Salvation Day starts with a bang, with a small group of outlaws abducting a passenger transport vehicle that is delivering students to their internships on the moon. Their goal is to use the students as hostages to buy them time to hack their way past the security net of a derelict ship called House of Wisdom, steal the ship, and sail off into the galaxy to find a new home where the Council’s rule does not reach.
The problem? House of Wisdom is derelict because an unknown virus killed every last crew member 10 years ago.
Our two MCs are Zahra and Jas. Zahra is a member of the outlaw group. Jas is one of the hostages, and the only surviving member of the House of Wisdom incident. I liked the contrast between the two characters and how the author tied them together. They are on two opposing sides and yet have shared many of the same struggles and pains for many similar reasons. I won’t spoil Zahra’s back story, but she has ties to House of Wisdom too, and while she is there to help her people, she has personal reasons for being there also.
The setting is very well done. It reminded me a lot of The Last Astronaut, and the movie Sphere. It’s not surprising at all, but it’s such an important element to stories like this. It sets the tone for the whole book. Imagine dark spaces, dead gardens, freezing cold, low-level red emergency lights. Wallace doesn’t waste pages and paragraphs writing about it (the book is only about 300 pages long) but gives the reader just enough to take the image and run.
Despite the initial fast pace, I did feel like the pacing continuously winds down as we near the end of the book. There came a point where I understood almost exactly how the book would end, and some of the tension was lost. Compounding the problem, what you see is sort of what you get. There were some opportunities to layer in outside threats over the internal threat of the virus, and I never really had the sense of impending doom coming down on the MCs from all sides like I wanted.
That being said, I think Wallace’s characterization was very well done. These aren’t the sort of characters I’ll look back on with fondness- I don’t feel any personal sort of connection to them. Regardless of how innocent or guilty they were, I cared about them. Their arcs were wonderful and each went through sufficient development, changing as the story progressed. I do think it was the characters more than the action that drove me forward, which isn’t exactly what I’d expect from a sci-fi thriller.
I also sincerely appreciated how in that final chapter, Wallace managed to make the story so very relevant to today’s political climate. Some of those final paragraphs really got me thinking about how, for all our progress, no matter how much things change, some things really just stay the same. That level of thoughtfulness wasn’t what I expected in this type of book, and I loved it.
I did have one issue with the ending, and I’m going to choose my words very carefully here so as not to put others off. It’s not vague and it’s not a non-ending, but I was really annoyed when the author posed a question in the last 20 pages that she then proceeded not to answer.
It wasn’t as if this particular question was overly complex. It doesn’t seem a large enough question to be setting up a sequel. I wouldn’t call this ending bad- it just felt lazy. An epilogue could have fixed it, and in fairness to the book, the copy I read was an ARC (won in a giveaway, thank you Berkley!) so maybe the epilogue was added to the final version. You know how most fairy tales close with a “And they all lived happily ever after”? I don’t need all my books to end happily ever after, I just need them to end. Wallace gave us enough food for thought to keep me thinking about the book after it ended without needing to leave me wondering about post-book events.
Overall, this is a quick little read that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre.