This near-future debut novel tries hard, but doesn't quite amalgamate its ambitious themes. Twenty-two years earlier, the first Earth Congress declared all children born in the first second of the new year "Hopes," living privileged symbols of the new one-world order. The Hope of Ko, a vast corporate conglomerate, is Ren Segura, who chose the call name "Jackal" for the animal's terrifying wail, a self-pitying cry that sums up this uneven character-driven novel. Though Jackal is promising at project managing and facilitating, Ko maneuvers her into causing the deaths of her "web," her closest friends. Forced by Ko to make a deal to save her parents from disgrace, Jackal accepts virtual confinement, an experimental extension of Garbo, the VR project Jackal had previously been tapped to oversee. Experiencing years of solitary in only a few "real" months, Jackal emerges exiled to a nameless city, beset by flashbacks to her punishment and by interviews with an Orwellian interrogator/parole officer. This novel self-consciously seethes with anger and frustration at society's inability to ensure justice to the accused, rehabilitate the convicted, reassimilate the outcast and heal the hurt. Eskridge's solution to all these eternal social ails is conventional in message, though selective in execution: the redemptive power of individual—in this case—lesbian love. Overextended in feverish description, overwrought in its self-absorbed tone, this case study of the postadolescent psyche seems most, like its heroine, to really "vant to be alone." (Sept. 18)
Forecast:An established writer of short fiction, Eskridge has garnered blurbs from the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Tim Powers and Vonda M. McIntyre. Whatever its faults, this first novel is likely to generate plenty of buzz as well as sales, supported by author appearances in the Northwest.
Release date: 09/01/2002