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From Barnes & NobleThe 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