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Inside Straight (Wild Cards Novel) Hardcover – January 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The newest Wild Cards mosaic novel marks a new beginning for the long-running saga. Veteran contributors such as Melinda M. Snodgrass and John Jos. Miller and newcomers like Carrie Vaughn and S.L. Farrell create a new generation of fantastical characters, including Jonathan Hive, who can transform himself into a swarm of wasps, and the six-armed, tattooed giant Drummer Boy. Twenty-eight superhuman aces are cast in a new reality show called American Hero. As the contestants compete in staged challenges and systematically get voted off amid Hollywood-fueled melodrama, horrific events in the Middle East bring to light the glaring unreality of reality television. When the show reaches its climactic final episode, some of the contestants decide to forsake the trappings of fame and fortune and become real-life heroes. The first volume of a projected trilogy, this fast-paced and sardonic story will appeal to comic book aficionados and heroic fantasy fans alike. (Jan.)
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Top customer reviews
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This volume is the 18th entry in the series, and introduces several new characters and several new contributors. All the ingredients for a new start to the series are here, but there's something vital lacking.
For the first time, I seriously considered setting this book aside and reading something else. I struggled to get through the last couple of chapters. It was worth hanging in, as the final sequences are satisfying and are a good setup for further adventures of these new characters.
The story just doesn't have much punch. Most Wild Cards books are intensely compelling, but this one, which focuses on aces participating in an American Idol style competition (called American Hero), drags in places. Even George R.R. Martin's story, his first contribution since Volume 11, lacks the sparkle of his short work. The plot isn't completely without interest, but it is slow.
A little more than halfway through the book, a crisis erupts in Egypt, and the story segues into real action. You'd expect things to pick up at this point, but it still felt flat to me. It wasn't until the very end that things picked up again and delivered a satisfying wrap-up.
I've never been truly disappointed in a Wild Cards book before, although Volume 16, Deuces Down, was more of an anthology than a mosaic novel. Still, that won't stop me from picking up the next volume. Since each book contains a different mix of writers, you never know quite what will happen next, and the basic concept is still a great one.
If you haven't read the series before, I strongly recommend that you start with the first book and read them in sequence. There is a lot of continuity in these books and the later volumes will be much more enjoyable if you're familiar with the background. Plus, if truth be told, the first six or seven volumes are the best, sustaining a very high level of quality that later books don't quite match.
And if you're thinking of buying this book only because George R. R. Martin's name is on it, and you know his work through the Song of Ice and Fire series, I'd advise against it. This is a completely different style and genre. Ice and Fire is heroic fantasy; Wild Cards is comic-book based science fiction. You might do better to pick up an anthology of Martin's earlier short stories, as there are numerous gems among them.
The simple but profound concept at the core of this series: What if the characters in super hero comic books lived in the real world, with real world issues and problems? This is a no-brainer to everyone these days, but at the point they started this literary project only a very few comics embraced the idea, and most of them were being printed at Marvel. On top of that, no one had done this in pure book mode, with nothing but the words of some of the most amazing authors on the planet to tell the tales.
The premise they used to launch the series was also fairly simple, with far reaching consequences. Aliens wanted to kill off the human race, so they could take over the planet and use the infrastructure we had created for their own benefit, without having to expend the effort to build it themselves. The simplest way to do this was to drop a virus on the planet that would kill off everybody, then they could move in at their leisure and own it all. They started their attack over New York City at the end of WWII, but they didn't expect Jet Boy. He was Batman-esq in his lack of superpowers (or like Iron Man, if you prefer the other example) but the drive to protect his city was at the core of who he was, and he took to the sky to fight them off. Because of his defensive actions, they only managed to infect a single city on Earth; New York. And even there, the virus didn't kill everyone, but only 99% of the population. Out of the 1% who survived, 99% of them became what is known as "Jokers", mutated freaks with warped bodies who might or might not have a power of some kind. The final 1% became "Aces", people with whole or perfect bodies (some a bit strange, what with wings or organic armor or whatever) and superpowers which made them the new heroes, or sometimes the new villeins.
I recommend every book in this series, and keep your eyes out for the new TV Miniseries that will probably end up being used as the pilot for the new show. Like all great literature, they are asking a very basic question here: what does it mean to be human?
I'm not a genre fiction fan. A lot of people enjoy it, but in my experience, the writing isn't as good as an author who's trying new things with fiction. That being said, I think I can see myself becoming a fan of the Wild Card series. The mosaic approach is a lot of fun and I'm enjoying the bite size samplings of different writers.
Most recent customer reviews
Was expecting more/and or something like the Game of thrones.