Genre: science fiction: urban
Queer Representation: cis bisexual, cis lesbian
A border town between the USA and Mexico is cut off by the US government as a base to run genetic experimentation trials. The goal: a wolf-human hybrid trained for military operations.
Unfortunately the residents of Santa Olivia were not given a choice about being trapped inside their small town and tensions run high. The only way out is to win a boxing match against a military-ranked boxer in monthly competitions–something none of the residents have ever done.
Things go awry, as they must, when one of the wolf-men escapes the military compound and is sheltered by one of the townspeople. His legacy of their short time together is a daughter with extraordinary strength and speed, and a deep desire to avenge her older brother, who died in a rigged boxing fight that should have won him his freedom.
SANTA OLIVIA is, hands down, my favorite lesbian science fiction book. Though billed as nothing of the sort, the book follows the life of Loupe Garron from her early childhood idolizing her brother, his death, and her eventual superhero style vigilanteism with a ragtag group of orphans as they fight back against the military occupation.
Embedded in the story is a sweet and powerful romance between Loup and Pilar–a busty, slightly older orphan girl. The two come of age as Loup comes fully into her supernatural powers and it is their love for one another that eventually sets Loup free, both from her past and for her future.
The book is written in the same acute pacing that Carey uses in most of her books (another favorite of mine is STARLESS). The romance line is thrilling and sensuous, and numerous lines comparing sex to good quality tequila are just downright hot. There’s a lot of whispering and ear blowing and voluminous bouncing and it’s just really good, okay?
“I bet Coach Roberts would pay you decent money to train a few of his best guys in secret,” she said. “That could be a real job for you, baby. One you’d like.” She licked Loup’s earlobe. “We could get an apartment.”
Loup squirmed. “It’s still living in slow motion.”
“Living with me?”
“Not you.” She shook her head. “Sparring with normal people.”
“Oh.” Pilar blew in her ear, smiled when Loup wriggled again. “It’d be nice, though. Nice big bed. No more getting carpet burn from fooling around on the floor of the choir room.”
There’s plenty of sappy mushy talk and also solid action and a disturbing plot that, even though it came out in 2009, could very well be today. The Santitos gang of orphans are the best ragtag crew the town of Santa Olivia could ask for, and there’s just enough science to bring about wonder, without getting bogged down into the weeks of genetic tinkering.
If you have the opportunity to get the audiobook version, I would recommend that in addition to the print, as they are uniquely different experiences.
To read the review for the second book in the duology, SAINTS ASTRAY, click here.