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When I first picked up Salvage the Barren Land by Tom Douglas, I actually thought it would be an interesting book. And it was. Sort of. It follows the story of Anne Milan, daughter of the renowned doctor Edouard(?) Milan. The reason I have a question mark is because I often saw variants of the spelling (Eduard, Edward, etc). I found that quite confusing and a bit annoying. Edouard had just died, getting hit by a car in New York. Anne found that very strange because Dr. Milan had traveled the world in the dirtiest, filthiest, most diseased ridden places with not a scratch, but succumbed to an accident in his hometown of New York. Anne's relationship with her father was tenuous at best, and she often felt like they ignored each other or didn't care for each other. But his death hurt her a lot.
Soon after, the vice president of the Bank she works for comes to visit her. He gives her his condolences for her father's death and explains some very important things. Firstly, her father was not just into medicine and saving people's lives, but also politics. The Middle East and Russia were completely devastated by World War 2, tribes going to war with each other, and various other powers enslaving them.Thus, the people there living in terrible conditions, are suspicious of each other and anyone who comes in. This made Dr. Milan's goal of improving everyone's life style and studying the diseases in the local area that much harder. But he was able to. Through his charisma, and his trustworthiness, he had the trust of everyone, even enemies of tribes. When he died, it was a huge loss, because there was no one all the people trusted.
The Bank tells Anne to go to the places her father went to keep the alliances alive. But they also have other plans in mind. After WW2, there were very few banks left in power, and the bank Anne works for is one of them. They are set as the most powerful one in the world, and would like to start on oil reserves in Russia and the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan area (I'm not exactly sure which "stan" it is, as most of them were referenced in this book). So she is sent to various countries to trace and help the situation there. However, the CIA, under Agent Cole, is following her, determined there is a secret behind her father, the bank, and Anne herself. Her boyfriend, Evan, tries to help her situation by understanding it and warning her repeatedly about what she's getting herself into. They both realize the situation is serious, and there could be a massive cover up. But they do not know how serious it will be.
The reason I thought this book was only okay was entirely grammatical. I thought the plot was excellent and exciting. The characters were very well developed as well. Just… the grammar and editing that made reading this book so frustrating. Firstly, I see so many commas and periods missing everywhere. There are misspelled words, weird phrasing, and tense changes. The tense changes were especially annoying because it made it so hard to read. Also, the book was written as if the book was an essay for an English course. There was almost no contractions. Instead of "don't" the author would say "do not". The problem is it did not fit any of the characters. You would have slang or cursing with "dammit" or the f-word, but then you would have "I can not do what you ask of me". Or something like that. It really brought down the development of characters. It's as if the apostrophe was completely avoided. The only real problems in this book in my opinion were the numerous grammatical errors. Again, because of the grammatical errors, characterization was not fully developed. For example, Farooq is Anne's driver as she arrives in Russia. He is described as having a "thick accent", but speaks perfect English. There is no slurring or slang, but perfect "can nots" and "could have"'s instead of the contraction. You can't tell that the character has a thick accent or has any trouble (if he does have any) with the English accent. That's just one example of how it really reduce the effect of the characters the author worked so hard to build, because they were built quite well.
The author did a lot of things right. Firstly, the plot is super intense, and super thrilling. At least towards the end. The first half of the book is a bit boring and a bit "la di dah" for me. There needs to be more action towards the beginning. However, the ending is fantastic. The characters were developed nicely and there were lots of great details and descriptions. If only it were edited well… If it were edited very well this book would easily get 4 stars. But because of so many areas I'm debating 2 or 3 stars. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars because of the exciting plot, action, and characters. If any were not as good as they were, this book would be a 2 star. If everything is fixed, this book has the potential to be a great book.
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