Saints Astray (Jacqueline Carey)

Saints Astray is the second (and last) novel in the Santa Olivia series by Jacqueline Carey.
Finished on: 24.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape culture, misogyny

Loup and Pilar made it out of Outpost 12, aka Santa Olivia – but what are a genetically modified girl and her girlfriend supposed to do when they legally don’t exist at all? Well, in Loup’s case, she quickly has a job offer: to work for an international security firm as the world’s first GMO bodyguard. She agrees, but only if Pilar gets to come, too. Meanwhile, Loup’s old friend Miguel Garza also made it out of Outpost 12 and has promised to testify in front of the senate to shed light on the outposts as well as the GMOs. But nothing is ever as easy as that, is it?

I was so excited about Santa Olivia – I didn’t know what to expect and was wonderfully surprised by what the book delivered. With Saints Astray, unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. I was expecting so much more, but this is very much a disappointment.

The book cover showing two shadowed women against a red background. One is holding a gun.

I don’t even know where to start with this one, so maybe let me point out the one thing that didn’t suck: Pilar and Loup are really cute with each other and there is no artificial drama between them. When they have issues with each other, they talk about it and then work through it. And all of that was lovely. But the rest.

The rest starts with the fact that the political issues happened almost entirely in the background and without Loup and Pilar. Because they are busy going on security missions, saving a rich kid from terrorists (with a side dish of “the terrorists have a good point, but their methods just aren’t okay” which is just lazy), helping a rich fashion designer or being the bodyguards of a successful band.

And oh, that band is an issue in and of itself. It consists of three guys (of course) who want to move beyond their fanbase of teenage girls (of course) because girls don’t like serious music (of course) and they want to be serious musicians (of course). The misogyny in that remains entirely unpacked, instead we get to hear all about how they take home a different girl every night, including comments like that the girls are hopefully of age. One of the guys is joked about because he is so “pervy” – meaning he is not very young girls, has a schoolgirl fetish. I felt like I was thrown into a “male locker room” conversation – but it is told to us from the perspective of Loup who just shrugs it off – they are good guys, deep down, what’s a little misogyny and an obsession with very young girls among friends? It gave me the creeps, so hard.

I was also a little weirded out that Loup is, apparently, the only female GMO – she visits her family, GMO-born like her, not originally “made”, but all of them are male. I don’t know if that was something that was commented on in the first book and I forgot (I don’t think so), but it is certainly not commented on in the slightest here and it would have deserved at least a mention. But it seems like Carey doesn’t even notice that she created an entirely male generation.

What finally gave me the rest was the fact that ultimately, any kind of revolutionary potential of the story just disappears. In the end, yes, the outposts are acknowledged and the GMOs are officially fully considered human, but that just means that Loup and Santa Olivia get to fully participate in the capitalism and militarism that was the source of all their trouble to begin with, instead of changing something substantial. And that just makes everything even more disappointing.

Summarizing: I will forget that this sequel exists, Santa Olivia is thankfully self-contained enough to make this possible.

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