Salt

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Image of Salt (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Author: Adam Roberts
Publisher: Gollancz (2003)
Binding: Paperback, 256 pages

4 stars

Salt is a fascinating novel focusing on the conflicting political systems of two groups of colonist on the planet Salt. As its name suggests, this world is not what the colonists were expecting, there is little water, the sunlight is eventually lethal, the air is poisonous and the planet crust is almost entirely salt. One group of colonists have a completely anarchic society which actually works. They set up the settlement of Als while the other main settlement of Senaar is completely organised under the totalitarian rule of Barlei.
The story switches viewpoints continually between Petja of Als, and Barlei of Senaar. The reader is put in a position of constantly changing viewpoint as to who are the bad guys and who are the good. The political standpoints of the two cultures are so alien to each other that they are almost incapable of communicating. At one point in the story, one culture will appear Utopian while the other is foul. A few chapters on and the reader's opinion will have been changed.
Ultimately, the inability to communicate leads to a terrible war and the question is, how can an anarchic society organise itself to go to war without losing its beliefs and how can peace ever be negotiated with a society of individuals with no representative.