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by Kelley Eskridge

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Soon to be a motion picture: OtherLife.

A New York Times Notable Book, Borders Original Voices selection, and Nebula, Endeavour, and Spectrum Award finalist.

"Suspenseful and inspiring."—School Library Journal

"A stylistic and psychological tour de force."—The New York Times Book Review

Jackal Segura is a


Soon to be a motion picture: OtherLife.

A New York Times Notable Book, Borders Original Voices selection, and Nebula, Endeavour, and Spectrum Award finalist.

"Suspenseful and inspiring."—School Library Journal

"A stylistic and psychological tour de force."—The New York Times Book Review

Jackal Segura is a Hope: born to responsibility and privilege as a symbol of a fledgling world government. Soon she'll become part of the global administration, sponsored by the huge corporation that houses, feeds, employs, and protects her and everyone she loves. Then, just as she discovers that everything she knows is a lie, she becomes a pariah, a murderer: a person with no community and no future. Grief-stricken and alone, she is put into an experimental program designed to inflict the experience of years of solitary confinement in a few short months: virtual confinement in a sealed cell within her own mind. Afterward, branded and despised, she returns to a world she no longer knows. Struggling to make her way, she has a chance to rediscover her life, her love, and her soul—in a strange place of shattered hopes and new beginnings called Solitaire.

Kelley Eskridge is a novelist, essayist, and screenwriter. Her stories have received the Astraea Award and been adapted for television. A movie based on Solitaire is in development. She lives in Seattle with her partner, novelist Nicola Griffith.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Solitaire brilliantly explores...the dubious boundary between 'virtual reality' and the act of imagination -- all in the ageless story of a bright, risky kid trying to find out who she is and where her freedom lies.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea)

“Kelley Eskridge uses all the best stuff -- passion and deception, devotion and betrayal -- to deliver a knock-out first novel.”
—Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves)

“Teen readers who are fond of the genre will embrace Solitaire with ease while fans of YA dystopian titles will find a character who possesses all the cool and quiet power of the best girl hero in a story that is light years beyond the standard fare. Jackal is no wimp or whiner, nor is she a born “chosen one.” In every way that matters she is the product of the corporate culture (both personally and professionally) that embraced her from birth; she is certainly a twenty-first century construct we can all recognize. The struggles she goes through are always tempered with very personal loss, both as a result of the accident that finds her imprisoned and the distance from the love of her life who remains back on Ko. What rocks so much about Solitaire is that Eskridge has put as much time and attention into her character building as the plot and that means that while we marvel at the world she created, we also respond on a fundamental level with Jackal and the girl she loves who never stops loving her back. This book is a treasure; a true jewel for readers longing for big ideas and intimate story.”
—Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

“Solitaire is a novel of our time: a story of dashed expectations and corporate manipulations. Eskridge explores what it means to really see ourselves, and what we are ultimately capable of. Jackal, a slight adolescent, matures into an adult capable of living well, no matter what her circumstances. She is a worthy role model for any reader.”

“Vivid and provocative.”
The Baltimore Sun

“As with Eskridge’s short fiction, the vividness of the characters is what makes this book so memorable.”

“Psychological insights that would warm the heart of Alice Hoffman.”
The Seattle Times

"...a coming of age story done as psychological thriller: a compelling portrait of a young woman battling both the system and her self after her world collapses, to emerge older, wiser and sadder from an extremely long dark night of the soul."
Eve's Alexandria

"[a] beautifully detailed, sometimes harrowing account of courage, cruelty, and survival . . . a remarkable, moving novel that is difficult to set aside, and equally difficult
to forget."
—Barnes &

"Takes the reader down to the bone . . . Eskridge's skillful use of detail, her strong characters and evocative settings, and her ability to take her readers on a spiral path to the innermost depths of an individual mind, and then back out again, make this a fascinating read."
Strange Horizons
The Barnes & Noble Review
One of the notable SF debuts of recent years, which the publisher describes as "Cast Away meets The Matrix," betrays an intelligence, depth, and emotional richness far beyond such a catchy summary. Solitaire tells the story of Ren "Jackal" Segura and of the highly structured, near-future society that shapes and controls her destiny. A series of incidents leads to her arrest, conviction, and forced participation in an experimental form of punishment known as virtual confinement (VC). In VC, the comatose subject is imprisoned in a colorless, constricted virtual environment in which time itself stretches and slows. In less than one real-time year, Jackal endures the virtual equivalent of several years of unbroken solitude. Jackal's experiences in VC -- her near capitulation to madness and despair, her creation of a doorway to a brighter, more expansive world, and her subsequent, painful reemergence form the heart of this beautifully detailed, sometimes harrowing account of courage, cruelty, and survival.

Solitaire may not be a perfect novel -- the social and historical context of the story seems, at times, slightly underdeveloped -- but it's still a powerful, affecting book that seems far too accomplished to be anyone's first novel. The finest sequences in Solitaire -- the intimate descriptions of virtual confinement, the portraits of daily life in a business-oriented community, the empathetic account of Jackal's gradual integration into a society inhabited by outcasts like herself -- have the quality of actual, felt life. Kelley Eskridge's precise, nuanced language, her obvious affection for her characters, and her ability to convey the essence of extreme experiences distinguish the narrative at every turn, lifting it into a class and category all its own. Eskridge is clearly a writer with great gifts and seemingly limitless potential. She has written a remarkable, moving novel that is difficult to set aside, and equally difficult to forget. Bill Sheehan

Romantic Times
Eskridge captures the essence of corporate ruthlessness in a razor-sharp story. Technical elements flow seamlessly, and richly detailed characters enhance this edgy, cyberpunk saga.
Tim Powers
Eskridge's characters are real people in a big, convincing future — this is a great story of suspense and intrigue.
Octavia E. Butler
Solitaire kept me reading. . . . Ren Segura is a strong, prickly survivor of a character.
Ursula K. Le Guin
An ageless story.
Suzy McKee Charnas
A terrific first novel . . . excellent.
Karen Joy Fowler
A knock-out . . . wonderful!
Publishers Weekly
This near-future debut novel tries hard, but doesn't quite amalgamate its ambitious themes. Twenty-two years earlier, the first Earth Congress declared all children born in the first second of the new year "Hopes," living privileged symbols of the new one-world order. The Hope of Ko, a vast corporate conglomerate, is Ren Segura, who chose the call name "Jackal" for the animal's terrifying wail, a self-pitying cry that sums up this uneven character-driven novel. Though Jackal is promising at project managing and facilitating, Ko maneuvers her into causing the deaths of her "web," her closest friends. Forced by Ko to make a deal to save her parents from disgrace, Jackal accepts virtual confinement, an experimental extension of Garbo, the VR project Jackal had previously been tapped to oversee. Experiencing years of solitary in only a few "real" months, Jackal emerges exiled to a nameless city, beset by flashbacks to her punishment and by interviews with an Orwellian interrogator/parole officer. This novel self-consciously seethes with anger and frustration at society's inability to ensure justice to the accused, rehabilitate the convicted, reassimilate the outcast and heal the hurt. Eskridge's solution to all these eternal social ails is conventional in message, though selective in execution: the redemptive power of individual in this case lesbian love. Overextended in feverish description, overwrought in its self-absorbed tone, this case study of the postadolescent psyche seems most, like its heroine, to really "vant to be alone." (Sept. 18) Forecast: An established writer of short fiction, Eskridge has garnered blurbs from the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Tim Powers and Vonda M. McIntyre. Whatever its faults, this first novel is likely to generate plenty of buzz as well as sales, supported by author appearances in the Northwest. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
As one of the elite members of society on Ko Island, the world's first corporate country, Jackal Seguro is destined for political greatness until she discovers a secret that places her on the wrong side of the government. Arrested and sentenced to virtual solitary confinement, Jackal undergoes a social and psychological transformation that eventually leads her in a direction unforeseen by those who want to control her. Eskridge's first novel offers a dystopic vision of a near future in which virtual technology becomes a tool for societal control. Featuring a resourceful and engaging protagonist, this novel belongs in most sf collections and should appeal to readers of high-tech sf intrigue. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Young Jackal Segura is a "Hope," groomed all her life to fulfill a promising destiny on behalf of her country, Ko-a dystopia of all-powerful corporate culture. She and her Webmates (a peer group with kinshiplike ties) are hanging out at a futuristic mall when a ghastly accident occurs, and suddenly her world is turned upside down. Stripped of "Hope" status and made a scapegoat, she is subjected to an extreme sentence of solitary confinement by means of untested virtual-reality technology. This goes on for several years, in subjective time, as Jackal fights madness and discovers uncharted inner territory. Released a few real months later, much changed, she finds her way to Solitaire, a bar patronized by "Solos" like herself and the avid fans who lionize them. Solos who have survived the VR punishment are invariably far from sane, and most are dangerous. But the real story here is what happens inside Jackal's mind. A Princess is tempered into a Trickster. A secure and highly social being is changed into a loner who can withstand, and even thrive in, complete isolation. She loses everyone close to her, including her true love (a woman named Snow), but ultimately finds her way back. And she begins to discover her destiny-with a twist. This cerebral debut novel is not for average readers, but some teens are sure to see themselves in Jackal, and will find her story both suspenseful and inspiring.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In Eskridge's near future, project manager Ren "Jackal" Segura of the huge Ko corporation is a Hope, one of a handful selected by birth for fast-tracking to positions of influence in the world government. Later, however, Jackal learns that she isn't a real Hope: her date and time of birth were faked, because Ko considered it necessary. Depressed and angry, Jackal strikes a colleague, but is permitted to continue her studies-and she's given charge of a project developing a virtual reality that's reprogrammable from within. Then, blamed for a peculiar disaster-accident or act of terrorism, more than 400 people are killed, friends and colleagues included-Jackal agrees to help Ko and the world government hush things up. She accepts a sentence of solitary confinement in VR-inside her own project. Jackal endures for subjective years, undergoing profound readjustments in order to retain her sanity, rejecting memories of her friends, even her female lover, Snow-but then she learns how to escape her cell. Finding herself in Ko-land, though empty of people, Jackal joyously rides her bicycle, dances on tables, and masturbates. Finally, released from VR, she's sent under close surveillance to a grim, distant city. Learning to cope with horrid flashbacks, refusing to divulge how she escaped her cell, Jackal stumbles into Solitaire, a bar run by and for fellow survivors of VR confinement. Shakily, she tries to come to terms with her experience and circumstances. Intermittently gripping and intense: a debut that dramatizes the what, confuses the how, and mostly evades the why.

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Small Beer Press
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Read an Excerpt


a novel
By Kelley Eskridge

Small Beer Press

Copyright © 2011 Kelley Eskridge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781931520102

From Part 1:

So here she was, framed in the open double doors like a photo­graph: Jackal Segura on the worst day of her life, preparing to join the party. The room splayed wide before her, swollen with voices, music, human heat, and she thought perhaps this was a bad idea after all. But she was conscious of the picture she made, backlit in gold by the autumn afternoon sun, standing square, taking up space. A good entrance, casually dramatic. People were already noticing, smiling; there’s our Jackal being herself. There’s our Hope. It shamed her, now that she knew it was a lie.
She took a breath and stepped into the chaos of color and noise, conscious of her bare face. Most people had made some effort at a Halloween costume, even if only a few finger smears of paint along cheekbone or forehead. Enough to make them unrecognizable, alien. She had a vision of Ko Island full of monsters lurching to the beat that boomed like a kodo drum, so loud that she imagined the huge western windows bulging under the pressure, only a moment from jagged eruption. It could happen. There was always a breaking point.
But she should not be thinking about things breaking, about her life splintered like a bone that could never be set straight. She should wipe from her mind her mother’s voice, thin and sharp, They give you everything and you don’t deserve it, you’re no more a Hope than I am! She should stop wanting to split Donatella’s head open for saying it. And she should not yearn to lay herself in her mother’s lap and beg her take it back, Mama, make it better while Donatella stroked her hair. What good would it do? Her mother would only find a way to break her all over again.
Enough. She shook her head and braced herself against the jostle of bodies. Fuck Donatella. Jackal would cope. She would find a way to work it out. She was here, that was the first step: and somewhere in this confusion were the people she needed—her web mates, her peers among the second generation of Ko Corporation citizen-employees. Her web was the world. Her web was safety. She only had to brave the crowd long enough to find them.
She guessed they would stake out their usual space by the windows that faced the cliffs and the sea beyond. They would be drinking and laughing, expansive, expecting only what everyone expected: that the world turned, that business was good, that the company prospered and its people prospered with it, flowers in the sun of Ko. With Jackal as the tallest sunflower in the bunch. It was a ludicrous image, with her olive skin and dark eyes, but it was true. She was the one they looked to, the budding Hope of Ko. Every person of the company—the three hundred in the room, the four hundred thousand on the island, the two million around the world—watched their Hope with a mix of awe and possession, as if she were a marvelous new grain in the research garden, or the current stock valuation. They knew her latest aptitude scores and her taste for mango sorbet. They had opinions about her. They parsed her future at their dinner tables. Is she ready? Will she be a good Hope? Compelling questions for the past twenty-two years, gathering urgency now as Jackal approached her investiture. In just two months she would go to Al Iskandariyah, where the heart of the world government pumped, to stand with the other Hopes in the first breath of the new year, the shared second of their birth. At twenty-three, they would be of age in any society, legally entitled to take up their symbolic place in the global administration. But what was the task? You are the world builders, the official letter from Earth Congress read. Jackal knew it by heart; she bet all the Hopes did, the thousands scattered around the planet who had been born in the first second of the first attempt to unify the world. We honor you as the first citizens born into the new age of world coalition. You are the face of unity: the living symbol of our hope to be a global community with shared dreams and common goals. That was who she was: the Hope of Ko. The Hope of the only commercial entity on the planet with its own home territory and almost-realized independence from its host nation, only a few negotiations away from becoming the first corporate-state in the new world order; the only commercial concern powerful enough to leverage its impact on world economy into inclusion in the Hope program that had, over the years, become an increasingly meaningful symbol of influence and power in the emerging Earth Congress and Earth Court.
“Coming through!” a man called as he bumped past her and spattered beer on her shirt. She bit down on the impulse to say something nasty; instead, she ducked her head and stepped back. The Hope must be always gracious. The Hope must show the best face of Ko.
She had been aware for most of her twenty-two years that she carried the future of the company in some way that was undefined, emblematic. She had tried to visualize it. She could see herself in Al Iskandariyah, living in a functionary’s apartment near the marketplace with its smells of boiled wool and incense and calamari fried in glass-green olive oil. She could imagine the cool hallways of the Green and Blue Houses of government. But she never pictured herself doing anything. What exactly was a Hope supposed to do? All she was being taught was what any manager at Ko might learn, albeit more quickly and with more personal attention from her trainers; there had to be more to being a Hope than that. She squeezed her eyes shut against the frenzied loop playing in her brain: no more a Hope no hope no hope—
Breathe, she told herself. The music seemed louder, the air thicker with sweat and the smell of beer. A new track was playing, that song about fame, and she felt her lips pull back from her teeth. Easy; people were watching. She pulled her jacket tighter around her chest and managed a general nod to as many of them as she could. She had to find the web. Especially Snow. All she wanted right now was someone to be safe with. But maybe she would never be safe again, never safe, never—
“Jackal!” A hand on her arm. “Great, you’re here. Hey, they’re playing your song.” Tiger laughed at his own joke, and she made herself smile even though it was hard.
“Hey, Tiger.”
“Where’ve you been? Everybody’s asking for you. Come on, we’re over here. I’ll get you a drink.” Drawing her into the music and the laughter, his body warm from dancing, just a little too close. Another thing to deal with. Later, she thought. First a drink and some space to wind down. And Snow. I’ll deal with the rest of it later.
He led her to the back of the room, opening a path with a touch on one person’s shoulder, a gentle nudge of his hip to an enthusiastic dancer, a grin and a clever word for all of them as he cleared them from his way. The music battered at her; her heart took up the beat.
And there was the web, some dancing in the glow of the sea-refracted sun, some stuffed two to a chair, loud and laughing; a few at a corner table with a pitcher of beer, muttering over a project timeline. Business and life moving belly-to-belly. Ko might be structured along traditional lines of management, but it was sustained by the webs that cut across hierarchies and divisions, people focused on the company but loyal to one another. As familiar as family. Web mates liked or loved or despised each other, but regardless they made each other successful, and Ko thrived.
“Hey, Jackal.”
“Hey.” She was especially glad to see Bear and Turtle, both good friends, both solid and safe. She smiled, settling into a chair next to them. Bear blinked at her from behind his feathered half-mask, turquoise and scarlet, dramatic against his mahogany skin. “Where’s your costume? We should send you back home and make you change.”
“She came as an ordinary person,” Turtle said, leaning over to hug her. From someone else it might have been a nasty remark. Today, it hurt precisely because it was so earnest, so obviously well-meant. “Feliz Vispera de Todos Los Santos,” he said with a smile.
“She always looks like that,” Mist said. That wasn’t exactly nasty, just disapproving.
Tiger had come up beside her with a tall glass of something orange and cold. “Oh, lay off,” he said. Then, to Jackal, “Here, try this.”
“What is it?”
He gave her a look. “Try it. If you don’t like it, I’ll get you something else.”
She took a sip: lovely, cool orange juice with something warm and rich behind it. “Mmm,” she said, nodding. “Good.” She took another, larger swallow. “What is it?”
“Brandy and orange juice. My new favorite drink.”
“It’s revolting,” Mist said. Tiger rolled his eyes at Jackal. She raised her glass to him and drank down the rest in one breath, then wiped her arm across her mouth. Turtle chuckled.
“Well,” Tiger said. “You’d better have this one too.” He handed her his glass.
“Thanks.” Another deep swallow, until her stomach felt hard and full, and waves of heat started up her spine. The party rolled around her, music and laughter, people in motion. She wanted Snow. The others were talking over her; as far as she could tell, she’d interrupted a debate about planning the web’s holiday celebration. She tuned it out: she didn’t care. She didn’t mind New Year’s Eve; there were no presents to buy, and she liked champagne, and the New Year toast always morphed into everyone wishing her a happy birthday. But she did not expect to enjoy this New Year’s. She would be in some official residence in Al Iskandariyah preparing for investiture, unless of course someone found out about her and de-Hoped her, whatever that entailed.
That made her want to cry. She blinked and peered at her empty glass. She could feel Tiger watching; she asked, “Can I have another one of these?”
He studied her for a moment before he answered. “Whatever’s wrong, is there anything I can do?”
She gave him a plastic cheerful smile. “Everything’s fine. All I need is another drink and to find Snow. Do you know where she is?”
“She’s taking around a group of little kid trick-or-treaters. She left about a half hour ago.”
Oh, damn, damn, she thought, and knew he saw it. She had been counting on Snow’s comforting arm and anchoring solidity. Tiger sighed so briefly that she almost missed it, and it was one more thing she couldn’t cope with right now. He said, “Does that mean you’re going too, or do you still want that drink?”
Great. Just terrific. Snow was gone, Tiger was hurt, and Jackal felt overwhelmingly tired of all of them, especially her own helpless self. What did people do when they were uprooted, a torn tree tumbling in the funnel cloud? “Drink,” she said, ignoring the voice inside her that was saying be careful, Jackal. “I’ll definitely have another drink.”
“Okay,” Tiger answered, sounding surprised and slightly mollified. “I’ll be right back.”
But he wasn’t.


Excerpted from Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge Copyright © 2011 by Kelley Eskridge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kelley Eskridge: Kelley Eskridge's novel Solitaire was a New York Times Notable Book and a Borders Books Original Voices selection, and a finalist for the Nebula, Spectrum, and Endeavour awards. Her stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan, won the Astraea Award and been finalists for the Nebula and James Tiptree awards. Her collection Dangerous Space was published by Aqueduct Press. Her story “Alien Jane” was adapted for television and a film adaptation of Solitaire titled OtherLife is in production by Cherry Road Films. She lives in Seattle, WA.

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Solitaire 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's hard to find SF/fantasy that's well written. This books fills the bill, and is fascinating, touching, and eye-opening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book soooo much! There were so many points that I couldn't stop reading it. I fell into the story and really became Ren, I felt what she felt. The author gives great sensory images. You must read it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the not too distant future, there is one world government although regional areas retain some autonomy. Ko, one of the biggest corporations is about to receive regional status as they contribute almost seven percent to the world¿s economy. Ren Segura, known as Jackal, is the epitome of the corporate citizen and Ko is doing everything in their power to see that she reaches her full potential as a citizen the world can look up to and admire.

Life is going smoothly for Jackal as she is partnered with Snow, the love of her life. A recreational expedition turns into a tragedy and Jackal is blamed for terrorist activities and the deaths of hundreds of people. Stripped of her status, she is sentenced to virtual confinement but when she gets out, it seems that years have passed instead of months. In the real world, Jackal meets other survivors like her at a restaurant called SOLITAIRE where she must learn to play with the hand fate dealt her.

This is Kelley Eskridge¿s first novel but with her immense talent it definitely won¿t be her last. SOLITAIRE is a cutting edge science fiction thriller starring a heroine who has an inner core of strength that allows her to live life on her own terms despite the factions that want to use her for their own purpose. This is a winner for genre fans.

Harriet Klausner