by Kelley Eskridge
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Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

The remarkable debut novel from a distinctive voice in speculative fiction boldly maps an ambivalent future — and the perilous, provocative terrain of the mind.

Since the moment she came into the world, Ren "Jackal" Segura has been treated differently. As a hope, she is a symbol of the highest principles of human society and is guaranteed a position of influence in the global government once she comes of age. But two months before she is to assume the role she has been preparing for her entire life — when she will leave her home to represent the massive corporate entity that houses, feeds, and employs her and everyone around her — Jackal discovers that everything she believes, everything she is, is a lie.

Saddled with a crushing burden she dares not share with anyone — not even Snow, her closest web mate, her dearest heart — she must live as if nothing has changed. But on a recreational outing with the others in her web, she inadvertently finds herself at the center of a maelstrom of terror and catastrophe ... and in a single instant, Jackal Segura is a Hope no longer. In the collective eyes of the society that once revered her, she has become someone else: a pariah...and a murderer.

Now she must suffer a terrible punishment. Agreeing to participate in a "rehabilitation" experiment, she surrenders to a virtual solitude, imprisoned alone in a cold gray box in her mind, where months will seem like years and the demons of her psyche will be allowed free rein. But Jackal's history as a Hope has given her strengths and skills other prisoners lack — powers she will need to endure the tormenting loneliness; to survive, branded anddespised, back in a world she doesn't know; to uncover the truth about her cruel betrayal; and to rediscover her life, her love, and her soul — in a strange place of shattered hopes and new beginnings, called Solitaire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060088576
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/01/2002
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.43(w) x 9.31(h) x 1.23(d)

About 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 was produced by Cherry Road Films. She lives in Seattle, WA.

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

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 lagged 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. 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.

"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 ...

Solitaire. Copyright © by Kelley Eskridge. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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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