Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book Review - Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

Santa Olivia - Jacqueline Carey

Format: Trade Paperback, 341 pages
Publisher: Grand Central
Cover Design: Alan Ayers
Release Date: May 29, 2009
ISBN-10: 0-44619817X
ISBN-13: 978-0446198172

Santa Olivia is an urban, post-apocalyptic novel concerning a small community caught in a battle of borders and subsequently set apart from the rest of America by the military. A plague threatens the U.S. and the border with Mexico is sealed. Santa Olivia, a small Texas town, is isolated between the walls of the two paranoid countries. The tale of the Garron family (and the town itself) is a study of human alienation, the loss of technological amenities, and isolation. But it is also one of strength and survival under the most demanding of situations. Carey's strength is by far the modeling of her characters. They become so real that you'll begin to feel their emotions after only a few pages. The story delves into the raw emotion of abandonment (on many different levels) and confronts the issue in a very unique way.

Loup Garron is the child of an incarcerated mother and an “enhanced” father who shows up in the cordoned off city of Santa Olivia. A stranger and “different from other men,” he is befriended and then loved by Loup's mother. As the story unravels we find that Loup’s father was a genetically engineered human who has super strength and that fear has been completely engineered out of him. When Loup is born in the town square under the statue of Santa Olivia many take it as a sign of protection. But a few years later Loup's mother dies from the plague and she and her brother are forced to move to the local orphanage. Loup’s brother, Tommy, begins working at the local boxing gymnasium and realizes that if he becomes a boxer and beats the favored Army boxer he will win freedom for himself and his sister.


But Tommy dies in a fixed prizefight when his opponent is switched with a twin that is also “enhanced.” Loup picks up the mantle and trains to destroy the man who killed her brother. In the end, she wins the fight but is taken into custody when the military realizes that she too is “enhanced.” She is tortured and beaten but, with the help of an improbable ally, eventually escapes to Mexico.

Note: According to legend, Saint Olivia was the beautiful daughter of a noble family. At the age of thirteen she was kidnapped and taken as a slave. Impressed by her virtue and beauty her abductors permitted her to live in a cave as a hermitess. Later, she began to perform miracle cures on the local sick. Consequently she was imprisoned and tortured. She was sentenced to be burnt to death, but the flames would not touch her. She was finally decapitated. Her sainthood is celebrated on June 10th.

4 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

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