Book Club #3: “Santa Olivia”


Boxing! Ladies! Orphans! Genetically enhanced humans! Excessive governmental power! Let’s talk about Santa Olivia!

I’ll include all of my own feelings in this post, as I feel that I have a lot of them. But if you’re afraid my opinions will sway your own–I always hate when this happens before I’ve articulated my real gut reactions—feel free to reply with your own comments first!

1) Pilar Feelings? Regarding our protagonist Loup’s lover, we’re certain of one thing: she has great breasts. Other than that, I find myself feeling conflicted about her. It’s clear that she and Loup have a spark and feel deeply about each other, but I feel like I still don’t quite understand why or how that spark exists. Mack is clearly the one who understands Loup best, and the destined-but-failed relationship of Loup and T.Y. also felt at least satisfyingly wistful to me. Yet the differences between Pilar and Loup couldn’t be more stark. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those sex scenes! (A lot!)

I suppose, of course, all of this could be chalked up to the wide array of shapes and forms and varieties of love that we encounter in our lives, and the wacky way they all work. We often can’t explain why we love those that we do, while those who actually love us the best—like Mack—will never receive our affection in the same way. My only explanation is that life is weird. Or do you believe Pilar and Loup really were meant to be?

2) For that matter—Loup Feelings? How did you feel about Loup as a main character? In terms of the narrative, she was one kick ass female lead. Like, a serious bad ass. I was glad she existed. At the same time, though, that very bad ass-ness could make her hard to empathize with. Yeah, she wasn’t physically able to feel fear, we get that, and yes, that is a completely interesting concept. But with that monotony of her unfeeling ways stretched throughout the novel, I was often able to admire her, yet not truly relate to her. This is always a tricky part of bad ass characters in these types of roles, I think; but even the toughest and strongest lady in the history of narratives experiences some type of inner turmoil that connects our emotions to her emotions. Yet Loup never really doubted anything she ever did—even with the Pilar-or-the-fight debate, we knew what she was going to choose the whole time. Everything about her steadiness felt like a double-edged sword: it made her character so fascinating on the one hand, yet also made me feel disconnected from her at the same time, somehow.

3) What was your favorite part–or least favorite? A lot of people on Goodreads mentioned certain parts of the novel dragging for them. Did you experience the same? What did Jacqueline Carey do best? What did you love the most? The boxing? The Santitos? The Santa Olivia acts of vigilante justice? I personally was intrigued by the idea of Outpost in general the most, and constantly wanted to know more about what actually lay beyond the walls and fences. What had North America become, and how did it get that way? Were things actually much different out in the world at all?

4) Favorite side character? Other than Pilar? I had a soft spot for Coach Floyd—technically working for The Man and part of the entire evil system, yet so devoted to and pulling so hard for the citizens of Outpost. I love characters who are so split in different directions. And of course, who couldn’t love the trio of Father Ramon, Sister Martha, and Anna?

5) Let’s talk about this ending. While we all knew how the final boxing match of the novel would end, and what would come afterwards, I still found this short last section to be one of the most fascinating of the book–perhaps, like I said, because I was so interested in what the soldiers and the outside world were protecting. But my good friend Folkpants made the valid point that seeing Loup suddenly becoming powerless, and on such a complete scale, was a little disappointing. She also pointed out that Loup had to rely on a dude to help her escape from her prison, instead of engineering it by herself. I accepted her acquiescence with the soldiers as I first read it because, other than knowing there wasn’t much else she could do, I viewed it as solidarity with the Santitos, proof of how much she did in fact care about them. But in thinking about the ending again, it indeed was a bit of a bummer to see our fearless heroine so suddenly stripped of her agency.

When all is said and done, though, were you happy with the ending? This novel was followed up with Saints Astray in 2011, which continued to track the lives of Loup, Pilar, and Miguel. Are you interested in reading this, as well? If you haven’t read it, what do you hope happens in this sequel?

Your turn. Throw your thoughts at me! And then make sure you’ve added December’s book club choice, Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude, onto your next to-read pile!