Salvation Day by Kali Wallace (book review).

July 9, 2019 | By | Reply More

‘Salvation Day’ is an SF adventure/horror story set hundreds of years in the future. The complex background is revealed in skilful exposition in the first two chapters, even as the story gets started, no mean feat. In truth, the early part is borderline info dump but get past that, it’s not long and you are in for one hell of a good ride.

Before the Collapse, four centuries earlier, the elites realised that Earth was ruined and set off for the stars in generation ships that were never heard from again, except one. Mournful Evening Song managed to send back a probe that arrived in the Solar System about ten years before our story begins.

After The Collapse, the United Councils of Earth were formed to build a better world with citizens living a life of ‘contribution and responsibility’. Life for citizens of the Councils is good. They are well educated, comfortable, prosperous and have interesting jobs. Unfortunately, a large portion of humanity lives outside the system where life is hard. Citizenship is hard to get. The Councils claim they are doing their best for all humanity but rebels don’t believe them. There’s an obvious parallel here with the wealthy west and the desperate migrants trying to flood in but it’s not laboured.

The Solar System has been conquered by the powerful Space Exploration Commission or SPEC. Ten years earlier, their best ship, a skyscraper-sized research vessel named The House Of Wisdom was subject to an attack of Zeffir-1, a plague virus. All four hundred and seventy-one crew died except one twelve year-old boy, Jaswinder Bhattacharya, who was ejected to safety in a small experimental ship by his mother, a propulsion engineer. Ten years later, he’s on a shuttle to Armstrong City on the Moon with some other graduates when it’s hijacked by terrorists.

One of the terrorists is Zahra who narrates the first chapter. She’s a follower of one Adam Light, a charismatic individual who leads a group outside the Councils and has promised them a new homeworld. To this end, they mean to take control of The House Of Wisdom which has been orbiting abandoned and quarantined since the plague struck. Zahra’s father was Doctor Lago who, according to the authorities, treacherously smuggled the plague virus on board the ship to kill everyone. She’s hoping for a chance to clear his name once they take over The House Of Wisdom.

Jas and Zahra both have parents involved in the disaster a decade earlier and are both involved in this new adventure. They don’t know each other at all as Zahra’s family fled the Councils in disgrace and Jas’ family, especially his aunt, is in the ruling elite. The unfolding adventure is told in alternating chapters from their points of view, giving the reader a better perspective on the state of their world.

After the hijack, things don’t go as planned, not for anyone. Most of the action takes place on board The House Of Wisdom. A powered-down hulk full of floating mutilated corpses is a perfect setting for SF horror. As I mentioned, the world-building is mostly accomplished in the first two chapters but there are additions and surprises as the plot develops. Surprises galore!

This is a fast-paced adventure story with a number of twists, all perfectly logical and an interesting cast of flawed characters. It’s a bold move in these times to make some attempt at understanding the psychology of terrorists and the hatred, desperation, misinformation or plain self-delusion that leads them to destructive acts.

The writing is straightforward and readable but reveals the characters’ hopes and fear. It’s not hard Science Fiction but the author is a scientist and the background information has the ring of authenticity. Above all, this is a page-turner. The story grips you. I read it in a couple of days so yes, I could put it down but did so reluctantly and was eager to get back inside the covers.

It is also that rare and lovely thing, a standalone novel. No need to get bogged down in endless sequels, though I would be glad to read more stories in this setting.

‘Salvation Day ‘would make a heck of a good film but why wait. You can enjoy the book right now and I recommend it heartily.

Eamonn Murphy

(pub: Berkley Books, 2019. 320 page hardback. Price: £20.41(UK). $26.00(US). ISBN: 978-1-98480-369-6)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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