character of Jim and his son Duncan. Between them they are the de-facto leaders of the flotilla, and watching the evolution of their relationship was another real highlight. The many pressures of trying to keep things together effects both men on a fundamental level.

With people living in such close proximity this is bound to cause friction. Barnes focuses on this and really ramps up the growing sense of claustrophobia and unease, it’s almost palpable. The survivor’s world has shrunk away to almost nothing and the realisation that things are only going to get worse is at the forefront of every action. Looking at each of the groups of survivors, I liked how I could spot how the small new community had become a microcosm of the old. It’s almost as though specific characters were living embodiments of the areas they came from. Crime, religion, law and order, engineering, medicine and the military are all represented in one form or another. The various factions that exist within the flotilla highlight these different facets of a society that have all but disappeared overnight. One of the things I liked most about the plot is watching the power-plays and in-fighting that occurs. Watching as the group begins to implode when all the secrets and lies start being revealed is great fun.

There’s little better than when a novel manages that tricky task of straddling multiple genres effectively. SALT does a fine job of this. The compelling, well-paced narrative and realistic action both help to create a novel that that succeeds in being both crime thriller and science fiction adventure. The science fiction elements of the story are very subtly handled and I like that for the most part they remain in the background. Events comes across as believable and never veer off into the outlandish.

I’ve checked on the Anachron website and SALT is listed under the heading of The Flotilla Chronicles. Good news as there is an open-ended quality to the ending of the book that suggests this story is not over quite yet. I’d certainly love to know what happens next. There is also plenty of scope to discover a bit more about events prior to the flood, the only area where I felt things were slightly lacking. I’ll admit a healthy curiosity regarding what they all did before the flood and how this disparate group of characters found themselves thrown together.

SALT is published by Anachron Press and is available now. Well worth checking out if, like me, you enjoy a healthy dose of apocalyptic action.

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