Back in print after a decade, expanded with new original material, this is the first volume of George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards shared-world series.
There is a secret history of the world--a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces--those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers--cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.
Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo-winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.
George Raymond Richard "R.R." Martin was born September 20, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was Raymond Collins Martin, a longshoreman, and his mother was Margaret Brady Martin. He has two sisters, Darleen Martin Lapinski and Janet Martin Patten.
Martin attended Mary Jane Donohoe School and Marist High School. He began writing very young, selling monster stories to other neighborhood children for pennies, dramatic readings included. Later he became a comic book fan and collector in high school, and began to write fiction for comic fanzines (amateur fan magazines). Martin's first professional sale was made in 1970 at age 21: The Hero, sold to Galaxy, published in February, 1971 issue. Other sales followed.
In 1970 Martin received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, graduating summa cum laude. He went on to complete a M.S. in Journalism in 1971, also from Northwestern.
As a conscientious objector, Martin did alternative service 1972-1974 with VISTA, attached to Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation. He also directed chess tournaments for the Continental Chess Association from 1973-1976, and was a Journalism instructor at Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1976-1978. He wrote part-time throughout the 1970s while working as a VISTA Volunteer, chess director, and teacher.
In 1975 he married Gale Burnick. They divorced in 1979, with no children. Martin became a full-time writer in 1979. He was writer-in-residence at Clarke College from 1978-79.
Moving on to Hollywood, Martin signed on as a story editor for Twilight Zone at CBS Television in 1986. In 1987 Martin became an Executive Story Consultant for Beauty and the Beast at CBS. In 1988 he became a Producer for Beauty and the Beast, then in 1989 moved up to Co-Supervising Producer. He was Executive Producer for Doorways, a pilot which he wrote for Columbia Pictures Television, which was filmed during 1992-93.
Martin's present home is Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (he was South-Central Regional Director 1977-1979, and Vice President 1996-1998), and of Writers' Guild of America, West.
A kind editor pointed GRRM my way when he decided to have a Wild Cards book set in the UK and wanted more British authors on board. Actually as a dual national I'm half American, but I've spent 90%+ of my life here.
Anyway, Wild Cards is a franchise spanning 30+ years in real time and 60+ years in book time, and sprawls over 23 (& counting volumes).
The good thing is that although all that alternate history and the cast of characters are there to be used, most of the books (all of which comprise a collection of short stories) stand well on their own, as do the stories within them.
And the underlying idea of the whole thing can be delivered in a couple of lines.
In 1940(ish) an alien virus is released. It infects a few thousand or tens of thousands then fades away, with new outbursts down the years. 90% of those catching it die, 9% are horribly deformed, and 1% are largely untouched but gain super powers. Simple!
So, in preparation for writing my 15,000 word story for Knaves Over Queens, book 27, I read book 1.
It's set in the 40s, 50's and 60s, following the aftermath of the first outbreak and the progress of some of those new "super heroes" along with the social impact of their activities and of the far more numerous "Jokers" (those who end up sick and deformed) who form a persecuted underclass and mostly live in ghettos.
There is a focus on real American political events of the period, re-imagined through the lens of the virus. The political ramifications and events are not discarded but build through the series, giving it a persistent and realistic history that is absent in other superhero franchises where the board is reset regularly and consequences largely forgotten.
The political focus can make this first book rather dry, especially for younger readers for whom time has moved the events from recent(ish) history to something more distant and academic.
I found the quality of the short stories to be enormously variable. This is true of many anthologies, and I guess of many collections of books you might randomly pull off the shelf.
It's been a while since I read it so I can't go into detail. I remember GRRM's own contribution as being very entertaining, and that the story by the late Roger Zelzany (whose books I like a lot) left me somewhat disappointed. But that's part of the joy of collections, the authors can experiment and you never know what to expect. You get highs with the lows and it's definitely worth giving it a try.
You're not committing to a 30 book series here, since armed with the basics you can dive into any of the volumes as you please. It's an exciting and highly imaginative project with some very different takes on the whole superhero (& villain) idea. Well worth it.
And of course the volume my story appears in is a must read!
I haven't read more than a snippet or two from George R.R. Martin (I could not get into A Game of Thrones), so it wasn't George's reputation that lured me into picking this up. It was actually Daniel Abraham's Wild Card short story in an anniversary anthology from Tor. He created a haunting vision of a New York superhero and her desire for normalcy. Somehow, that lead me to the Wild Card series (no doubt late night sleep-surfing around Goodreads) and the discovery that Roger Zelazny was a contributor. As a huge fan of his short stories, I was sold on giving the series a chance.
First published in 1987, and updated in 2010, Wild Cards I is a shared universe anthology. Modeled on superhero conventions, it contains a variety of short stories with interludes and pseudo news-pieces written by Martin. The timeline is congruent with normal earth timeline until 1946 when an alien virus lands on earth, and an alien from the responsible race in hot pursuit. The virus gets released by an evil villain, and huge numbers of people die on exposure. One in ten exposed are genetically altered, drawing the 'wild card.' Using card lore, those with freakish attributes become known as 'Jokers,' while those that remain human-like are known as 'Aces.' This first volume is largely linear, beginning with the exposure to the virus, response,the alien, government investigations, fear outbreaks, etc.
For me, enjoyment was usually proportional to the writer and the writer's focus. I found the set-up less interesting, and the post-war politics dull. A lot of the writing is very period, for both the writers and the comic standard; ie. women without agency/highly sexualized. It is also disconcerting at times to have the alternate timeline reference larger-world events, such as a Jimmy Carter apology, Studio 54 or Watergate, etc. The stories that were enjoyable for me focused on the personal and were thoughtful character studies and creative explorations of talent.
Background on the series says that they are edited by Martin and Snodgrass. I wonder if more invasive editing--or perhaps, the modern resources of the web--could have improved the read. I wonder if the event references were meant to help root the stories in the anthology's timeline, but it didn't work for me. I think I might have almost preferred a more complication type editing that contextualized the following piece.
The general theme is straight from the Crash Test Dummies:
Superman never made any money For saving the world from Solomon Grundy And sometimes I despair the world will never see Another man like him
Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job Even though he could have smashed through any bank In the United States, he had the strength, but he would not
******************** "Thirty Minutes Over Broadway" by Howard Waldrop missed me. It integrated a World War II flying ace, and again, as an indifferent student of history, was a pass. It should appeal to those who are versed in the time period and the mythology of early fighter pilots.
"The Sleeper," by Roger Zelazny was a great character study through time. Zelazny came up with a great character, one whose attributes change after every time he sleeps. Sometimes he comes up aces, sometimes joker. Fourteen years old when he first discovers his talent, he meets a dog-joker who helps guide him through his talents and making a living.
"Witness" by Walter Jon Williams is the McCarthy period piece. Originally, four main aces--Brain Trust, the Envoy, the Golden Boy and the Black Eagle--were recruited by the government to "issue in a post-war golden age." Unfortunately, politics intrude. There's a great deal in here about Bolivian fascists, Communist Reds, various governments worldwide that were anti-democracy. Perhaps part of the story is in the reconfigured history; hard for me to say. It's a detailed story, done well, and absolutely no interest for me. No doubt, this is a personal reaction, largely because of my age and residence; being over forty and a Wisconsinite, I've grown up with the legacy of horrors that was McCarthyism, so it's not a plot-line that interests.
"Degradation Rites" by Melinda M. Snodgrass is an interesting character piece between Tachyon, the alien, and Blythe, the 'Brain Trust' ace. Limited by the convention of the 50s and by Blythe's enthusiastic adoption of the government plan, Tachyon and Blythe embark on a romance. It gives the most insight into the alien culture that created the virus. Bittersweet.
"Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace" by Michael Cassutt was a late edition to the book, copyright 2010. It's another character study around the Hollywood scene, a producer and the star of a children's television show, Captain Cathode. The back-stabbing scene complicated by hidden talents.
"Powers" by David D. Levine was also a late edition. A character study with an ace with a talent for data, but focuses on NATO, Eisenhower and a Russian stand-off that only he can fix. Less interesting because of the cold-war political trappings.
"Shell Games" by George R.R. Martin is another nice character study of an ace who believes in doing good in an era when they've been discredited. Jokertown is refuge for the changed. It's has a nice bromance, a complicated, discredited Tachyon and woman that needs saving. One of the better stories, moving and redemptive.
"The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato" by Lewis Shiner. Um. A Chinese/black pimp discovers tantric sex superpowers and steps up to the plate for the changed. It was well-written. Enough said.
"Transfigurations" by Victor Milan. Set in 1969, it is a time period piece about a researcher that wants to understand hallucinogens and the counterculture. Awkward, and reads strangely like Forrest Gump and his obsession with Jenny. Strangely similar in her predilection for loser boyfriends.
"Down Deep" by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper was interesting. Mob meets subway jokers and a liberal social worker that just wants to 'help.' Almost worked, except that the integration of the social worker and her missing roommate seemed ill-fitted. I so badly wanted it to work. The connection of the subway jokers was interesting.
"Strings" by Stephen Leigh was a little intriguing, but lacked the emotional content that would take it to another level for me. Another one of those period-type pieces where the only woman's role is highly sexualized.
"Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan" was a 2010 addition from Carrie Vaughn. Very likeable, modern UF in feel. A young woman hiding her talent gets talked into a night on the town with a wild girlfriend. Has a guest appearance from a couple of the other characters.
"Comes a Hunter" by John J. Miller was one of the better pieces. The most emotionally complex piece for me. I liked it a great deal but felt the ending needed further completion.
Ultimate rating? Two and a half, three stars, I suppose. It is written well enough but isn't entirely to my taste. I'll probably check out subsequent volumes depending on contributors and to see if another decade or two modernizes story underpinnings.
Tor monthy free ebook for December 2019! Sign up at https://ebookclub.tor.com/ for their ebook of the month club Available until midnight EST on Dec. 13. I recommend signing up if you're a SF/F reader (they'll send you a weekly newsletter but it's actually pretty interesting).
I've seen these "Wild Cards" superhero stories - from an alternative history where an alien virus was dropped over NYC in the 1940s, killing most people, mutating others in harmful/useless ways, and creating superpowered people out of a lucky few - around for several years now, but I've never read this first book, which tells how everything started.
"Wild Cards" is a shared universe created by George R.R. Martin, where lots of different authors come to play and write stories.
This series first came to my attention with the free short story on Tor.com, "The Thing About Growing Up in Jokertown" Read my review of it here if you like. ---
At the time I read the above short story and was adding Fort Freak to my wishlist, I hadn't realized it was a series (wasn't paying attention, oops).. and was a little wary of how many books there were but decided to give it a shot anyways.
Very glad I did :).
Many people are fascinated by superpowers/superheroes (Xmen, Wonder Woman, Superman, Captain Marvel, Dr Strange, etc). Most have us have pretended to be these people or inserted ourselves as a mutant or superhero as well.
What would psychic powers actually be like though? Would it be everything you dreamed of, or would it be a nightmare you desperately want to get rid of/resign yourself to living with?
This book takes a fantastical idea and makes it a reality in each of these compelling stories/interludes. We get a look and see how ordinary people, good and bad, use their powers or deal with being a "Joker" and feared/scorned by society.
Some stories are better than others but there wasn't one that had me thinking "God, this is boring." I loved how everything was connected and other people were referenced and kept popping up:). The Humor some of it too helped balance some stuff out.
Even though there are many different writers, it doesn't feel that way. The flow is uninterrupted and everyone/everything in it feels true to who/what they are. (Would have loved to sit in on the idea sessions when putting this stuff together... how amazing would that have been?) Each writer's style is distinct yet blends in with what everyone else was contributing to this universe.
I did have some favorites of course (Dr. Tachyon, Turtle, Ghost Girl,Earl, Croyd,.. just to name a few) but everyone (without the exception of one guy I wouldn't want to be within ten feet of in real life, but he was still fascinating) is someone I would have been interested to meet and talk with them.
There's a nice display of powers in these stories. I won't say what they are so as not to spoil it for you newcomers but you'll definitely have fun :). A few did remind me of certain superheroes and such but it felt more like just a nod to them without saying anything.
The "Appendixes/Epilogue" and what not were interesting (though the epilogue had me confused a bit, maybe I'm just too tired)... I do confess though, that the science-y one did have my eyes glazing over a bit. It wasn't boring but all that talk went over my head (if I was in the audience, I probably would have just spaced out while recording it on a digital recorder or something). It does get points for feeling like an authentic lecture though.
I absolutely loved the story (which is why I gave it 4 stars). It reminded me of The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson, which is one of my favourite series of all time. People with supernatural powers, Government, X-Men+Chronicle. What more do you need?
For a while it was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was perfect, things were developing slowly. It was an atypical story (I’m talking about the alternative history and the way the powers manifested themselves), but I liked it and I felt all the potential of a 5 star review. Hell, I felt all the potential of becoming my new all time favourite series.
But I slowly realised it wasn't going to happen. I didn't mind the different styles of every chapter, that was actually OK, because it felt like every character and POV had its own style sort of. But it got lost on the way. And the last 150 pages or so? I only read the dialogue and the beginning of every paragraph. It got boring, and that’s a shame, because I was really interested in this series and now I don’t think I’ll read the rest of it anytime soon.
I'm not saying it’s a bad book. It’s really not. You might like it. So I kinda recommend it. But be warned.
Sigh. More reason to dislike Martin and most male sci-fi authors. Under the pretense of a "realistic" take on superheroes male authors yet again manage to equate reality with lots of rape and prostitutes and passive women who need men to survive. This isn't reality. These authors have serious emotional problems. Whether it's Martin, most of the authors in this book, Heinlein, Frank Miller, etc. it's always the same. Their talent is just drowned in their own pathetic insecurities written on every page. The premise is people get a "Wild Card" of mutations, meaning it's totally random, and yet nearly every female character in the book has a power focused on either making them weak or making them need sex constantly. It's fucking pathetic. There's only 2 or so female characters that have anything not offensive, but even they are somewhat problematic.
Seriously guys: deal with your shit. I used to just think the most obvious problems were your issues with women but it is clear there are even bigger issues with yourself. These are not "real stories" about superheros - you've been raised to feel like you should control women, and in the real world you don't, so you write stories where the women are completely dependent on men. This isn't the world you want - you need to dig deeper and get rid of your privilege and delusions of power, not support them. Women aren't objects for you to use however you want and you're not in control of everything in your life. Deal with it. Face your insecurities and learn to write realistic characters. Just when I thought something couldn't be worse than Game Of Thrones I read this. It could have been a great book, but god, it's really just pathetic.
There are women all over the world who do incredible things and are strong, independent, work hard, change the world, etc. Reading books like this you'd think every single woman on the planet was pathetically lonely without a man to save or fuck them. Respect women. Write good female characters. Stop calling your power fantasies "realistic".
Not to mention the blatant racism, total lack of understanding of protest movements, and more but that's a whole other review.
Almost 5 stars. Martin, the editor, outlined the universe, very similar to ours except for the . Then he turned some of the best SF/Fantasy writers loose. Wow. History is rewritten in some interesting ways, but filled with familiar figures. Imagine Kennedy, McCarthy, Nixon, Humphrey & all dealing with the wild cards. Comic, tragic, vile & heroic, but all larger than life, these characters bring to life so many of the attitudes & issues we really did face from post WWII through the 70's, but in ways only masters of the genre could tell us.
Note: Originally, the book blurb here on GR had a final paragraph that read... Now, thirty years later, the victims face a new nightmare. From the far reaches of space comes The Swarm, a deadly menace that could very well destroy the planet. Putting aside their hatred and mistrust, Aces and Jokers must form an uneasy alliance and prepare for a battle they must not lose.... This is incorrect. I have removed it from the book description. If it comes back due to a sync with Amazon or whatever, just ignore it.
I started this book last year for the one and only reason that it was directed by George Martin, and I was in love with his style from his now well-known and massively-mediatized series, A Song of Ice and Fire . I loved that series, every second of it, so here I was bouncing up and down when I heard that George Martin was the editor to another series, and not just ANY kind of series, but one that took 21 books to be written.
Wait for me, heaven of long stories, I'm just around the corner.
So I got the book on my ebook and I hungrily started reading it. I loved the story and the really innovative way to talk about and invasion and all that, but I don't know why, it took me like two months to finish it. Two fucking months. It might have something to do with the fact that while I'm in school I have to pick the books I read really carefully because I don't have that much time to read. Of course, once the Christmas vacantion started I fired up and read like four, five hundred pages a day and that's just for starters because I was really "hungry" for books.
The thing is, this wasn't written by Martin. He was the editor. Other people, many other people wrote it and all these passages follow the same story, sort of, but they speak of different things and what's most troubling is that it's written in different styles and you can feel that throughout the pages.
Anyways, let's get back to the subject. Out there, in this Universe, another civilization decides to use Earth as a playground and they release a virus on our planet that is supposed to mess with our genetic encoding and make something else of humans. Well, it did. But 9 out of 10 people died, and only one in ten of those (so that would be one in a hundred, i hate maths) really developed something good.
What was left was that after that day, the day that became known as the Wild Card day because the virus itself did very different things with humans and you didn't know what "card" you woulkd be given, humanity changed radically.
The Aces, the Jokers and the Deuces apeared. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this way of talking about the virus and the effects it had. The Aces were the ones with good powers like telekinesis and hulkuesque powers that could lift houses with one finger of their foot while standing upright on their tongue. These Aces kept their human form and could do really good things. The Jokers are the men and women and children that got the ugly part of the wild card - they became monsters. Red skin, burning flesh, animal parts, no powers but just complete filth and ugliness. And the Deuces were the ones with really useless powers like being able to transform into a puddle of water.. like in case you wanted to be mopped around the floor of a restaurant.
The story unfolds from there, with government decrees and other really cool things. I liked this book, and I have no goddamned ideea why it took me so long to finish it. Really. None.
So as an update I have to admit that even though there are still loads of books being published I want to read and there are still more I have but just have not had time to read - I still find myself reading for books I have read in the past. I guess the only defence I have is that this is part of a quietly growing series from George R R Martin that just does not appear to be going away (which I have to admit is something I am very pleased with since only is this is a labour of love for Mr Martin and the other contributing authors but also an interesting and different take on all those super hero stories which seem to be returning to the popular bookshelves). I have to admit that there is so much to the explanation and justification to what is going on that for me it adds an extra layer of depth many authors would not care for - rather instead focusing on letting loose and enjoying themselves in favour of building a plausible world. This series of books is one that every time I pick up another instalment there seems to be something new and different to read. So after all these years there are still books being added and I believe if the rumours are true we are about to see even more/
This book brings back so many memories of University days and Forbidden Planet book shops - science fiction and fantasy was still a niche genre where specialty book stores could still survive before the days of internet shopping killed them off. This was before the days of Game of Thrones, where George R R Martin was a name I remembered from the days of Beauty and the Beast TV shows (with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman - go on look it up). So when I saw this book cover I was instantly intrigued. Reading around the subject I realised how much experience and knowledge Martin had in the genre and how he wanted to reinvigorate it with a new approach to the "super hero" genre and the Wild Card series was born. It is more of a shared universe than a solo project though I see it is now attributed to Martin. The series is quite involved (hence why I am reading it now as I have been picking up the latter instalments) but there are many side stories - none the less of which are the stories of the Jokers and Aces you get to see drawn in to the ongoing storyline. The stories vary a lot in style (obviously) but you can see the fun the authors are having and get a sense of what is still to come. I am in two minds which are the better - the UK or US covers but the books are all the same so either one, I still love this book.
Интересен, солиден по обем, литературен експеримент, под вещото ръководство на Джорджо Мартин, към който човек трябва да подходи с необходимото внимание и съсредоточеност, инак рискува да се удави още на първите страници. В началото ми тръгна мудно, но го отдавам на ангажименти от лично и професионално естество (преведено - тежки дежурства и още по-тежки купони между тях, ха-ха), след това си седнах на дирника, потопих се в "митологията" и вече гълтах творбите почти на екс. А те са обединени от общ сетинг - една Америка, преживяла Втората световна война, само за да бъде подложена на действието на извънземен вирус, играещ, най-общо казано, "карамбол" с генетиката. Повечето от поразените хора ("каръци" - термин - мой) изтеглят късата клечка и не оцеляват, повечето от оцелелите хора се сдобиват с ужасяващи телесни малформации ("жокери" - термин на авторския колектив), а съвсем малък процент от тях развиват свръхестествени способности на супер герои ("аса" - термин на авторския колектив) - левитация, телекинеза, телепатия, телепортация и пр., и пр. Материята е благодатна за писатели с развинтен�� въображение каквито са творците от спекулативните жанрове. В изпълненията им имаше всичко - и шпионски игри, и любовни драми, и мистерия, и кримка, и политически забежки, и поп културни препратки, и отдаване на почит към комикс културата, най-вече, та, с малки изключения, разказите ми харесаха. Заради малките изключения удрям една звезда надолу :)
Отдавна ми е в полезрението тази серия и честно, не съм се и надявал, че ще я видим преведена на български.
Използвана е интересна концепция - група автори сътворяват последователни истории в едно алтернативно земно бъдеще, след края на ВСВ. Всичко това под редакцията на Дж. Р. Р. Мартин, чието име е изпляскано с огромни букви на корицата, сакън някой да не разбере, че проклетия дебелак има пръст в тази работа.
Kнигата е изненадващо плавна и хомогенна, предвид че всяка история е писана отделно.
Светът е атакуван от извънземен вирус и нищо не е същото както преди - "жокери", "аса" и "двойки" се опитват да се впишат в новите реалности, където мутациите и новите им способности никак не са добре дошли, с някои малки изключения.
Неизбежен е паралелът с поредицата на Сандерсън - "Възмездителите", която е една идея по-добре развита според мен.
Ще видим, дали има прогрес в историята - все пак има издадени още над 20 книги от поредицата "Wild cards".
I picked this up on Audio and ended up DNF-ing it not because the narrator wasn't good, but because the story was just not for me. It's set in an alternative history and the style of writing felt quite jarring and irritating to me from the start and I found it hard to connect with the characters. Maybe this is because the book has many authors and it's a culmination of many ideas, but for me this style really didn't work and I found myself not wanting to listen to the audio quite quickly and having no desire to pick up the book to try. Sadly I think this is a series I will give a miss. Ah well, sometimes a book just isn't for you!
From my POV, I think the movie/show will be better than the book. Also, had it been a graphic novel, I would have enjoyed it better, I guess. But as a book, is too cartoon-ish and I wasn't drawn into it. Maybe will try another in the series at some other time...
Bienvenidos al universo de Wild Cards. En este universo compartido literario creado por George RR Martin y una compañía de fieles amigos frikis escritores suyos haya en los ochenta donde quisieron arriesgar y tirarse de cabeza a crear antologías de superhéroes pero que fueran distintas, más a la boga de lo que se llévala por esos tiempos, donde el género evolucionaba a uno más adulto y experimental gracias al trabajo de escritores de comics como Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Neil Gaiman, etc. Todo empezó porque Martin junto a sus amigos se viciaron tanto a un juego de rol sobre superhéroes que acabaron viendo tan rico y vasto los personajes allí creados por ellos y su contexto que vieron plausible llevarlo a la literatura en un conjunto de libros(al estilo del nacimiento de Malaz); y así nació Wild Cards, y ya van por el numero 28 o así, no les ha ido mal precisamente. Quiero decir que me parece una injusticia que estos libros no tengan ni la fama ni el reconocimiento que se debe aquí en España (y en el mundo hispanohablante en general). La editorial encargada de traernos estas novelas en España fue Timunmas y solo tradujeron los primeros 4 libros. Luego fue abandonada hasta que una editorial mexicana llamada editorial Océano reimprimió los 4 primeros más la traducción del quinto, sexto y séptimo libro. Y ahí acabo también. Es por eso por lo que postergue mi lectura de estos libros, pues mi inglés es muy limitado y no me veía con las ganas de tener que leerme los veintitantos libros en la lengua de Shakespeare. Tenía la esperanza que con la confirmación de una adaptación a la TV de estas obras gracias a Hulu haya reavivado la esperanza pero así llevo años. Así que decidí leerme esta obra igualmente, con suerte para cuando haya adelantado hayan sacado la serie de TV y alguna editorial las vuelva a publicar… y si no, me van a joder bastante la verdad ¿Cómo me los he leído entonces si están descatalogados? Digamos que de manera poco… legal, pero desde aquí digo que ojala los vuelvan a publicar, yo los compraría.
Creo que parte del fracaso de estos libros es la poca y mala publicidad que se les ha hecho por parte de las editoriales que las han publicado, sacándolos en ediciones meh o también puede ser que a los superhéroes si los sacas de Marvel y DC no triunfan en el sector hispanohablante, no lo sé. Eso sí, por favor, sé que soy de los pocos ilusos que le repatea que no se traduzcan los nombres de los héroes al español, pero que no me jodan, no me traduzcan algunos nombres y otros los dejen en inglés. Me da igual que me vengan los mismos de siempre diciéndome que se dice Wolverine y no Lobezno o Iron Fist y no Puño de Hierro, pero si quiero leer algo en ingles me lo leo en inglés. Le quita magia y además se pierden cierto significado y ciertas frases no cazan bien si cumplimos la moda de dejarlo en ingles los apodos superheroicos y cierta gracia del Pulp (mucho de estas novelas son una carta de amor a los héroes Pulp de los años 30 y 40). Seré un boomer que se le va a hacer. Me crié con la Patrulla X o con un Bogavante Johnson.
Y para terminar quiero advertir una cosa que me puede acarrear críticas por cierto sector muy grande de nuestra amada sociedad pero que no puedo dejar de lado. Este universo es un universo oscuro, adulto, donde la temática superheroica no esta tan clara como mucha gente de hoy en día cree (culpa sobretodo del monopolio de Disney con Marvel y de hacer casi todos sus productos casi iguales y con mucha comedia), y donde se mezcla de forma muy natural el thriller político, las desigualdades sociales y la pura injusticia. Lo digo porque mucha gente le casca 1 o 2 estrellas en Goodreads a estos libros porque se encuentran casi una ucronia histórica pasada por el filtro de los superhéroes o directamente echan bilis porque hay violaciones, racismo, o temas “delicados". Si, hasta esto hemos llegado, a criticar negativamente que una obra exponga estos temas básicamente porque en la vida real (sobre todo en la década de los años setenta y ochenta) el abuso sexual y el racismo estaba arraigado (quien diría que hoy en día estos temas vuelven a ser polémicos). Estos libros también son hijos de su tiempo, y es normal que cierto sector del público no le guste esto o no sea lo que se esperaba, pero de ahí a criticar una obra negativamente como he visto o directamente tachar a ciertos autores por la temática de sus historias es vergonzoso, pero bueno, hoy en día parece de lo más normal, seré yo raro. Después de toda esta paja que espero la mayoría haya pasado y llegado hasta aquí no se haya largado, voy a proceder a la reseña en si del libro (que gusto me he quedado):
Para empezar, más que antología usaría el término “novela-mosaico” que le calza mejor. Puesto que los relatos aunque escritos por diferentes autores tienen un hilo en común muchas veces y rara vez no veras personajes que se cruzan o menciones de otras historias, al fin al cabo es un universo compartido. También mencionar que no temáis por ver que son tantos libros y decir “¿de verdad me tengo que leer 28 novelas?”. Estos libros están partidos en “sagas” o “arcos argumentales” como en los comics, normalmente en forma de trilogías. Por lo tanto los primeros tres libros son una gran historia conjunta pero que se puede leer aun así de forma autoconclusiva cada uno y supongo que quien se quiera leer solo los tres primeros podrá hacerlo aunque el universo en si continuaría más adelante:
Prologo/Interludios/Apéndices por George RR Martin (5 de 5): Escritas por tito Martin al ser editor, el libro contiene ciertas historias repartidadas por el libro escritas de forma periodísticas o crónicas para darle ambientación al universo y contexto mundial. Tenemos en el prólogo la llegada del Dr. Tachyon, un alienígena que llega a la Tierra en el año 1946 para intentar salvarla de un experimental virus creado por su familia de un planeta llamado Takis donde su cultura esta partida por casas, y donde se enfrentan entre ellas al más puro estilo Valyrio/Targaryen (¿el germen?). También decir que como los Takisianos son iguales físicamente a nosotros, nos quieren usar de objetos de pruebas para su virus experimental, el virus Wild Cards. Llamado así porque dependiendo de tu buena/mala suerte puede tocarte una Reina Negra (una muerte horrible, que sucede a 9 de cada 10) y luego de ese 1 por cierto superviviente puede tocarte un Joker (convertirte en un ser deforme y aberrante) que les sucede a nueve de cada diez también. Ahora si tienes suerte y no mueres o te conviertes en Joker, te conviertes o en una Sota (tienes poderes pero mierders) o un puto As (ser un superhéroe vamos). Es original cuanto menos, y los poderes son muy diferentes dependiendo de la persona. Obviamente el virus es liberado en Nueva York (si no, no habría libro) y aunque suene a topicazo afecta mundialmente, tiene su explicación. Los interludios se continúan contando diferentes historias y temáticas viajando por diferentes épocas historias de Norteamérica. Desde cómo se realizó la caza de brujas de Mcarthy de los años 50; como es uno de los restaurantes de ases más famoso de Nueva York, el Aces High; un recorrido por el peor barrio de Nueva York, Jokertown; o una explicación detallada del virus en los apéndices. Me encanta esta mierda.
¡Treinta minutos sobre Broadway! por Howard Waldrop (3 de 5):el primer relato propiamente dicho del libro es uno contando la historia de Jetboy, un famoso aviador veterano de la Segunda Guerra Mundial de tan solo 19 años que será la excusa perfecta para un relato sobre la soledad de un veterano al llegar la paz. Y veremos cómo se liberó el virus en los cielos de Nueva York por culpa de un antiguo capo mafioso retirado y como Jetboy intenta salvar la situación. Un homenaje a los comics, al Pulp y que no deja de ser correcto.
El durmiente por Roger Zelazny (4 de 5):Uno de los mejores del libro. Un historia sobre un chaval que se ve afectado durante el escape del virus y le afecta de una manera muy especial. Al despertarse después de la tragedia se ha convertido en un hombre adulto y As. Y no solo eso, cada vez que duerme cambia, y su poder va variando (puede despertarse siendo As, Joker o Nats; que es como se tildan a la gente sin poderes) y puede llegar a dormir durante semanas o meses. De ahí que se hinche a analgésicos o pastillas para postergar su sueño y esto le afecte psicológicamente, además de ser un chaval atrapado en un cuerpo de adulto que va cambiando. Y aquí superhéroes poco, más bien un relato de suspense y supervivencia. Muy divertido.
Testigo por Walter Jon Williams (5 de 5):Otro relato perfecto, nominado a un premio Nébula por cierto. Nos narra la trágica historia del Golden Boy, el arquetípico chico americano cachas, rubio y de ojos azules que se convierte en As y que acaba uniéndose a los Cuatro Ases, un grupo de superpoderosos reunidos por un político para acabar con el fascismo y llevar la democracia al mundo. Acabando con dictaduras como la de Perón en Argentina o al mismísimo Franco en España pero que sus buenos tiempos acaban cuando llegan los años 50 y la histeria comunista concluyendo con la caza de brujas de McArthy. Y donde se creara el “Acta de Control de Poderes Exóticos” que acabara por hacer que los Ases se escondan durante una década, ¿a qué os recuerda esto? Exactamente, igual que lo que pasa en Watchmen de Alan Moore con la Ley Keene, curioso cuanto menos, pues las dos obras fueron lanzadas el mismo año. Y que luego obras como Civil War de Marvel volverían a poner de moda con el Acta de Registro de Superhumanos. Un relato crepuscular y magnifico que también me recuerda a la Sociedad de la Justicia de DC que también le afecto la caza de brujas.
Ritos de degradación por Melinda M. Snodgrass (4 de 5):Otra buena historia protagonizado por el Dr.Tachyon siendo secuela directa del anterior relato y donde se nos narra el romance que este tuvo con Brain Trust, una de las integrantes de los Cuatro Ases y su triste desenlace. Y no digo más, desgarrador.
El Capitán Cátodo y el as secreto por Michael Cassutt (3 de 5):realmente este relato fue introducido en el relanzamiento de este libro haya en 2010 (metieron 3 relatos nuevos) para supuestamente llenar el hueco cronológico que había al haber saltos temporales muy grandes. Un relato correcto, sin más. Estilo thriller, y sobre un director de cine que se ve envuelto en unos asesinatos extraños.
Powers por David D. Levine (2 de 5):el segundo relato añadido en el relanzamiento de 2010 y el relato más flojo de todo el libro, y realmente el único que quitaría totalmente y no pasaría nada y mejoraría el ritmo. Nos cuenta la historia de un polaco que trabaja en la CIA pero al mismo tiempo intenta esconder su poder As por miedo a las represalias. Pero su patriotismo hacia su nuevo hogar no le permite mirar hacia otro lado cuando ocurre el incidente del U-2 y ve cómo puede usar su poder para ayudar a su gobierno. Un relato soso, escrito de manera algo pobre y políticamente muy maniqueo y simple. Olvidable.
Juegos de manos por George R.R. Martin (4,5 de 5):Oh si, Martin escribió también un relato propiamente dicho. Y como no puede faltar otro de los mejores del libro. Donde se nos narra la historia de la Gran y Poderosa Tortuga, uno de los héroes ases más chulos y verdaderamente superheroicos. Además nos narra el regreso al mapa del Dr.Tachyon, continuando lo narrado en Ritos de Degradación. Un relato muy bueno.
La larga y oscura noche de Fortunato por Lewis Shiner (4 de 5):el relato más polémico del libro y que a muchos les puso en tensión y con la antorcha lista. Un relato llevando a los límites el universo Wild Cards. Fortunato, un hombre de descendencia negra y asiática y es un dueño de una casa de geisgha. Básicamente Fortunato es un chulo, cosa no extraña en la Nueva York setentera, puesto que la prostitución estaba en auge. El caso es que un psicópata está matando a sus chicas lo que le provoca desasosiego y en uno de sus encuentros sexuales con una de sus chicas se le activa su poder Wild Card convirtiéndole en un mago tántrico. Básicamente necesita tener sexo para “recargar” su poder y a través del acto sexual es capaz de sacar su alma del cuerpo, ver a su alrededor con visión a lo Detective de Batman de los juegos Arkham, resucitar a los muertos momentáneamente (no preguntéis como, aunque en el relato te lo muestran) etc. Original cuanto menos, políticamente incorrecto bastante (hasta para su época) pero un relato que mezcla el thriller, lo bizarro, sectas, me encanta tanta diversificación en este libro.
Transfiguraciones por Victor Milán (3 de 5):Otro relato correcto pero poco más. Un paseo cultural por el mundo hippie de los años sesenta y los conflictos sociales de su tiempo provocados por el antibelicismo por la guerra de Vietnam. En este caso el prota es el típico empollón virgen que está enamorado de una chica imposible para él y que intenta meterse en su mundo con consecuencias… radicales (quien lo lea lo entenderá jeje).
En lo más profundo por Edward Bryant y Leanne C. Harper (3 de 5):Otro relato correcto pero poco más. Que mezcla varios conceptos, como la mafia, lo bizarro y los subterráneos de Nueva York. Un cocodrilo humano, una As que habla con los animales, un vagon de tren vivo, muy surrealista pero acaba funcionando.
Hilos por Stephen Leigh (4 de 5):Un buen relato, muy político y que nos narra un momento muy delicado para el barrio de Jokertown y como los Jokers intentan manifestarse para acabar con los abusos y el maltrato de la población (muy paralelismo con los mutantes de la Marvel). Y se nos presenta unvillano muy maquiavélico y aberrante llamado El Titiritero.
Ghost Girl toma Manhattan por Carrie Vaughn (4,5 de 5): Un gran relato, encima el tercero de los añadidos en el relanzamiento de 2010. Pura aventura sobre una chica perdida en Jokertown y que tiene mucho que esconder… Buenísimo, y con el regreso de unos de los Ases principales. Quiero más de esta autora.
Llega un cazador por John J. Miller (3 de 5):un relato correcto que nos presenta a Yeoman, un justiciero humano (por fin) que intenta acabar con un antiguo enemigo al llegar a la gran ciudad. Muy estilo Ojo de Halcón pero cafre. Divertido pero no inventa la rueda. Epílogo: tercera generación por Lewis Shiner: realmente es un relatito de unas 2 páginas así que ni lo puntuó. Nos presenta a un futuro As para las siguientes novelas, un niño y dinosaurios, ahí lo dejo.
En conclusión, un libro que me gustado mucho quizás peca de ser introductorio puesto que es un universo lleno de personajes y que da muchos saltos temporales en el tiempo que imagino se irán rellenando con los demás libros y nos darán más pinceladas y espero que grandes eventos que unan a todos estos personajes aquí narrados. Hay más Martin que Canción de Hielo y Fuego gente, buscad.
Еха! Надявам се да видим и други книги от поредицата на български, отдавна не бях се омагьосвала така и съжалявам откровено, че не съм ги подхванала още преди години... Преводът на Богдан Русев, между другото, е разкошен. Самият сборник - началото на серията - неочаквано и невероятно приятно ми резонира с "Невероятните приключения на Кавалиър и Клей" на Шейбон, и това определено допринесе за топлината и насладата, с които го чета. Авторският екип е подбран безупречно, гласовете им звучат в синхрон; героите са живи, богати и наситени, историите се допълват и надграждат... Екстра е, препоръчвам!
Mi-a plăcut enorm acest volum care nu e tocmai un roman, dar nici chiar o antologie. Sunt într-adevăr mai multe povești plasate în același univers, dar ele se îmbină și se înrudesc mai ales prin personajele recurente, dar și prin fragmentele de legătură. E ca un colaj al unei lumi, realizat din mai multe perspective.
Iar lumea e superbă și fascinantă, e un univers cu super-eroi, dar nu unul plin de glume și de culoare, cum e cel Marvel, ci mult mai gri și mai realist. M-a dus puțin cu gândul la X-men, așa că îl recomand fanilor mutanților lui Xavier, dar și tuturor celor pasionați de poveștile cu super-eroi care își doresc să experimenteze un univers ceva mai matur și mai bine închegat.
The editor created a game world for fellow writer friends who contributed chapters. Just after WW2, an alien virus transforms human genetics and goes recessive. Most victims die, others experience physical or psychic changes: aces have useful powers, deuces minor maybe entertaining abilities, jokers uglified, disabled, relegated to ghettos. Some smiles, more despair.
Real historical issues are based on fact. Red Tail US airborne, first and only black unit, never lost a bomber they escorted, although their pilots died. (2012 movie) http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/red-t... Commie bashing led to witch-hunts, black-listed and destroyed lives. Rock and roll music plus drugs strung out hippies. Politicians manipulated and deceived.
Surprisingly, no mention of the pill or women's organizations. Men desire, rescue, and destroy. Women are desired, rescued, and destroyed. One man Tychon, can do all three to one woman, Blythe the Brain Trust.
Female characters appear at length only in chapters with such authors, vengeful rape victim subway car from Leanne Harper, primarily passive mistress roles, such as from Melinda Snodgrass. The latter behave explicitly, as does another lead Fortunato, a mixed-race pimp powered by Tantric yoga practices.
Hence X-rated shelf for whole book, possibly misleading. Put part P in V or M is like furniture assembly directions, weak non-plot. (Worst books are only on the Read shelf.)
My favorite episode is Martin's Turtle. A bullied geek grows into a beer-swiller with an emerging paunch and telekinetic ability extra-strong, to fly a car. His childhood pal owns a junkyard and bullet-proofs a Volkswagen Beetle. They motivate alcohol-saturated mind-controller Tachyon, and all rescue a fragile kind lovely lady club-owner Angelface from multiple rape by corrupt cops.
Second favorite is human Yeoman Hunter who takes down an evil Vietnamese crime lord and rescues exotic girl healer, where normal (highly-skilled) loner veteran overcomes vanishing villain and rejoins life. Sense a theme? Both faves rate 4*, but others lower final score.
The initial premise of a wild card virus that induces abilities makes more sense without the alien origin. Why doesn't the planet of inventors call back for ongoing results of the experiment?
The overall mood of the book is dark, the worst of the times and people, pain, perversion, pulp-fiction sleazy reputation confirmed. Since the sequel is about Aces, I may try a few pages seeking Star Trek style optimism. Or not.
I first heard of this book a few years ago when I read GRRM: A RRetrospective which included one of George R. Martins contributions to the first volume. Ever since that little glimpse I was hooked and wanted to read more. Finally I got my hands on a copy.
Wild Cards is set in an alternate reality which broke away in the 1940's just after WW2. An alien virus was released over Manhattan which could affect people in one of 3 ways - kill them (90%), mutate them into a deformed creature (called a Joker - 9%) or imbue them with special powers (known as an Ace - 1%). Although not all Ace powers are very good. If you gain a power but it's not useful you're known as a Deuce.
This isn't your normal (well for the time it was written) superhero book. The best contemporary comparison is Watchmen. They were both written around the same time in a similar vein. Wild Cards is dark and honest and brutal. It follows through the times perfectly. The post WW2 boom time, Korea, Vietnam, the Communist McCarthy witchhunts and the HUAC. Instead of race riots there's Joker riots in the '70s.
But it's not all doom and gloom. There are some funnier stories, some feelgood stories. But it doesn't gloss over the unpopular truths as good fiction shouldn't. A brilliant collection I can't wait to read the next volume.
Foarte interesant conceptul din spatele seriei de antologii „Wild Cards”, acela de-a continua povestea de la o povestire la alta, prin prisma mai multor personaje, în stilul mai multor scriitori. Povești foarte bune, bune și unele de-a dreptul plictisitoare (cea a lui Roger Zelazny mi s-a părut cea mai reușită din toată antologia), povestirile din „Wild Cards” radiografiază practic întreaga istorie a SUA începând cu 1946, anul eliberării virusului mutagen extraterestru în atmosfera Pământului, și sfârșind cu 1986, anul în care a apărut prima antologie: fiecare deceniu cu problemele sale, începând cu refacerea SUA după un greu Război Mondial, trecând prin deceniul vânătorii de comuniști, apoi frământările sociale din anii '60, continuând cu cele politice din anii '70 și ajungând în frământatul deceniu '80. Sunt sigur că în SUA antologia a avut un impact mult mai mare, mai ales pentru cei care au trăit pe viu astfel de evenimente. Pentru cititorul de peste ocean din secolul XXI însă... Mai multe, pe FanSF: https://wp.me/pz4D9-2KI.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
You never know what you’re getting with an anthology, but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It’s coherent, with a strong throughline and a unique and thought-provoking take on both superheroes and especially post-WWII America. In short, I liked it—quite a bit. However, after mulling on it overnight, I had to deduct a star just because I also feel it’s ultimately takes an extremely degrading approach to women. The majority of the authors and characters are male, which I have no problem with, but the few female characters who are featured are almost entirely gratuitous sex objects. Surely, we can do better than this?
Just to be a completest, I read the three stories added to the 2010 re-release of Wild Cards.
Good stuff, for the most part. They don't really add a lot to the volume, but they're a decent inclusion. "Ghost Girls Take Manhattan" was a very good story on its own. That didn't surprise me, as I'm a fan of Carrie Vaughn's writing already.
The introduction was ok, but for me everything fell apart after that point. The first story after that of Jetboy was extremely painful for me so I tried to jump ahead to the one from GRRM, but I didn't enjoy that one any more than the first.
As with any collection of short stories, you're going to get a mixed bag. Factor in the fact that each story is written by a different author and that mixed bag is looking like someone mixed together Reese's Pieces, M&M's, Skittles, and Advil. The premise of an alien virus unlocking superhuman powers or making them a freak is unique and fun to play with. This ain't your typical super heroes and villains.
The good news is that the majority of the stories here are enjoyable. There's a couple that were plain boring or simply terrible in concept and execution. There are definitely some inconsistencies, especially in regards to the alien doctor who brought the virus and is now involved in helping treat it. His character was all the over place. These type of inconsistencies are supposedly corrected in later entries in the series.
I'm going to continue the series to at least book 3. From what I've read, the books are grouped by 3, so it would make sense to explore this trilogy to it's conclusion before deciding whether I'd like to keep digging through this seemingly bottomless well of novels.
I have explained in the past that I am not a massive fan of short story collections but there is an exception to every rule. In my opinion, The Wild Cards novels are the best ongoing series of short stories available today. When I heard that Tor Books was re-releasing the first novel I felt compelled to immediately start re-reading my old copy.
How best to describe the concept of Wild Cards? The quick answer would be – imagine an alternative Earth where an alien virus has been released and as a result super-powered humans exist openly in society. That description doesn’t do the novels justice, as the Wild Cards cannon is so much more than that.
At the end of World War II, as the world enters the atomic age, an alien virus is released over the streets of Manhattan. Everyone is in the area is affected by the virus and will suffer one of three seemingly random possible outcomes – known as wild cards. Firstly, there is the ‘Black Queen’ a painful and unpleasant death. Another possibility is becoming a ‘Joker’ meaning that the victim is mutated and disfigured. The final possibility is to pull an ‘Ace’ – to receive a random superhuman ability.
In Wild Cards 1 edited by George R.R. Martin, the reader experiences the re-writing of American, and world history, covering the forty years from nineteen forty six onwards. The individual tales cover everything from the first release of the virus to the Macarthy witch hunts, the free love movement in the sixties and Vietnam to American politics in the eighties. This isn’t just men and women with super powers and tights – this is an examination of American social history and how times have changed. An excellent example of this is the plight of the Jokers and how their story mirrors the changes in racial equality in the US.
This first novel is all about setting up the history of the Wild Cards universe and the characters that inhabit it. For me, there are a number of standout stories.
The Sleeper by Roger Zelazny – The reader is introduced to Croyd Crenson an unfortunate fourteen year old boy who is one of the first victims of the virus. Each time he falls asleep he changes. Sometimes a Joker, sometimes an Ace. He is forced to grow up quickly to deal with his condition and is drawn to crime in order to pay for his strange lifestyle. The great thing about this character is that he can be, and often is, completely different every time he appears. In later novels it’s fun to try and spot references to Croyd and his latest incarnation.
Shell Games by George R.R. Martin – In a nod toward the social akwardness that Peter Parker exhibits when he is not Spiderman the author tells the story of The Great and Powerful Turtle and his alter-ego Thomas Tudbury. The Turtle is a powerful telekinetic who can only function when hidden inside the shell of his custom made armoured VW Beetle. He is written as a character that is crippled by shyness. It’s a different take on the traditional super hero origin as the reader get the chance to explore the mental effect of choosing to be a hero.
The Long Dark Night of Fortunato by Lewis Shiner - Fortunato is a pimp that receives an ‘Ace’ in the form of powerful sorcery. He isn’t the most likeable of characters, he is a creature of his time, but his grim determination in tracking down a killer makes for a gripping read.
Transfigurations by Victor Milan – In the sixties Dr Mark Meadows discovers that using various combinations of drugs allows him to change into any one of five aces including the delightfully hippie Cap’n’ Trips.
This kind of masterful storytelling is what sets Wild Cards high above the norm. As the novel covers a period of forty years, the reader gets to learn the ramifications of the Wild Card virus on more than one generation. Each of the characters get an opportunity to be fully realised and are as fleshed out as any you would read for Marvel or DC comics.
It has always been a constant disappointment to me the Wild Cards series has not received the recognition it deserves. I have a firm belief that there is an audience out there but it is still the case that too many readers have, as yet, not discovered this gem. For example, one of the driving forces behind the series is George R.R. Martin and although I have never read the Game of Thrones novels, they are loved by many and I have heard nothing but good things about them. I think the Wild Cards novels deserve the same amount of love. If HBO are successful with their live adaptation of Game of Thrones and require more well written material they need look no further than Wild Cards. I believe it has the potential to far more successful than Heroes ever was.
If this short intro has whetted your appetite for more there are currently twenty Wild Cards novels available with a twenty first scheduled to be released soon. I cannot recommend them enough. There is something for everyone and they are always guaranteed to raise a smile.
Why did I not know this existed before Nemira published it?... Is it possible that "Game of Thrones" hid everything else George R.R. Martin ever did, since it's "not at all like Game of Thrones, so ignore"?
Anyway, to call "Wild Cards" a short story anthology would be a bit like saying "A Superman omnibus is a short story anthology". Technically, that's what's going on: you have stories written by different authors, collected by an editor and sold together. Practically, you have a single world, characters who reappear in multiple stories, different writers all adding something to a bigger story - and, of course, you have superheroes.
The bigger story is this: there's an alien planet where people are genetically very similar to humans. They're also way bigger jerks than humans, and some of them have paranormal powers and want to increase their numbers, so they devise a virus which would genetically modify people to become superpowered (1% of the population). Or die (90% of the population). Or be horribly disfigured (9% of the population).
And, to test it, they send it to Earth - as a sort of bio bomb. An alien who's less of a douchebag tries to stop it, but it goes off anyway over a crowded city - and he sticks around on our planet to try to help the afflicted (especially the horribly disfigured ones).
The stories are mostly about people who have been changed by the virus, whether they're superpowered or disfigured - and they're realistic and gritty and entertaining.
Wild Cards—This collection of shor t stories is generally good, though, there are some things that bother me about it, but the quality of writing and much of the content are things that I like in stories, especially short stories, as are the subjects highlighted by the writing. It’s not all done as I prefer however. I’ll get into that shortly.
The premise of “Wild Cards” is that an advanced (in some ways) alien culture had become aware of earth and, because earthlings had similar physiology to theirs, wanted to experiment on how to unleash and improve upon some genetic talents. One of these aliens was opposed to this kind of experimentation and set out to stop them. In the process, he destroyed the alien ship but the germs cell had already made it to the planet surface. In a very good short story by Martin himself, despite the best efforts of World War II Hero “Jet Boy,” an evil comic book thug releases the virus on New York City (Manhattan) and people start mutating. Fun fun.
Most die from the virus. The next largest group is affected by the virus in unusual ways and gain powers manifest in their own bodies un grotesque ways. Later we find out that this form and power is plucked from their psyche by the virus and overdeveloped, so, in a way, their lifestyle chooses their fate for them. Jokers are haunted, feared creatures who become second class citizens very similar to Black Americans during the Second World War. The smallest group are those who become “Aces.” Aces keep their human form, mostly, and also have a power. The distinction of what makes a person an Ace and what makes them a Joker is generally how humanlike they remain.
The world setting for Wild Cards was very reminiscent of the setting for the illustrated novel and cult icon “The Watchmen” series that was written towards the end of the cold war and was set in a decidedly dark earth where crime was at an all-time high and belief and faith in the good nature of fellow humans was at an all-time low. All of the stories save, one, shared this view of the dark underbelly of man and, perhaps of the United States in particularly.
I’m not going to list each story separately. There were a lot of stories, for two reasons. 1) There are a lot of them and not all of them are memorable, some of them are redundant and some bring up points of our society that I rather disagree with (more on that later). 2. There is a rumor that George R. Martin, the author of “Game of Thrones” had a heavy hand editing these. I don’t know if that’s true, but it is true that, especially towards the end, with one exception, I had a hard time telling when we had changed authors and when we were getting more of the same story. That lends itself to feed the rumor and, yep, you guessed it, more on that later.
Okay, the general lowdown on Wild Cards. “Wild Cards” is advertised as sort of a comic book thieves world. As in the famous “Thieves’ World” series each of these short stories is set on the same developed story earth and can (and does) involve some cross characterization where one author builds on, or uses a character started by another. This formula worked very well in “Thieves’ World” which was edited by Robert Lynn Asprin. For the most part it works well here. There are two differences between these two anthologies of similar design. First the stories in Thieves’ world each maintained their own integrity and the different styles of the authors were easy to distinguish. This made Thieves’ World” a rich anthology and added to the fun. Second, there was more interaction with characters in “Thieves’ World” and more overlapping of stories. Though the chronology of each story seem more like reading the movie “Memento” where the scenes worked backwards in time and were sometimes hard to follow, it was more like reading chapters of a book than individual short stories.
Most of the stories meshed so well, that you could not tell when Ms. Snodgrass (Martin’s co-editor at large) or Martin’s stories started and others by different authors began. I liked the world concept because it had a wonderful, artistic flair to it. This dark side of humanity, the mental depression that followed a huge important victory of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was well made and in a way I liked turned the general view of the late 1940s and 1950s on its ear. The world building was bold, if dark and, socially charged, even if you didn’t agree with the issues, and wildly imaginative given the nature of “jokers” and how they changed the world, well New York City anyway.
I particularly enjoyed how the authors, or George Martin and Ms. Snodgrass, infiltrated McCarthy-ism and the Wild Cards. In this alternate earth, McCarthy was not only after Communists, he was after anyone with a power, be they joker or ace. They also managed to replace what we normally think of when we observe racism with a different kind of prejudice of Normal Human vs. Wild Card. Slums and Ghettoes were now populated by Jokers and Aces and those fighting for “Human Rights” for all. To me this is what I call well done. By deemphasizing the story of the plight of Africian Americans (without eliminating them from the landscape) or by playing minority America against Wild Card America we are able to look into the heart of racism for what it is, without those personal dilemmas that cloud the issue now. We can, if you’ll excuse the expression, “call a spade a spade,” without insulting Americans who live every day trying to support equal opportunity while fighting a daily battle with embedded bias in their character that they have yet to acknowledge or realize. In many ways, this is like crossing the Book, Thieves’ World with the wonderful Academy Award Winning Movie “Crash.”
I even like the way martin wrote in the Counsel for Un-American Activities and had them turn on the Aces who had, for all intents and purposes, served as heroes with questionable principles until failing to turn Mao Tse Tung in China. The marriage between the hunt for Communists by McCarthy and the wild paranoia over Jokers and Aces that fit well with McCarthy-ism. There are two important points that almost nobody gets when looking at this era and this book, like so many others, failed to get as well. That is, (A) there really were militant communists and socialists groups operating in the US and Europe in the 1950s. Because McCarthy used a broad brush to paint any communist or socialist as an enemy of the state, he wound up violating the rights of, or defacto authorizing the violation of rights for thousands of harmless, Americans simply because they had a different philosophy. I wouldn’t give credit to McCarthy, and I’m embarrassed to say “my country, right or wrong, still my country” when it involves such impulsive paranoid thinking as standing up a “Counsel on Un-American Activities.” My understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is that, as long as you are operating within the law, all political activities, even the distasteful ones, such as Nazis and white supremists, are actual, American Activities. It should never be wrong, in the United States, to espouse a political opinion, or an opinion on how the country should be run, especially if it is not popular. I also believe that there is enough “good” in the average citizen and enough knowledge or willingness to learn in the average citizen that, if they listened to Nazis and White Supremists spout their hate speech and ideas of government that they would ultimately have less support, not more support every time they speak or organize. The problem here is that everyone wants the Government, or Communists, or Nazis or Jokers or Aces to be painted in two colours... black and white. There is a lot of gray in the world and very little white and only slightly more black than white.
We have known about the militant communists and socialists since the Spanish Revolution that started well before Second World War. What is hard to display is that our government supported those and helped them get into and involved in the Spanish Revolution even to the point that they drove out and villainies Democratic Socialists who, by nature are more like Bernie Sanders than Carl Marx. These are groups that included the Famed Author Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell. This was a political party, not a revolutionary warlike group. Of course an even more dangerous group of radicals won that affair, the Stalinist Communists backed by Russia. Yes, (see my review of 1984) I think Orwell wrote 1984 about his experience in the Spanish Civil War and the decades to follow. Even as late as 1994 the shots have been fired (metaphorical shots mostly) between Democratic Socialists and Stalinist Communists that had once been supported by the United States. Stalin ordered the history of the Spanish Civil war re-written just like Wilbur Smith was assigned to re-write history at the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s book.
My point with this is, that substituting a new vision of 1950s America and highlighting old atrocities with a new black and white version of events, even if it’s fictitious only allows for gray areas on one side. Contrary to popular belief, black cannot hide gray any more than white can.
And always the government is villainised for being elitist and prejudice as a governing body, with no acknowledgement that there was an actual threat, albeit a relatively small one, that somebody should have been guarding against. Without exploration of the idea, our martyrs are left gray, and the government black so no hero goes untarnished and the government is again incapable of doing any good.
B) McCarthy’s paranoia is likely do to what we call Korsikov’s syndrome. He was a barely functioning alcoholic who was struggling to stay alive, actively getting totally bombed on weekends and white knuckling it through the weekly hearings suffering from DTs and other symptoms of withdrawal treated at the Navy Medical Center at Bethesda every Sunday Evening. A person in this condition suffers from paranoia and, is not the best choice for heading a committee that looks at people and possible “un-American activities.” The hearings became so abusive of citizens’ rights and liberties in a major part due to McCarthy’s poor health and advancing substance abuse problems. “Just answer the question, answer the question, let the record show that the witness is not answering the question.”
The other major issue I had, as in “if this was so well written, why give it 3 stars instead of 4 or 5?” is the characterization and use of sex and women. Only one story, set in 1980s depicted a female who was not “overcome” by her power, sanity corrupted, or a helpless used thing. Prostitution was the most notable and discussed profession, joker, nap or Ace. Even as Martyrs the female characters are helpless and hopeless and unable to take command of their own fate or, if they do, they are painted as a villain and an opportunist.
It may be a good artistic part of the darkside of our society to see the value placed on sex. The American obsession with sex and beauty, though often unhealthy, is not always a function of the oppression of women. I’m not going to argue that women haven’t ever gotten an equal shot in the United States as far as choosing their fate or inclusion and getting an equal share of governing and opportunity. In this story, the female characters either did not matter, or were, in some way, addicts, damsels in distress, or prostitutes or all of the above. The few exceptions include Blanche, one of the original Aces who went crazy, and The Invisible Girl (who was really a Marvel Comics Kitty Pride seem-a-like) who turned out to be the only normal super-heroine type in the book in a story that stood out as being unique to the others.
Now, I get the idea that this is characterizing them against modern society and our obsession with beauty and sex and the female form. I get that a poor girl, turned exotic isn’t going to get that job at the cash register at Denny’s. I even get the idea that everybody has to loosen or change their standards in times of intense stress like abject poverty and pandemic, though I don’t agree that means women become prostitutes, it is likely. I could have managed the theme of oppressed women struggling to make it in a world that only values their looks as the 1950s and 1960s often were for so many women. I was giving high praise to this story until I stumbled into “The Succubus.” The depravity was still manageable until the riot when the desire that the Succubus inspired in men flew out of control and she was torn apart in the ensuing enthusiasm. On top of the already thickly spread themes of oppression, sexual value over personal value and uglier themes this was too far over the top.
The problem here is more complex than simply depicting women as only able to effectively care for themselves if they are prostitutes and not finding a broader role for them. It’s compounded by the parallel that has been drawn between how minorities were treated in the same era and these poor women Jokers and Aces. That parallel is as insensitive to minority women as it is to those in the story. Is Martin and the gang suggesting that this was all poor black women could manage, or Hispanics? The association with poverty and opportunity was there, but this is not backed up by reality. Or is this saying that, if they were white women, this is all they can do but Black women and other minorities have other options?
I found the ending of the Succubus and what it meant with the long running distasteful theme of sexuality, perversion and women, so unsettling my estimation of this group of stories dropped from 4.5 stars (I give lots of credit for artistic story telling skill) to barely 3 and even now I’m inclined to look at 2 or 2.5 stars. And, accusations and rumors of heavy handed word-smithing(editing) by Martin and Snodgrass made a lot more sense. For these themes to be so prevalent as they were is hard see as a matter of coincidence or that there is a huge body of sci-fi writers out there who see the plight of women in the same vein so any random selection results in a group that produces such lopsided insensitive writing. In the second story, written by Roger Zelazny, I wondered why Zelazny had his character pack his bags and head for the hills (actually go into very deep cover). Zelazny’s story stands out as one with a recognizable style, his character was likable, if flawed, and the story had another unique twist on the Wild Card Virus and how it affected everybody. Later, another author (possibly Martin himself) write Zelazny’s character in to the story as an addict who, by the force of addiction trapped himself as a Joker, when he could have been an Ace. I liked twist on Zelazny’s story but , at the same time, I could tell that Zelazny did not write it. Perhaps Zelazny wanted to distance himself from the other stories in the book or the overall plot and theme of the developing narrative.
I’d even say that it is near impossible to tell when one writer stopped writing and another began.
In the end, the story about the man who suspended time and saved Major Powers from the Russians, the Invisible Girl, and the Jet Boy story (first story) along with the strong anti-war themes which, I may not agree with, but I think were well done here, helped me keep this as a 3 star read. There is a lot of “art” in these stories. There is a lot right with them. There is a lot wrong with them. If you like dark themes filled with sex, violence, drugs and strange apparitions and creations, then this is for you. If you want a positive uplifting read, or see themes as less black and white, less degrading towards women that show some positive motion towards hope, this may not be for you.
Read at your own risk.
Lots of sex, sex SEX, violence Violence, anger and ugliness. Lots of government paranoia and hoplessness too, all well written but unavoidable.
This was immensely enjoyable! I was dubious going in just because of it's structure: A universe created by George R. R. Martin with many different authors writing their own stories that Martin then edits together and it's all supposed to make sense and not be uneven? Sure...right.
Well say what you will about that tubby, hat wearing, Stark killing, guy but he (they) really pulled it off. I'll do reviews of each segment and then wrap up at the end.
Prologue by George R. R. Martin: This does a great job of setting up the story and the action. It begins in medias res and drops you right in the middle of everything. It lets you know everything you need to know. Spaceman showed up, virus hit the earth, some crazy stuff went down.
Thirty Minutes Over Broadway by Howard Waldrop: This was one of my least favorite of the bunch, but the more I think about it the more I like it. This story is really a metaphor for the passing of the torch from war stories that these authors grew up on to weird stories that they graduated to. In that regard, it's perfect.
The Sleeper by Roger Zelazny: This was amazing! A young boy is infected by the virus and every time he goes to sleep we wakes up with a different ability/disability. Sometimes he's an Ace and sometimes he's a Joker. Seeing him react to and figure out what each new power was was half the fun.
Witness by Walter Jon Williams: This story introduces "Golden Boy" and the Four Aces. A terrific story of patriotism turned sour, ambition gone wrong, and regret. Amazing!
Degradation Rites by Melinda M. Snodgrass: This tells the love story of Dr. Tachyon's star crossed love story with one of the Four Aces: Blythe van Renssaeler. Her power is being able to absorb another individuals mind. They keep their mind, but a complete copy of their's stays in her. Unfortunately, it eventually gets a little too crowded in their for poor Blythe.
Interlude One by George R.R. Martin: This brief chapter gives interesting background to the SCARE (Senate Committee on Ace Resources and Endeavors) hearings. It plays off of and even references the real HUAC hearings. Satire at it's best.
Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace by Michael Cassutt: This story was not in the original collection but fits in quite well. The secret ace in question here is Karl von Kampen. He has "fokus." This means if he looks at something he came see more and more detail, down to the microscopic level. The only catch is that it makes his eyes turn red. So he always wears sunglasses to cover it up. Because he's a Hollywood producer, he covers this up as an affectation. This ends up being a murder mystery that ends up being fairly predictable but is still an entering read and Karl is a great character.
Powers by David D. Levine: Another addition that wasn't in the original printing but also fits in great. This is about Franciszek Majewski, a low level governmental analyst who is a middle aged man who has a hidden gift. He can stop time for several minutes at a time but it taxes his body greatly. Another Ace is shot down and captured by the Russians and it's up to Frank to save him. I was on the edge of my seat with this one. Another fantastic character I hope we get to see again. Any story that has Eisenhower as a character is alright by me.
Shell Games by George R. R. Martin: This story picks back up with Dr. Tachyon in the aftermath of losing Blythe and another character who's power is picking things up with telekinesis. This young man ultimately constructs a metal shell with armor plating that he flies around in calling himself "The Turtle." Eventually the two team up for a very satisfying conclusion. I can't believe how consistent these stories have been even though it's with so many different authors! I credit Martin's editing ability.
Interlude Two by George R. R. Martin: A short pretend news story about the aftermath of Shell Games and shows how Dr. Tachyon has progressed as a character. It adds great depth.
The Long, Dark Night of Fortunato by Lewis Shiner: The strangest of the group so far. The ace here can only get his powers when having tantric sex...yeah, you heard me. And it only gets weirder from there.
Transfigurations by Victor Milan: This was the story of a young man trying to investigate drug culture without actually taking drugs. The climax is pretty silly but also a sad metaphor for drug use. The poor guy keeps chasing that first high forever...
Interlude Three: Wild Card Chic by George R. R. Martin: This was apparently written in the style of Tom Wolfe. Having never read Wolfe, I have no idea. It's set in 1971 and goes through the time period when Ace's were basically like rock stars or movie stars. Martin does a great job of making this feel realistic.
Down Deep by Edward Bryant and Leanne C. Harper: This is a strange tale of alligators in the sewer, cat people and the one's who love them, and cannibalistic subway cars. You know, same old, same old. Perhaps a bit too long, but still enjoyable.
Interlude Four: Fear and Loathing in Jokertown by George R. R. Martin: Written in the style of Hunter S. Thompson. This was hilarious. Basically Thompson's misadventures in Jokertown. I love how Croyd (the Sleeper) keeps showing up in all of these stories. Because of his power (each time he wakes up he has a new appearance and a new power) each author can use him however they see fit.
Strings by Stephen Leigh: This is one of the best of the bunch. Set in New York during the 1976 Democratic Convention. There appear to be two stories going on. One is the plight of the Jokers who are trying to get their Joker Rights plank onto the Democratic ticket through the help of sympathetic Senator Gregg Hartmann. The other is the story of Puppetman, an Ace whose power is subtle mind control. When we find out that these are really the same story with a twisty twist twist, all hell breaks lose (in the best way possible).
Interlude Five: Thirty-Five Years of Wild Cards, A Retrospective By George R. R. Martin: Just a bunch of quotes from throughout Wild Card history that help set the context for everything.
Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan by Carrie Vaughn: This was a new story, not originally included in this volume but fits in perfectly. Jennifer gets dragged out to CBGB to a joker concert by her friend Tricia. What follows is what would happen if John Hughes and Bryan Singer made a Wild Cards movie. The alternate title could be "Adventures in Wild Card Sitting."
Comes a Hunter by John J. Miller: A story of Wild Card revenge. Deferred, but not forgotten.
Epilogue: Third Generation by Lewis Shiner: Briefly shows what happens to the child of a child of an Ace.
The Science of the Wild Card Virus: This does a great job of answering a lot of questions I had about the specifics of the virus reading the book. Namely, were only people in New York in the 1940's affected? That can't be the case because there are so many Aces, Wild Cards, and Jokers out there. This section explains all that and much more. Good stuff.
Excerpts from the Minutes of the American Metabiological Society Conference on Metahuman Abilities: This further explains the virus and why the effects on different people are so different.
All in all, a great collection. I can see why this series has been so popular. A high recommend
At the end of the second world war, in 1946, an alien virus (later called the wild card virus) is released into the atmosphere above New York. Some of the population are killed, others are given extraordinary powers (aces) and horrible curses (jokers). Jokers, usually horribly disfigured, are thrown away by society and left to wallow in Jokertown; where crime and violence is rampant. Meanwhile some aces become 'superheroes,' fighting for the innocent and downtrodden, while others use their superhuman abilities for evil. It is a fantastic premise; something that drew me to the series straight away.
Wild Cards 1 is made up of a number of individual stories, all written by different authors, but set in the same world, and often involving the same characters. Looking back on the book as a whole, the stories were really hit and miss. "Strings," "Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan," and "Powers" were some of the better stories in my opinion, with "Comes a Hunter," and "Transfigurations" being some of the weakest. What made my picks stand out was the characters, the story as a whole, as well as the links to the wider world in itself.
Despite all the stories being slightly different, some written in 1987 (when the book was originally published), and a few in 2010 (for the reprint), there did seem to be a certain theme. "Thirty Minutes Over Broadway," the first story in the anthology, revolved around the initial release of the virus and the bravery of Jetboy, who tried to stop the bomb from being released on the vulnerable human population. Almost every story from that point references the sacrifice Jetboy made for the world, and to some he is seen as a hero, while others blame him for the release of the virus.
There are also a few stories that make mention of the Four Aces, who were a supergroup basically, fighting against communist regimes around the world, and later persecuted by their own government. It reminded me of war vets in a way; given the sacrifices they have made for their country, and then to be ignored by the people they were fighting for. Dr Tachyon is a recurring character, as he was the alien who came to earth to help stop the virus being let lose on the population, and he stayed to help, even opening his own clinic to help those he feel he failed. He is important to the world as a whole, but also an intriguing and very diverse character who I really came to associate with.
It really feels like a complete world, especially given the focus is on so many people with extraordinary abilities/deformities. It was so well planned out and organised, never once being confusing or frustrating (which I felt that it maybe would be). Now there are questions around the virus carrying over generations, through incubated spores or recessive genes. The science could sometimes get too much for me, but it was kept to a minimum with a focus on world building and the people within. There is so much promise with this series, and I really hope it holds up over the years, but only time will tell.
And so, on and on it went, spiralling down through the years in a double helix of fear and ecstasy, mutilation and miraculous change...
Wild Cards is not written by G.R.R. Martin. Not all of it. He created the world surrounding this story, but this is an anthology of stories set in his Wild Card setting. Now you will be treated to one short story and a few Interludes from G.R.R. Martin- but the vast majority of this book is written by a variety of authors. As with any anthology the quality of the stories varies. For the most part I enjoyed them. There was really only one (Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan) that I didn't like.
So what is this? Back in 1987 G.R.R. Martin wrote Wild Cards 1 as a collection of short stories, along with other authors like Roger Zelaney and Walter Jon Williams. This version has some all new material added in.
This story has the hallmarks of a comic book. It is truly a comic book written as a novel. The story begins during WWII and a hero named Jetboy. Jetboy has a human who um..flew a Jet. So..Jetboy. See? Ok..so he is the first "costume". After the war a super-villain's nefarious plan to destroy the Earth is stopped by Jetboy's sacrifice. However in the blast a gene-virus was released. Some people became Aces- people with extraordinary powers, some even superhuman. But some became Jokers- deformed and corrupted mutations. This is the setting for these short stories. They are comic book stories put to novel form. The starting setting of the late 1940's and then the 1950's gives it a noir feeling. I enjoyed the fact that the stories are tied together in that they use characters across their individual story (Dr. Tachyon). It is also chronological. So while each story is a separate "comic" there is an over-arching "story arc"-thus Wild Cards 1 would be like volume one of a comic TPB.
If this sounds appealing then you will enjoy this. I am interested in this series and will see if I can't find any more of them. But I don't think this is amazing stuff-just good. Maybe it's the noir setting..maybe I need to see more of this world develop. But still-this is a good sci-fi with a distinct "comic book" feel. It'd likely be better if G.R.R. Martin would have written more of the stories instead of the one meager story I think this would have been amazing. As it is-it's good.