Goddesses, clones, and magical durian, oh my!
The water-bound goddess Nu Wa, creator of the human race, is sick of being alone, watching her creations enjoy the world. She becomes human herself, forever to travel through space and time, and meets the salt fish girl immediately falling in love.
In a post apocalyptic future, a young woman named Miranda, born of odd circumstances, inexplicably and irreversibly reeks of durian fruit.
Following reincarnations of the goddess Nu Wa, about 200 years apart, one living in 1900s China, the other post-apocalyptic America. As both reincarnations struggle to do the right thing, to do what would be considered “human”, they encounter the many evils of the world, from greed (of the individual to the corporate variety) to misuse of technology.
The premise is actually quite interesting. A space/time goddess-turned-human? Yes please!
Except that the plot is really, really strange.
Miranda’s plot is fairly straight forward. Estranged from society because of her smell, Miranda’s story follows the more cohesive of the two storylines. Nu Wa’s is ridiculously confusing, including a magical element that I did not expect.
Plus, there were scenes that just did not make sense, and this is true for both plot lines.
This gets worse at the end, where the plots (sort of) converge? It’s hard to say.
Miranda and Nu Wa are meant to share several parallels, being the narrators, protagonists, and ultimately the same person (we think…but we’ll get to that in a moment). Nu Wa is notably more mischievous, and Miranda may be a bit more insecure, but they both have very selfish tendencies, and are strong women.
Both characters, however, are irritatingly static. They continue to make the same mistake over and over and over again. That’s right, singular. They continue to betray the people they love and they never learn from their mistakes. And it drives me insane.
So who is the Salt Fish Girl, you ask? Both reincarnations, the former life being a merchant’s daughter and the other a clone, are the primary love interest of our goddess-turned-human. Why is she the title character? No freaking clue. Her only role seems to be motivation for Nu Wa and Miranda to act. Unfortunately.
The main problem with this book is that just as soon as a plot point gets good, Lai drops it before it can properly develop. This is true especially at the end, where events happen so quickly I have no idea whats going on. This book probably needed to be twice as long as it is.
When the story manages to complete a thought, it’s a very good one. Miranda’s story focuses a lot of capitalism and commercialization, and Nu Wa’s is about origins. There’s also a lot of issues with sexuality and sexism. And I love exploration of exploitation with the Pallas company. (It might be the only aspect I like in the novel.)
Salt Fish Girl has a lot of potential, but I really don’t like it. I feel like if I suffered through it a few more times I would develop an appreciation for it, but for now, no thank you.
Recommendation: Maybe. If you’re all for a feminist sort-of-sci-fi with a sort of sketchy plot, go for it. But you have to be willing to persist to stay with this novel.