A stand-alone science fiction book about clash of cultures.

Publication year: 2000
Format: print
Page count: 248
Publisher: Gollanz

Salt is the story of people who move to another planet. The settlers go there in pods which were tethered to a comet which was their fuel and accelerator. Each pod had their own culture and already two of the cultures started to clash early in the voyage: the Als and the Senaar. Their cultures are pretty much opposite of each other and that proves to be too problematic from them to overcome.

The Alsist are, essentially, anarchist socialists: they don’t own anything, they don’t have marriages, having kids is fully a woman’s choice and kids don’t even know their fathers, they don’t have hierarchies so they don’t have leaders or people in charge; they also don’t have laws or force people to do anything. They also don’t suppress their emotions: when they’re angry, they speak or act on it. They also don’t have police or army. The flight to the planet Salt is a difficult to them, full of boredom and forced inactivity.

On the other hand, the Senaarians are very hierarchical and their society centers on money and how much a person can earn. They have both police and an army (consisting of only males). They have rigid gender roles and strict monogamy. Their interactions are full of restraint. They organized their voyage and survive it better than most (according to the first person narrator).

The funny thing is, they’re both religious societies; both think that the other’s way of life is an abomination and their own the only true way to live. The Alsists see the other as slaves to imaginary rules and laws while the Senaarians think of the others as immoral, lazy hedonists.

The book has (mostly) two narrators: Petja and Barlei. They both record their experiences afterwards, mentioning sometimes that “if only I had known”. Petja is a technician who, mostly by coincidence, deals a lot with the Senaarians. He’s mostly amused by their rigid thinking and often baffled by it. He has relations with a few women and falls in love with one of them. Barlei rises to the station of Captain during the voyage and leads his people ever after. He has no family and seemingly devotes his whole life to the building of the Senaar city.

Both are unreliable narrators and tell some of the same events from their point of view. This isn’t an adventure but story of human nature and misunderstandings between different cultures.

This was an interesting read, showing how individuals make the decisions which shape societies but somewhat depressing.