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Solitaire
ISBN: 0060086602

By Kelly Eskridge
Review by: Kim Wells

6/2/04

Kelly Eskridge's sci-fi thriller shows us the dark edge of virtual reality, crime and punishment, and a future society of corporate entities so much more powerfully than any high-budget cyberpunk movie (and you know which one I mean) ever could.

The novel tells us what happens when real terrorism and tragedy and technology combine, and strikes Jackal Segura's perfect world. She goes from being her country's corporate "Hope" to being tried and convicted of a terrible crime where she is as much victim as those who die at her hands. The criminal justice system's experimental punishment for her is nothing compared to the inner punishment she metes out on herself.

Part II describes Jackal's life during and after punishment-- she serves her time in a virtual "solitary confinement" and tries to re-enter her world and re-build a life in a society where the accident of which she was tried and found guilty has made her a celebrity of sorts (imagine the fansites of real serial killers and criminals today, and imagine that one of those killers was an innocent, but whose punishment changed her significantly, and you'll get some of what happens to Jackal).

Eskridge's fictional universe is interesting, dark at times, and truly original. As Jackal grows up, and learns how to cope with the world "after her fall," we learn a lot about punishment and forgiveness-- what we inflict on ourselves and others.

The relationships in the story-- both friendships and otherwise--are well-drawn and believable. Jackal loves another woman, and the novel draws the same-sex love as normal. It's not "extra" that the protagonists are women who love women-- it's treated as a normal part of the narrative, as it should be, as it would be if it was a hetero relationship. But it's not really the focus of the text, or a gimmick-- it's just a part of the person's life in the story. Solitaire put me in a very contemplative, sort of sad mood for a while, in a good way, but it's strong, vibrant prose and I really cannot praise her work enough.

The situations truly are thought-provoking, and while the world Eskridge creates does not quite exist, yet, it makes (or should make) us think about the potential of crime & punishment in our digital, terrorism-influenced age.



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