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January 30th, 2011, 05:31 PM #1
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Hobbit Towers, England
- Blog Entries
February 2011 BOTM: Wild Cards Book 1 edited by George RR Martin
This month's book is a recent rerelease: the first book in the Wild Card mosaic collaborative series.
First published by Bantam in 1987, it was re-released by Tor in 2010, with additional stories. There have been 21 books set in the Wild Cards universe since 1986, some collections, other novels.
The series tells of an alternate Earth after WW2.
According to Wikipedia,
In 1946 an alien virus that rewrites human DNA is accidentally unleashed in the skies over New York City. It kills 90% of those who come into contact with it (referred to as 'drawing the Black Queen'). However, 9% mutate into deformed creatures (known as 'Jokers') and the remaining 1% gain superpowers (known as 'Aces'). There is also a class known as 'deuces' - Aces who have acquired useless or ridiculous powers, such as the ability to levitate up to two feet, or to grow body hair at will. The airborne virus eventually spreads all over the world, affecting tens of thousands.
NOTE: Please keep discussion to the first book of the series. Thank you!
Last edited by Hobbit; February 1st, 2011 at 11:59 AM.Mark
February 1st, 2011, 06:00 PM #2
I read the original paperback some years back and loved it. Despite having read ASOIAF, I was surprised at how dark it was. It's not about superheroes per se, but rather real people who have been transformed in marvelous or hideous ways and how they deal with it. I was also surprised at how much history the book covers from post-WW2 to post-Vietnam. Every author really brings their A-game to their story.
I also read the re-release and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first time around. David Levine's story of a CIA analyst with a hidden ace during the Cold War fit in perfectly. Unfortunately, I felt the other two stories don't really work. Vaughn's story is good, but superfluous since her character pops up in a later book without such a prior introduction. And Cassutt's just wasn't well written at all.
Either edition is totally worth it and I often recommend this series to other people.
February 2nd, 2011, 09:14 PM #3
- Join Date
- Apr 2009
- Durham, NC
I'll be joining in for the first time this month. I was a bit late on January's BOTM and am just finishing up The Magicians now.
Looking forward to this one as I'm a pretty big GRRM fan.
February 5th, 2011, 05:16 PM #4
After I finish reading what I'm currently reading, I might give this a shot. Was going to wait until Tor decided to re-release the next book, but seems like a good time as any to read this book. Plus I'm kinda in the mood to read some superhero novel.
February 13th, 2011, 12:18 PM #5
Late getting to comment on this one, as life has been hectic.
I've been waiting to read this for a number of years now, but had never found book 1 at a price I was willing to pay. I've had 2 and 3 on the shelf for about a year now, as I had found them used for a couple buck each. WCI arrived for Christmas, so with much built-up anticipation I dove into it at the end of January.
It was very nearly everything I hoped it would be, though in a much different way. I had a vision (and this may yet play out more in later books) of virally-charged superheroes duking it out with virally-charged villains. In a lot of ways, that's not what we got. As someone mentioned up-thread, what we generally get are normal, everyday people with powers they have to deal with in some way. Some use them for personal gain, some for good, others for evil.
One aspect of this book that I wasn't anticipating was the fact that all this started back in the 40s...the pleasant upswing for this was just how well the stories portrayed different times and aspects of the mid-20th Century and the way these Aces did (or just as often didn't) affect things compared to actual history. Very often, no matter how much they pulled things away from our timeline, something would happen to pretty much put things back on track.
I particularly loved how integrated the Wild Cards were into the political landscape. It made perfect sense that HUAC would go after them and that there would be implications for the civil rights movement. Which brings me to something that impressed me quite a lot: There was a definite narrative to the book.
Many shared-world books I've read (granted, not too many of these so far) tend to be separated stories set wherever, such as the Thieves' World. I've been through a book and a half of those and neither volume seems to have a clear narrative of any sort. Wild Cards, in contrast, was very much a story told in parts. The tapestry was enhanced one short story at a time (with the exception of a few stories). We may get the story of Tachyon and Brain Trust in "Witness", but it's fleshed out much more thoroughly in "Degradation Rights." With a few exceptions, each story took something from earlier stories and really fleshed it out.
Out of the new stories, I thought their success was a little mixed in regards to that last point. The CIA story fit excellently into the tone and tapestry of the other stories. The Hollywood one did fit thematically as a natural progression of the earlier HUAC stories, but I didn't think the quality of the story was as high. On the flip side of that, I was entertained by "Ghost Girl..." but didn't think it did much to extend the overall narrative.
Because things are so connected, I've been having a hard time picking a short list of favorite stories in this volume. I really liked "Witness" in much the same way I liked Alan Moore's Watchmen, as a deconstruction of the classic superhero team (Avengers, Fantastic 4, etc.). I also quite liked "Degradation Rites" as a heartbreaking story of Blythe's descent into madness and death and Tachyon's inability to help her. I found the writing in "Witness" and "The Sleeper" to be top-notch, also.
So, thoughts from others on favorite stories, favorite writing, etc? Do you agree that Martin largely managed to take all these different authors and steer them into an overall successful single narrative? Look forward to hearing others chime in on this.
Last edited by Erfael; February 14th, 2011 at 01:35 PM. Reason: Alan Moore/Frank Miller confusion...
February 15th, 2011, 05:02 PM #6
- Join Date
- Apr 2000
- NSW, Australia
Just dropped in to say this is the only book which hasn't arrived from a recent BD order, and it was shipped in the middle so I may miss the discussion.
I do, however, have Mythago Wood on the shelf.
February 27th, 2011, 07:59 PM #7
- Join Date
- Apr 2000
- NSW, Australia
Due to the late arrival of the book (and life intervening) I've only managed to read a third of the book so far. I've just started "Degradation Rites", and will put down the book after that until I've read a few other things (including Mythago Wood).
It hasn't really grabbed me so far. I like the concept (I was a big X-Men fan as a kid), particularly the Jokers, in that not everyone should get a super-cool uber-powerful mutant power, but don't feel too much has been done with it. What I've read so far feels like some stories from around the edges of things, showing an everyman view of the events and a riff on Golden Age X-Men. Nothing too special.
I'll pick it back up in 4-6 weeks and see if anything changes my opinion.
March 24th, 2011, 08:59 AM #8
So it took me an excess of three weeks to finish Wild Cards I. There was plenty of good material inside but as with any anthology, there were a few bumps along the way. I was a bit surprised - but not put-off - by all the adult content which seems a bit odd for a superhero shared universe which would tend to cater more to younger crowds (at least I think).
Strangely enough, the best and worst stories were the very first ones.
Worst offender by far was Howard Waldrop's contribution: at the very least 6 different POVs, esoteric writing, name dropping galore laced with technical stuff, in other words a complete mess which would have turned a younger reader (me) away from this book in another place and time. A shame for the story which starts the wheel turning and introduces the central mythical figure of Jetboy.
Thankfully Roger Zelazny set everything back on track with his wonderful "The Sleeper". I haven't read the complete Amber Chronicles yet but I think I might be in for a major treat.
The mosaic aspect of the anthology was fairly well done as the stories, with a big help from the interludes, did feel part of the same universe. A few times however, the recurring appearances of several characters were more a detriment (not Tachyon AGAIN) because they served no other purpose than adding "continuity".
I'm not sure I agree with the concept of adding new material but I did enjoy two of the new stories (David D. Levine & Carrie Vaughn) and didn't care at all for Michael Cassutt's which amounted to nothing more than a very drawn out punchline.
All in all, I enjoyed the first Wild Cards volume and I will pick up the second one if TOR still intends to publish it.
PS: And wow, wow, George RR Martin really let his potty mouth loose. One interlude especially was an eyebrow raiser.