Solitaire: a novel

Kelley Eskridge  - published January 2011

9781931520102 · paperback/ebook · January 2011

Adapted as a motion picture: OtherLife.

A New York Times Notable Book, Borders Original Voices selection, and Nebula, Endeavour, and Spectrum Award finalist.

“A stylistic and psychological tour de force.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Suspenseful and inspiring.”—School Library Journal

Jackal Segura is a Hope: born to responsibility and privilege as a symbol of a fledgling world government. Soon she’ll become part of the global administration, sponsored by the huge corporation that houses, feeds, employs, and protects her and everyone she loves. Then, just as she discovers that everything she knows is a lie, she becomes a pariah, a murderer: a person with no community and no future. Grief-stricken and alone, she is put into an experimental program designed to inflict the experience of years of solitary confinement in a few short months: virtual confinement in a sealed cell within her own mind. Afterward, branded and despised, she returns to a world she no longer knows.

Struggling to make her way, she has a chance to rediscover her life, her love, and her soul—in a strange place of shattered hopes and new beginnings called Solitaire.


Solitaire brilliantly explores . . . the dubious boundary between ‘virtual reality’ and the act of imagination — all in the ageless story of a bright, risky kid trying to find out who she is and where her freedom lies.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea)

“Kelley Eskridge uses all the best stuff — passion and deception, devotion and betrayal — to deliver a knock-out first novel.”
—Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves)

Solitaire is a novel of our time: a story of dashed expectations and corporate manipulations. Eskridge explores what it means to really see ourselves, and what we are ultimately capable of. Jackal, a slight adolescent, matures into an adult capable of living well, no matter what her circumstances. She is a worthy role model for any reader.”

“Vivid and provocative.”
The Baltimore Sun

“As with Eskridge’s short fiction, the vividness of the characters is what makes this book so memorable.”

“Psychological insights that would warm the heart of Alice Hoffman.”
The Seattle Times

“Teen readers who are fond of the genre will embrace Solitaire with ease while fans of YA dystopian titles will find a character who possesses all the cool and quiet power of the best girl hero in a story that is light years beyond the standard fare. Jackal is no wimp or whiner, nor is she a born “chosen one.” In every way that matters she is the product of the corporate culture (both personally and professionally) that embraced her from birth; she is certainly a twenty-first century construct we can all recognize. The struggles she goes through are always tempered with very personal loss, both as a result of the accident that finds her imprisoned and the distance from the love of her life who remains back on Ko. What rocks so much about Solitaire is that Eskridge has put as much time and attention into her character building as the plot and that means that while we marvel at the world she created, we also respond on a fundamental level with Jackal and the girl she loves who never stops loving her back. This book is a treasure; a true jewel for readers longing for big ideas and intimate story.”
—Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

“Takes the reader down to the bone . . . Eskridge’s skillful use of detail, her strong characters and evocative settings, and her ability to take her readers on a spiral path to the innermost depths of an individual mind, and then back out again, make this a fascinating read.”
Strange Horizons

“The people of our time are recognizable in the people of Jackal’s, and though their technology is fiction to us, inner human strength triumphs over hardship, and good comes out of even the depths of madness. Jackal’s story resounds with more faith in character than is usual in future-noir.”

“Eskridge’s first novel offers a dystopic vision of a near future in which virtual technology becomes a tool for societal control. Featuring a resourceful and engaging protagonist, this novel belongs in most sf collections and should appeal to readers of high-tech sf intrigue.”
— Library Journal


Kelley’s Big Idea: “I wrote Solitaire to explore the complicated landscape of alone. I found a character named Jackal who defines herself foremost in terms of her community and her connection to others; then I took all that away, and trapped her in the most alone place any of us can go – inside our own heads. Jackal ends up in virtual solitary confinement facing an utterly realistic experience of being locked in a cell for eight years. What happens to her there – her journey through alone – changes everything.”

Solitaire received a lovely thoughtful review on Eve’s Alexandria in response to “a very long discussion thread over at Torque Control — sparked by an interview with Tricia Sullivan — about why so little of the science fiction published in the UK these days is written by women.”

And John Mesjak says: “When I first read the manuscript of this reissue edition, I was just blown away. There are three distinct sections to the book, and each one has its own flavor and energy – all adding up to a dark but wonderfully described future. It was absolutely one of my favorite novels from the Fall 2010 Consortium catalog.”

“In a certain way, Solitaire is ahead of its time. It’s a title that old, conventional marketing will tell you won’t sell: it features a multicultural, non-white, female protagonist who happens to be a lesbian; the author is telling us the details rather than showing us; it’s a science fiction concept within a science fiction concept. Yet it is for these reasons that the book succeeds.”
—Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker

Read 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.

Read the first chapter here.

Kelley Eskridge is a novelist, essayist, and screenwriter. 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 is in production by Cherry Road Films. She lives in Seattle with her partner, novelist Nicola Griffith.

Cover photos:
Cover design: Frances Lassor.
Author photo: Jennifer Durham.