Salvage This World and Rivers by Michael Farris Smith

Michael Farris Smith knows how to write Southern-gothic stories set in a dystopian future where climate change has ravaged the Gulf Coast. He delves into the harsh and unforgiving landscape that has shaped the characters and has a way of creating a vivid sense of place by painting a stark and bleak picture. He sets a quiet tone to the story with his beautiful and brutal writing that drew me into the desolate world while capturing the raw emotions and harsh realities of a world that has fallen apart.

Michael Farris Smith raises thought-provoking questions about humanity, morality, and the consequences of our actions while exploring themes of survival and redemption.

What is going on between the pages

Jessie and her son, Jace, are on the run across the Mississippi/Louisiana line, returning to her childhood home and her desolate father, Wade. Jace’s father, Holt, is missing and hunted by a dangerous group after taking something he shouldn’t have.

My two cents

Jessie and Wade’s complex and deeply flawed relationship are at the story’s heart while exploring the complex human condition in the face of desperation and fear. They say little to each other, with so much unsaid between them. I could feel their love, and I found myself shouting at them to talk to each other.

There is plenty of human drama, along with the harshness of a crumbling world, but written in a well-paced quiet tone that creates tension and action that had me holding my breath to the last page. While I loved everything about Michael Farris Smith writing, I didn’t get that rewarding ending as I didn’t quite understand what happened. I am probably overthinking it was meant to symbolize something, and maybe that is something left for us to decide and ponder.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley


Rivers is set before Salvage This World and can be read as a prequel; however, it is unnecessary. Reading both together enhances the strong sense of place and the characters’ desperation due to the weather. There is also a short story prequel to Rivers In the Beginning; however, I have yet to read it.

What is going on between the pages

Set in a dystopian future where climate change has ravaged the Gulf Coast, it rains day after day after years of catastrophic hurricanes that devastated the region. The government has drawn a boundary line ninety miles north of the coastline. Life below the line offers no services, electricity, or resources, and those who stay behind live by their own rules. The story follows the struggles of Cohen as he navigates a world submerged in water and overrun by chaos. He stayed behind and buried his wife and unborn child after they were killed during an evacuation attempt. He finds a purpose in the wake of a storm created by the weather and humans. Themes of humanity, morality, survival, redemption, love, family/friendship, and the search for meaning in a world that has lost its way are explored.

“It’s a tribute to what was there before Katrina and what’s been rebuilt after. It’s a tribute to the people who have remained and weathered the storm so to speak.” Michael Farris Smith.

My Two cents

Michael Farris Smith has a way of writing the characters’ desperation that drives the story forward. He shows us a haunting tale of greed that brings out the worst of humanity. We also see a glimmer of hope through the unlikely bond the characters develop, giving me that emotional pull I love so much. There is a lot of dark human drama between the pages as the world crumbles due to climate change and humanity. As the human condition and the darker corners of the human experience are explored, there are moments of desolation and violence with moments of love and sacrifices, and the story’s heart is the unlikely bond between the characters.

The raging rivers are a powerful metaphor for the passage of time, the inevitability of change, and the relentless force of nature.