Book Review: Salvaged by Madeleine Roux
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Ace (October 15, 2019)
Length: 352 pages
It’s hard for me to write this review, because Salvaged wasn’t a bad book—but I did feel like I was sold one thing at the beginning, only to receive something completely different by the end. To elaborate, I thought I was walking into a chilling edge-of-your-seat horror, and the way the first few chapters presented themselves certainly gave substance to those hopes. But that said, as the story progressed, it slowly, gradually began spooling out, losing all of its thriller edges, eventually becoming…well, quite tame.
Like I said though, the book started out promisingly enough. The story introduces us to Rosalyn Devar, whose life is a bit of a mess. Coming from a wealthy background and well-educated, our protagonist is nonetheless working as a custodian for a company that specializes in space clean-up, which often involves the retrieval of the dead from space disasters or missions gone wrong—not exactly a career that a gifted bio-engineering graduate like her would have chosen. But at the moment, Rosalyn needs the money and a place to lie low from her father after fleeing her past life, even if the daily horrors of the job are exacerbating her drinking problem. Also, as unpleasant as the work may be, it has to be done, and Rosalyn takes solace in the fact that she can help bring closure to the dead and their families.
Then one day, she is called to the boss’s office—her coworkers had reported her drinking on the job and her performance has been slipping. But Rosalyn manages to convince the company to give her one more chance, and so she is assigned a salvaging job on the Brigantine, a research ship that had recently gone dark, with everyone aboard believed to have perished. Upon arrival at the dead ship, however, Rosalyn and her pilot discover that it is anything but. While readings from the Brigantine show that nothing could have survived its inhospitable, oxygen-starved conditions, the crew members that Rosalyn encounters inside the ship are clearly alive, if not entirely human.
I mean, is this not an incredible premise? Does thinking about it not send shivers down your spine? I know it did for me, and I credit the powerfully effective intro that Madeleine Roux has written and the absolutely superb character development. Everyone likes a bit of intrigue, and the prospect of a ghost ship—especially given what our protagonist does for a living—has a way of making you sit up and pay attention. Even from the onset, I was practically salivating at the potential of the concept and prepared myself for a creepy ride.
Sadly though, that high was short-lived. In my opinion, the author made a couple of significant mistakes early in the book that threw off the entire tone of the story, from which it was never able to recover. The first was revealing the truth too soon, clearing up many of the questions that surrounded the Brigantine and what happened to its crew. Since a lot of the premise’s appeal relied in the fact that so much of it was shrouded in mystery, removing it this early on in the game didn’t make much sense to me. And second (and just a warning, mild spoilerish details to follow) was what I felt was the premature demise of certain character. Although this particular character was kind of boorish and not very likeable, I still found myself enjoying their interactions with the protagonist and was actually looking forward to the possible development of a meaningful partnership. Well, so much for that.
Instead, what followed was the introduction of a bunch of other characters, none of whom were really all that interesting because they each fell into a bland predictable mold and pattern. There was the romantic interest for Rosalyn, who’s also the compulsory good guy. The sweet earnest kid whom the group has adopted as their mascot. The wise, old grandmotherly woman who guides our protagonist. And finally, the mean nasty villain, and of course the author never passes up a chance to tell us just how bad he is.
On another level, I also think the problem with Salvaged is that it seemed confused as to what it wanted to be. Its genre tag says horror, but with the exception of the first handful of chapters which were mildly unsettling, this wasn’t a very scary book at all. The beginning was hands down the strongest part, and I’m sad to say that by the time it’s over, the story ends up being this jumbled mess of half-formed ideas and too many POVs. It came to have a lot of things—a little bit of drama, romance, mystery, thrills and action—but was definitely short on frights.
It’s a shame, because I really wish this one had continued building as a horror novel, but if that had been the case, I guess the story would have been drastically changed and we’d be discussing a different book entirely. To be fair, Salvaged was pretty good taken at face value, but if you are hoping for more thrills and chills, this probably won’t be too satisfying.