Solitaire - Kelley Eskridge

I picked this up, as was the case with Archivist Wasp, as part of the recent Humble Bundle sale on books from one particular publisher - Solitaire had been on my TBR list for a while but I'd never got around to actually getting my hands on a copy before!

 

I have to say, I'm massively conflicted about this book, hence the 3-star rating. On the one hand, there's all sorts of things I like about it (mostly the overall world-building and the sense of the main character at least in the first part of the book) but there are also things which annoy me immensely (the fact that it pretty much just does 'oh, here's a happy-ish ending' and then stops). 

 

The basic premise of Solitaire is that our main character, Ren Segura (also known as Jackal) lives and works for a corporation called Ko, which seems to be a man-made island somewhere in the vicinity of Hong Kong. Jackal is being groomed for her role as Hope, to be a representative of the people of Ko in the new United Earth parliament - the sole requirement for that role was that she should be born just as the United Earth came into existence. As we start Solitaire, Jackal has just discovered that her parents faked the documentation that led to her getting this role, which has been a significant factor in everything she's done to date and how everyone else treats her, so understandably she's a bit shell-shocked. 

 

Anyway, something horrific subsequently happens and Jackal ends up agreeing to a prison sentence inside a new Virtual Reality system that's designed to replace normal prisons, as she will serve her time much quicker but effectively inside her own head. A big chunk of the book is then about that experience and the aftermath, once she has been released, since she is no longer welcome back in Ko. Jackal has, we discover, been able to manipulate the VR system from inside and is determined not to tell anyone, for fear of them wanting to slice her brain open to find out how (which seems a perfectly logical reason to me). After her release, she stumbles upon a community of people who've been through similar experiences and also starts to try and make sense of the after-effects, with

the help of those people. 

 

To be honest, I think the last part of the book is where Solitaire loses its way a little - maybe I've been reading too many series, but I never got the feeling that the author had much idea of how to finish the book, other than by tying everything up in a (too) neat bow. A significant character from Jackal's life on Ko is reintroduced and they reconcile, but anyway it's all okay because Jackal has independent financial means and so the fact that she's been labelled as a mass-murdering terrorist doesn't actually have to have much impact on her day-to-day life post-release. Very convenient, that.