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