Review: The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

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61X3kzdN2YLReleased originally in November 2004, this novel has been re-released in electronic format by Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy, January 27, 2015.

A cross between Fantasy, Science Fiction and Historical commentary, The Salt Roads follows the lives of several black women at moments in history.

The characters, all part of the same person spread across time, are all caught in stories of racial bias, slavery and prostitution and live battered lives as they try to rise above their surroundings. The story begins in the Caribbean, among slaves brought over from Africa to work in the fields. The slaves are trying to remember their heritage and survive in an environment of brutality and casual death. The death of a still born child brings several slaves together as they begin to discuss revolution to find their freedom.

The story then shifts to a Haitian actress performing on the stage in Paris, where she becomes the mistress of author Baudelaire. The freedom searched for here is img-hopkinsonsaltroads_115516330795economic freedom as this aspect of the character tries to find a way to survive without the sponsorship of a wealthy nobleman or businessman.

The story then jumps back to ancient Egypt, to a slave and prostitute living in Alexandria. The slave escapes and ends up wandering in the desert without much food or water for the rest of her life, searching for a purpose in the early Christian church.

As a historical commentary or commentary of the plight of African slaves, this novel is well written and well researched. The prose is clean and intelligent. However from the standpoint of an ongoing story line, there is little to hold it together other than the fact that all the characters are connected by an ancient goddess of fertility and life. The characters do not know about each other, and aside from brief instances of speech by the Goddess, there is little continuity from one time period to another.

As a novel about the problems of black people across time, it works. As a story to be read to reach some final climax, not so much.

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