Saints Astray (Santa Olivia)
by Jacqueline Carey
Review by Ellen Russell
Grand Central Publishing Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780446571425
Date: 22 November 2011 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The sequel to Jacqueline Carey's novel Santa Olivia, Saints Astray is another excellent chapter in the life of Loup Garron, the child of a U.S. government genetic experiment test-subject, born in an army outpost on the border of Mexico, which officially doesn't exist. While Santa Olivia details Loup's childhood as a girl with superhuman speed and strength but lacking the ability to feel fear, Saints Astray documents her life as a young adult. Having beaten the army's prize genetically modified boxer both to avenge her brother's death and in an attempt to escape the outpost, Loup is taken into custody by the army. After being tortured and confined, a genetically modified officer, the same officer who accidentally killed her brother, sets her free.
Waiting for her is a "cousin", another child of the first generation of genetically modified humans, and her girlfriend, Pilar. Together they escape across the border to Mexico, where the father Loup never knew spent the last years of his life. She meets many more cousins and is approached both by a U.S. politician, who is trying to expose what is happening in the outposts, and by a security company who want to hire Loup as a bodyguard to the rich and famous. Loup and Pilar decide to both help the politician expose the government's mistreatment of the people on the outpost and to work for the security company for the money it will bring in for their cause. However, as they discover more about the world outside the outpost, they realize that Loup is in more danger than she realized. As a genetically modified organism she is not even entitled to human rights and the U.S. government wants to make her disappear.
Jacqueline Carey made a name for herself as an author with her fantasy series set in Terre D'Ange. However, Santa Olivia and Saints Astray prove just what a versatile writer she is. These books are nothing like her historical fantasy (with the exception that both promote and normalize non-traditional sexual and love relationships). Carey proves that she can write modern characters just as compellingly as she can write historical characters. Carey's people jump off the page, flaws and all. The character relationships and motivations are believable. Also, the idea is a refreshing and interesting (if very loose) take on the "werewolf" legend. The science-fiction aspect of a genetically modified human being is interesting, but not so technical that a fantasy reader will be put off.
I think that today’s Occupy generation will relate very strongly to Loup and Pilar's tale of government oppression and poverty in the face of the many excesses of the rich. Also, Loup's struggle to be recognized as a human being with rights is one that many people can relate to.