Literature: Santa Olivia

Santa Olivia is a novel written by Jacqueline Carey, whom you may recognize from Kushiels Legacy. Much lighter fare than those books, Carey once described Santa Olivia as a "post-punk desert urban fantasy about girl’s love and boxing."

Now that I’ve got your attention…

The story begins in Santa Olivia, a small town on the border of Texas and Mexico, sometime in the not-too-distant future. An epidemic hits the world, and Mexico worse than most. A general, Santa Anna, called El Segundo by most, starts causing ruckus in order to get aide from the United States. Things get out of hand, some explosions are had, and when the dust has cleared, a barrier zone is created to keep Mexico out. Santa Olivia, along with a couple other towns here and there, happens to fall in the barrier zone, and so the inhabitants are given a choice. They can either stay, and forfeit their citizenship, or figure out some way to move themselves into the States. Most, being too poor to move, or too rooted in the town, decide to stay. An outpost is built next to the town, and in exchange for supplies and necessities, the town folk provide menial labor, restaurants, bars, and human interaction for the soldiers. One of these particular interactions is boxing. See, the local general doesn’t like many things, but he happens to absolutely love boxing, and brings in various champions for the townsfolk to compete against. He even made a standing offer: any townsfolk who actually won a match would be granted passage out of the outpost and into the States, along with one other person of their choosing.

One particular girl living in the town is named Carmon Garron. She’s young, pretty, lives with her cousin, and makes just enough money waiting tables at a local diner that she can scrap by for herself and her son. One day, however, she meets Martin. Martin, she quickly discovers, isn’t entirely normal, but this doesn’t stop a passionate affair from brewing. Unfortunately, Martin is discovered, and is forced to leave the outpost just after finding out he’s managed to impregnate Carmon.

The child, named Loup, turns out to be different like Martin is. Which is a problem, because the government would love to get their hands on her, and she’s not terribly good at hiding.

This is mostly backstory, however. The majority of the plot revolves around Loup’s interactions with the townsfolk and other people her age as she grows from a child to a teen to a young adult. Romance and drama and action and life lessons are delivered unto Loup, and by extension, the reader, in a concise little coming-of-age story. About girl's love and boxing.

A sequel, Saints Astray was released in fall 2011.

This Book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: All over the place.
    • Averted with Carmen though who, while in a difficult position, loves her children dearly.
  • Adults Are Useless: At least the townsfolk are, due to a complete lack of power when dealing with the military.
    • Though one could argue that this might be different hadn't they had the virus to deal with at the same time.
  • Artistic License – Law: Zigzagged. Loup needs to keep her existence secret because, it's explicitly stated, she's not technically a human being, and so doesn't have any rights under the constitution. This would be completely incorrect note  in the modern-day States, but it's later revealed that an amendment was passed to specifically change that. Which is later challenged and overturned by Congress.
  • The Atoner: Ron Johnson.
  • Attempted Rape: Pilar’s uncle tries to pull this. He’s stopped. Katya isn’t so lucky.
  • Big Eater: Loup. All that energy has to come from somewhere.
  • Bi the Way: It’s a Jacqueline Carey novel, natch.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Miguel Garza is a very talented boxer, with the potential to win the tickets out of Santa Olivia, but he’s never needed to push himself, and so he’s never quite racked up the skill to win a match.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Inverted. Carmen realizes she’s pregnant, while Martin is in denial because he was told as a child that he was completely sterile.
  • Cool Old Guy: Floyd Roberts, the boxing coach. Father Ramon, while not actually all that old, is weary and philosophical enough to be one.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The first couple of chapters follow Carmen. The story is quite definitely about Loup.
    • Same goes for Tommy, after the focus goes to him.
  • Determinator: Loup. Tommy, too, trains like an unstoppable machine.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Loup and Pilar manage to end up together and escape the Outpost. She also wins the boxing match.
  • Fearless Fool: Deconstructed. One of the things that’s different about Loup is that she’s completely unable to feel fear. Because of this, she has difficulty understanding which things might not be a good idea to do. She likens this to be a particular kind of stupid.
  • Heroic BSOD: Loup, when Tommy dies.
  • Insufferable Genius: Jane. Jaime is considered around as smart, but is a much nicer person.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Happens multiple times.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Miguel Garza, believe it or not.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Loup and the Santitos get good at delivering this.
  • Papa Wolf: Tommy is the big brother version of this to Loup. Had he not been in her life, she would probably have gotten caught and detained by the military as a very young child.
  • Polyamory: Father Ramon, Sister Martha, and Anna are in a dedicated, stable, long-term relationship.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Most of the soldiers aren't terribly bad people, just bored and willfully ignoring some of the more horrible things going on around them.
  • Red Baron: Mack is actually short for Mack the Knife, and isn’t his real name. He killed his father with a knife for abusing his mother.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Inez and many others are killed in the missile strike, to prove just how bad the Big Bad is.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Tommy is killed in a boxing match against Ron Johnson, another GMO like Loup.
  • Skunk Stripe: Pilar is mentioned to have a natural streak of blonde in her otherwise brunette hair.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Tom Almquist leaves Carmen with Tommy, and Martin leaves her with Loup, although he didn't die immediately.
  • Super Reflexes: Loup is capable of moving significantly faster than the average person, and is mentioned several times to be able to move fast enough that she can’t be seen.
  • Super Strength: Loup is also two or three times stronger than the average human.
  • Uncanny Valley: Loup falls into this occasionally. Her inability to feel fear means that her reactions and emotionally responses are a little off compared to most people. Also most people react oddly to touching her, implying that there's some difference above and beyond just denser muscles.
  • Yuri Genre: Loup and Pilar fall for each other. Hard.