The Inside Straight on the Wild Cards Series

“Inside Straight” marked a new beginning for the Wild Cards, rg3th a series of science fiction anthologies inspired by superhero comics, sometimes called mosaic novels. In a mosaic novel individual chapters are written by different authors but present a linear story from beginning to end. This is not a collection of short stories. It’s a book with a central theme written by several authors. The Wild Cards series was created in 1987 by a group of science fiction authors and was edited by George R.R. Martin. v9slot

It isn’t necessary to have read the previous books to enjoy the new ones. That being said, the large cast of characters and references to Aces in past books may be confusing to new readers. It helps to know some back story.

In 1946, an alien virus was unleashed in New York City. Ninety percent of those infected died. The survivors had their genetic code re-written. Nine percent of them mutated into deformed creatures called Jokers. The other one percent gained super powers and became known as Aces. The Aces became celebrities and crime fighters. joker8899z

Now it’s 2008 and in the Middle East a rogue assassin kills the Caliph. The Jokers are blamed, resulting in the persecution of Jokers in Egypt. Meanwhile a group of two dozen American Aces are participating in the reality show called American Hero. They’re divided into four teams, named for the four suits in a deck of cards, and moved into houses with cameras. Contests are set up and they compete for the title of American Hero and a million dollars. It’s kind of a Big Brother meets Survivor. But some of the Aces start to think they should be doing something important and be real life heroes. They decide to use their powers to fight the escalating violence in the Middle East. 123maxx

The story invites comparisons to “Heroes” and other contemporary reality shows. References to celebrities and pop culture provide realness for a world where ordinary people have extraordinary super powers. But these Aces are a lot different than the superheroes you may be familiar with.

There’s Jonathan Hive, the Ace who wants to be a writer and ties everything together with his blog posts. His specialty is transforming his body into wasps and sending them out to sting or spy for him. The others are equally memorable, like Drummer Boy, ruay88 the six armed rock star and ladies man. The ladies have their own kick ass heroines like Earth Witch, the Latina lady who can move the earth. And on the other side of the world there are the Jokers in Egypt who have mutated into characters that look like ancient Egyptian gods.

The portrayal of reality shows is fun especially when the different personalities interact in the competitions, but there’s also violence, sex and politically incorrect stuff that might put off some readers. For the most part the Aces are sympathetic characters that readers will cheer on as they struggle with real issues and follow a path to true heroism.

Daniel Abraham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, thetechboy Carrie Vaughn, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos Miller, Ian Tregillis, S.L. Farrell and George R. R. Martin have created a seamless story that’s original, funny, unpredictable, and thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.


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