Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quotes & Thoughts: Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

Santa Olivia's worldbuilding and some of the possible realities Carey used to weave this fantasy stayed with me long after I finished reading the book.
They said that the statue of Our Lady of the Sorrows wept tears of blood the day the sickness came to Santa Olivia. The people said that God had turned his face away from humankind. They said that saints remember what God forgets about human suffering.
Of course they said that in a lot of places during those years.
The sickness -- a pandemic. This worldbuilding device has been used countless times and doesn't seem unique at all. Except this story is set in the U.S. / Mexican border where violent and controversial events often take place, plus I couldn't help but think of the recent swine flu pandemic scare and all those sad, terrifying and unfortunate deaths in Mexico from the virus. Thinking about those events made this worldbuilding device in Santa Olivia one that I could relate to and ultimately effective.
The day the soldiers arrived, Our Lady's tears dried to rust in her shrine. There were bullhorns and announcements about a wall, a new wall to the north to bracket the wall to the south. 
The walls. With the building of those walls, Carey strays further into possible realities. In this case, the one wall built around the Mexican border to prevent aggression from the south and the other to the north for further security brought to mind current debates about just this subject. The building of a wall to the south has been suggested many times by both politicians and citizens as an answer to security problems and illegal immigration. Given the circumstances presented by Carey in Santa Olivia, I could see it happening.
"We are at war!
This is no longer a part of Texas, no longer a part of the United States of America! You are in the buffer zone! You are no longer American citizens! By consenting to remain, you have agreed to this! The town of Santa Olivia no longer exists! You are denizens of Outpost No. 12!"
Carey then incorporates the fact that the residents of Santa Olivia effectively exchange their freedom and civil liberties for what they believe is security. This is yet another contemporary issue that has been debated in recent times by our generation. Here, Carey explores abuse and manipulation by those in power vs. gullibility and ignorance of the masses.

The consequences to this particular aspect of her worldbuilding are key to the story. The people's dependency on the soldiers for safety and its evolution as these same soldiers degenerate from saviors to jailers and as the townspeople become prisoners in their isolation, is used by Carey as an extreme, if useful, example of what can happen when freedoms are surrendered. There is also a dehumanizing process that takes place as the people's absolute hopelessness morphs into greed, violence and perversions. In Santa Olivia the monsters are of the human sort not the fantastic, making them that much more effective.

Carey begins with possible realities as a base, some of which we can understand and relate to, and then in small increments expands and creates a future that is horrific in its simplicity. This base then strengthens the fantasy and science fiction aspects that Carey successfully incorporates in creating Santa Olivia's world.


  1. Oh, I love Jacquelyn Carey so much! There's a sequel to this book due out in 2011 (I think fall, but not sure)

  2. I hope to read this book at some point, so I only read the quotes -sorry :( But first I have to read Kushiel's Dart.... *panic*

  3. Nicola, I am SO happy to hear this book has a sequel coming. I wasn't sure if it did, but it makes perfect sense -- it begged for one.

    Orannia, this is not a review of the book, just some thoughts I wanted to share on a small section of Carey's worldbuilding for this book. But yeah, definitely a book to add to that Carey TBR pile, lol!

  4. Great post on this book, Hils. You're so observant AND articulate with your impressions. Oh hey... hence the title of your blog! ;o)

    You know that I loved this book, too and am glad we discussed it in an email or two. I don't know what I expected when I picked this one up, and as I started reading I couldn't quite decide if I liked it or not... and then all of a sudden I was totally absorbed in so many different facets of the story. And when I finished? I sat there with the book closed and paused for a few seconds, then said to myself, "What a well written, fascinating book."

  5. Thanks Christine. :)

    You know, the same thing happened to me. It took me a while to get into the story, but once I did I couldn't stop reading it. And then, once I finished, I couldn't stop thinking about it. There's so much I wanted to say about the book that I couldn't quite write a review... it would have been a dissertation.

    I'm so glad there's going to be a sequel. The ending was a bit of an enigma, don't you think?

  6. Thought provoking post, Hilcia! I really enjoyed Santa Olivia on a number of different levels. (My family is from Mexico via Texas, so the parts you highlighted really resonated with me.)

    I have on my Upcoming Books list that Santitos at Large (book 2) is coming out next Spring/Summer. I don't remember where I got the info from (JC's site, maybe?) but hopefully it's accurate, since I can't wait to find out what happens next for Loup.

  7. Renee, I was quite absorbed by Santa Olivia once I really got into it, and then couldn't stop thinking about it. The characters themselves are a study.

    Your family is from Texas? My husband's family is from Mexico via Arizona, I'm steeped in the culture. *g* So yes, the base used to build the world in this book is definitely something we can relate to.

    I cannot tell you how excited I am that the story continues. Afterall, the story IS about the town (Santa Olivia)... and I just want to... know more. That title gives me lots of hope. :)


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