Monday, March 28, 2011

Solitaire


Ren Segura, also known as Jackal to her friends, is trying to bear the responsibility of being a Hope. Because she was born exactly on the first second new year, she will become a leader in the World Government called EarthGov. Although she has been treated differently all her life and has prepared since childhood to assume responsibility, Ren finds out that she's not really a Hope. Ko, the corporate nation state she represents, and her parents lied to benefit themselves. Not wanting to let her family down, she continues to pretend that she's a Hope, but starts to mentally unravel. Her life completely turns upside down when a horrible accident has her being accused of mass murder and terrorism. To spare her family from an investigation about her fake Hope status, Ren decides to settle outside of court and agrees to undergo virtual confinement, where she will be trapped in her subconscious for 8 years virtual time, 10 months real time. Can she survive being completely isolated for so long? What will happen to her after she is released from her mental prison?

Solitaire is a unique science fiction novel that deals with advanced technology that can turn your own mind into a solitary prison. This concept is simply frightening and kept me reading throughout the novel. Before the event that changes her life forever, Ren had found out that she really wasn't a Hope, but still worked hard to be what everyone expected her to be. She worked hard and didn't want to let everyone down even though she knew it was all a lie. Her experience in her personal prison and her life afterwards is the most engaging part of the novel. Her mental prison is a small room inside her head. Over the years, Ren breaks down mentally and tries to erase all the emotions that she has to live with: her love of her girlfriend Snow, her anger at her parents, her sadness and guilt at the deaths of her friends, and an overwhelming depression at her situation. At this point, she is trying to save her self from going insane. A few years into her imprisonment, Ren does something her jailers never expected her to do: she escapes. This portion of the novel is entirely too short. Everything that comes afterwards hinges on her eight virtual years of imprisonment.

After she is unceremoniously released, Ren is forced to live in a slum in North America, where she doesn't know anyone and has never even been to. Normal society shuns her because of her reputation as a fake Hope and a terrorist, so she seeks solace with ex-convicts like herself, which she finds in a bar called Solitaire. Her life before and after her accident are as different as night and day. Where everyone before noticed her as a Hope and looked to her as a symbol of success, now they look in morbid curiosity at the mass murderer. The government is horrible, yet completely believable in this situation. The convicts are not only forced into the mental prisons, but there are no programs in place to help them reacclimate to society. No one also seems to care that each person that was in this program blacks out randomly and return to that prison for varying amounts of time. It's not surprising that the lowest of society would act as guinea pigs to further research and put money into corporations' pockets while getting nothing in return.

Solitaire had some problems that almost made me want to stop reading. The exposition is way, way too long and just bored me after a while. The portion about her virtual containment is entirely too short, considering it's the most important part of the novel. Once I hit this part, I was completely hooked and couldn't put it down. I also felt that the entire upheaval of how the world is governed should have been explained a bit more, but was just treated as a backdrop for the story.

Solitaire isn't a perfect novel, but the latter half is so excellent and unique that I would recommend it to every person who even remotely likes science fiction. This is an admirable first novel and I would love to read more from Kelley Eskridge.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Kelley Eskridge said...

Thank you, Titania -- I really appreciate the thoughtful review and the recommendation. And I'm glad you kept reading (smile). Thanks for picking the book and for taking the time to write about it.