Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , | Posted on 6:17 PM

Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

Ren Segura is the Hope of Ko; chosen at birth to lead her people into a new era, a representative of the corporation that hopes to become a global power, one of the elite in the new EarthGov.

There's just one problem: Ren's entire life is a lie.

We meet Ren, aka Jackal, on the worst day of her life, when everything she's ever known begins to crumble -- which turns out to be a perfect way to get to know her. Because Jackal is at her magnificent best under pressure, and things are only going to get worse.

I don't actually want to get into plot much, because I think the journey is an integral part of the book, with the reader sharing in Jackal's uncertainty and fear. And you will.

I tend to avoid 'adult' sci-fi because the whole 'Other' dynamic gets in the way of connecting with the characters -- I feel like I'm watching them from behind a glass, or through some slightly garbled translation. I know that part of it is due to the alien setting, and Ko is certainly different from today's world -- but there were enough similarities to keep me grounded, especially since Eskridge kept her focus on the human element. I think that is really the key to any good sci-fi: never let the shiny tech get in the way of the human heart of the story (or alien/cyborg heart, whatever). We connect to people, not computers, no matter what channels we're going through, and Jackal's experience makes this wrenchingly clear.

Eskridge's prose complements her story with a light touch, sparse without being sterile, balancing calm with sudden moments of sledgehammer force. And those moments hit hard -- this isn't a horror piece at all, but a few moments felt worse than all the zombies I've been slogging through lately. Possibly because I cared much more.

The worldbuilding is also elegantly done, with a neat trick of introducing how things work in Ko by showing characters' reactions as they start to fall apart. Plus, I'd just finished a management class and I was getting a real kick out of the 'Corporate Culture Eats the World' vibe. I was a bit hazy on the wider world workings but since my focus was on the main characters, I didn't really mind.

And what fascinating, lovely, challenging characters. My adoration goes out mainly to Jackal and Snow, but Scully and terrifying Chrichton and loon-bat-gorgeous Estar all deserve good shoutouts (and Jane, oh you are awesome!).

I'm glad that I got this book via Early Reviewers, because I honestly wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. And that would have been a shame.

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