14 December 2009

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

I'm an admirer of the Kushiel series, and recently started looking around for other books Jacquline Carey has written. I found Santa Olivia, and decided to pick it up.

I found the story entertaining and engaging, and a quick read. The setting is this: in a future time, but not so very far distant, a disease breaks out with a high mortality rate. In response, the US closes its Southern border with a wall, leaving a span of land as a buffer zone and declares the people within as no longer being US citizens. In this zone various military outposts are built, staffed by Americans within the wall to defend against a deadly but unseen enemy - whether the virus or a mysterious raider known as El Segundo is only to be guessed at. And such guesses should not be made aloud.

A military base puts certain pressures on the surrounding populace, and in such a pressured area as this the strains are nearly visible. One soul takes advantage of the zone to attempt to sneak away; but in passing through, he fathers a child before moving on. He was a hybrid human, a GMO and not technically a citizen but actually property of the US government.

The child grows; the child shows the traits of the father. And the child is tested in ways one might expect are just as harsh as anything the father went through. But one difference remains - she chooses this path, and could leave it if she chose. Her determination and pique make the story arc in a trajectory that is inevitable and still mesmerizing.

I'd recommend this book to any fans of the Kushiel series. The protagonists' parallels to Ph├Ędre are evident, and while the relationships and plottings of the characters are nowhere as nuanced and brilliant as those in the Kushiel series there is a certain prospect of intrigue which is unsettling. I found myself wondering at one point if the child's father was the same as the General, and trying to second guest the motives of the priest as well.

I have a thing for dystopia novels. If you do too - or if like me you're waiting for the next installment from Terre d'Ange - check out Santa Olivia.